We are often asked, “What does a producer do? Does it mean you pay for the show?”
Being the producer of a show involves much more than that. The short answer is that the producer does everything. Here is the full story.
Choose the show
First, the producer must decide which show to stage. He or she must read scripts, decide which one suits his resources and audience, and then apply for the rights.
Choose the venue
At the same time, dates must be booked at a theatre. The dates must be in place before rights can be requested. The major rights holders also need to know the size of the audience and the ticket prices. Their fees depend on the theatre and ticket prices. The higher the ticket prices and the larger the venue, the higher the royalty they will charge.
Find the supporting crew
In addition to a director, a play will need sets, props, costumes, and a stage manager. A musical will also need a choreographer, a vocal coach, a musical director, and a rehearsal pianist. These people must be in place early in the project.
Auditions must be held to cast the play. Usually the director is in charge, but the producer, choreographer, musical director, and vocal coach are often involved as well. A date and place must be determined, the audition process must be agreed upon, and the auditions must be announced and publicized.
Cast the show
This is usually the job of the director. Once the show has been cast, the producer will announce the cast or notify cast members.
Rehearsals begin after casting is complete. A rehearsal space must be obtained and rented, and the director, choreographer, and vocal coach must meet to create a workable schedule. The schedule must then be posted or sent to the actors. In a perfect world, the schedule would be set for the duration of the rehearsal period. However, in the real world changes are necessary due to conflicting interests of actors, road closures, illness, or simply because some scenes require more rehearsal time.
Depending on the scope of the production, you can do several things. You can simply collect money at the door, print and sell tickets yourself, or engage someone to print and sell tickets for you. Whichever you choose, you must arrange it.
You must have a way to inform and entice audiences to come to the show. Publicity includes designing, printing, and distributing posters; creating a media ad campaign; sending out press releases; and anything else you can envision.
At some point you must decide what sort of music your play requires. Will you play background music on a system in your venue? Will you hire a musician or a complete orchestra? While others work as volunteers, musicians usually must be paid for their services. The cost of a large orchestra or “pit” band can be quite high.
A preliminary budget must be drawn up at the start of the process. Without it you would have no way to determine what you need to charge to avoid “going into the red”. Later in the process a final budget can be drafted. The budget must take into account known costs, such as rental of a venue, flexible costs, like costumes and props, and unexpected costs (if I knew what they were, they wouldn’t be unexpected). The budget must consider how many people you can expect to come to the show. How popular will it be? There is a lot of guess work here. If you are incorrect, you will probably lose money.
Sound and Lighting
You will need to rent lights and sound equipment, including microphones, unless you own them yourself. Some venues provide lights and a technician to run them. Sound is usually your responsibility.
Costumes, sets, props
As these items are being created, you will have to consult with the people in charge. The director is also involved in the consultation. Since the budget is not unlimited, the producer will have the final say on what is possible and what is not possible.
The stage manager will need a crew to help move sets and props into the venue, to set each scene, and to remove the sets and props when the show is over. The stage manager will meet with the director to go over the script and cue all the changes. Then he or she will train the crew and supervise them during the show. He or she is also responsible for seeing that actors are ready for each scene and for giving the signal to start the show or the subsequent acts. It’s a HUGE responsibility.
Make-up and Hair
Will the actors be responsible for their own? Or will someone with expertise be in charge of these tasks? Will you need to purchase supplies prior to the show?
Usually, a program must be designed and printed. Audiences are informed about the play, credit is given to those who are both on and off stage, and supporters are acknowledged. Usually the rights holder must have credit in the program.
Front of House
The producer must also engage a front of house manager, ushers, ticket takers, refreshment sellers at intermission, and so on.
As you can see, there are a lot of money transactions. Careful records of expenses and revenue must be kept. Bills must be paid. People must be reimbursed for expenses such as fabric for costumes, materials for constructing sets, and many other items. Start up money is needed, although many expenses can be put off until after the show. Only through meticulous and sound practices can a theatre group expect to stay in business.
When the show is over, when everything has been packed away or returned to its owners, when all the bills are paid – well, then the producer can sit back and relax. Of course, he or she is probably already working on the next show!