The reality for performers these days is that you have to self-produce to be seen, gain experience and to take control of your career. I’m Kat Chevalier and I started the play/ground theatre company in high school with three of my best friends. We’ve produced four productions over the past several years and have learned a thing or two along the way. It’s hard, but incredibly satisfying work, so here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Do your research.
Part of our success as an amateur theatre company largely stems from the fact that our mission and purpose are singular. When we started out, we knew we wanted to create a space for great art, but more than that, we wanted to create a thriving community where young people could connect with one another. Once we decided to make that our focus, we checked to make sure there weren’t any existing theatre companies out there already doing what we wanted to. Starting a theatre company is hard work. Do your research. If there’s an established company already on the scene that has a mission statement similar to yours, you might want to think about joining forces with them instead of venturing out on your own.
“play/ground theatre company is a family of artists and designers based in Los Angeles, CA with a passion for telling stories through minimalism constraints and diverse artistic influences.”
2. Find your tribe.
The easiest way to find business partners who are going to stick around is to find friends who are going to stick around. Lucky for me, three of my best friends happen to be immensely talented, self-starting creative professionals. When we began the process of putting play/ground together, I had no doubts about anyone’s motives. We entered into the conversation about beginning an organization with a deep sense of respect for the idea of what we wanted to do, but more than that, we had a sense of respect for one another. I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of working with their best friends, but I encourage you to find like minded people to join forces with when you begin your endeavor. Find your tribe is probably one of my most controversial pieces of advice. Critics will say that working with your friends makes conflict more likely and communication more difficult, but I disagree. Working with my friends has given be a leg up in solving challenges within our organization. I’m privy to each of their work styles and the way they each process information. Above all else though, starting a theatre company takes an unimaginable amount of time, so you better like whoever you choose to work with—a lot.
3. Take your time.
One of our very first team meetings was focused on establishing where we wanted to be in one year’s time. Some of our aspirations included, “Have a space of our own”, “Raise $100,000”, “Have a loyal base of season subscribers”. Though these goals were noble and good, I look back on them and I laugh a little bit. Part of our naivety when we began was rooted in the fact that we thought if we worked hard enough, things would happen quickly for us.
“Let me set the record straight: good things take time.”
There are many arts organizations out there and there are many people who want to give money to arts organizations. One day they will give you money too, but it’s important that you prove yourself first. Take your time building a loyal following. Do good work and focus on making a list of small, achievable objectives rather than a few grandiose goals.
4. Be okay with not having a space.
When I introduce myself as the Managing Director of play/ground theatre company, one of the first questions I always get asked is, “Where are you guys located?” My response is always the same, “We don’t have a space and we love it.” At first, it felt embarrassing to admit that we didn’t have the means to purchase a space of our own. But leasing different theaters for each of our projects has actually allowed us an incredible amount of creative flexibility. When we sit down to decide what we want to work on next, we’re never limited by location or building size. Be okay with not having a space. Allow your creative impulses to determine what you want to work on next and then start talking about what types of theaters and neighborhoods would serve your artistic objectives. Of course, we still have ambitions to own our own space one day, but for now we are trying to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with letting our work determine our location.
How To Start Your Own Theatre Company by Reginald Nelson
Starting A Community Theatre Company from the American Assoc. of Community Theatre
Follow play/ground theatre company on Facebook and join the company for a benefit performance of Broadway favorites on July 15th and 16th at 8pm at The Hudson Theatre Mainstage in Hollywood. Tickets available at www.plays411.com.
Kat Chevalier was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and is a Junior at George Washington University where she is pursuing a double major in Theatre and Political Science. Kat just finished her first season as an Associate Artistic Director for Forbidden Planet Productions where she oversaw three consecutively sold-out productions. In addition to her work with play/ground and FPP, she has also worked at various theaters in both Los Angeles and Washington D.C., most notably Center Theatre Group, Glendale Center Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
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