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August 28, 2018

How to Manage a Theatre World Premiere

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Back in January we published a blog about Production Managing New Works. We heard some great feedback from you so we decided to delve a little deeper with some more specifics.

While the journey of managing a world premiere has many gratifying moments, we must prepare for the unique challenges of these shows. Here are some of the biggest considerations when producing new works.

 

1. Hiring New (and More) Talent 

Depending on the production, you're going to need some additional staff positions.

  • Script supervisor. Your script supervisor is going to be a life saver. He or she is going to keep up with changes, track continuity, and be a voice of reason in the writer’s room. Remember, with a world premiere, the only constant is change.
  • Arranger and orchestra. What type of music will the production require? Do you need a jazz band? A team of incredible percussionists? A full orchestra? Again, expect everything to change so make sure you have the best of the best.
  • More crew. Think about what could go wrong. Or, rather, what could go differently. As the production advances, last-minute technical changes are par for the course. Prepare to beef up your crew so you can adapt to any sudden scene, script, and design changes and the additional hours all of these will need.
  • Hiring a larger stage management and production management team will also be a terrific investment, since they will be scheduling and wrangling all of the additional staff and physical changes to the production.

 

Challenge 2: Working with Writers

Prepare yourself: working with a writer on a world premier will make demands on your patience and empathy. Think about it from their point of view. For perhaps years now, he or she has been struggling to bring their idea to fruition. And now that they're on the cusp of seeing their work on stage, with the input of new and strong voices, it's going to challenge them on a whole new level.

Expect that your writer is going to be critical of his or her own work. Expect that they're going to push hard to get it right. Expect that there will be last-minute changes to the characterization, dialogue, and plot. It will be an exhaustive and perhaps emotional process as your writer finally sees their writing made manifest. Keep in mind that alterations, while occasionally stressful, will ultimately lead to a better product.

 

3. Prepare for a Larger Budget

In addition to the costs of a bigger production team that we’ve already discussed, there are other considerations that will further stretch your budget.

There will be changes. Imagine the production is initially set in one or two locations requiring specific set designs. What if the writer changes her mind? What if she watches a scene unfold and decides that a character needs to experience a flashback moment in order to advance the plot? What if the team decides that such a scene would necessitate an entirely different set design? Even small changes can add up to big costs.

Creating and storing set pieces. A world premier will require an investment in new sets and costumes. You can’t pull from previous shows as easily. And once they're made, you can't kick them to the curb. You will probably need to invest in a storage facility or additional room backstage for set pieces until after previews.

Longer rehearsal and tech time. There is no precedent for this piece. Part of its beauty is that it's utterly new and unique. And therein lies the rub: it's going to take far more time to produce. Prepare for greater expenses for cast and crew as you retain them for a longer-than-usual period of time.

 

4. Marketing a World Premiere

World premiers can be incredibly exciting, but they also require more work to market. Think about movies. Many of the most popular films are adaptations of books, comics, and even musicals!

Your audience won’t be familiar with the show. It won’t have the reputation of being a popular production elsewhere. Getting people to try new things takes effort and creativity on your part.

Also keep in mind, that in addition to social media campaigns, advertisements, and other efforts, your cast will be involved in media appearances, interviews, and photography sessions. With these extra engagements you’ll bump into different press regulations, copy-right laws, and overtime policies. Know the rules and ensure you’ve got someone to help manage it all.

 

 

World premiers take time, patience, and money. It took Garry Marshall 25 years to realize the adaptation of Pretty Woman the film onto stage. 

Ok, that's an extreme example, but the above still stands. The good part? Producing a world premiere also carries the potential for a bigger buzz, a celebration of new talent, and a historic occasion for your venue.