Thursday, December 20, 2012

I want to be a producer

As the saying goes, if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough.

Well, mine must be plenty big because they're scaring the bejeezus out of me.

That's because I just put down a $750 deposit on a mid-sized theater in bucolic Palmer Lake, Colorado, with another $450 due January 10.

I'm not exactly swimming in cash, so that $1200 cost me dearly ($200 is refundable as a security deposit). Why did I do it then? Because that's where I'm going to premiere my newest play, a wild and wacky backstage farce titled Kill the Critic!

This isn't a staged reading or even a script-in-hand performance like the one I did with my first play in September. This is a full-blown production, with real sets and a full tech crew and four weeks of rehearsal and--most radical of all--paid actors. I'm calling it a workshop production because I expect to do some serious rewriting of the script after I see how the audience responds to it.

But if there's one thing I learned from my reading in September, it's that I'm not a director. The attention to detail, the constant decision-making--my brain just isn't wired that way.

Heck, I can barely remember what each character is doing from one scene to the next, and that's in a script I wrote!

But I'm good with budgets and fundraising and promotion, which is why I've decided to serve as producer.

The theater's not perfect. It's a corner stage in a huge room of a small town arts center, designed more for musical concerts then dialogue-driven plays.

There are also no permanent seats. Attendees will have to sit on fold-out chairs. And there are big windows all around the room, so we'll have to black them out for the afternoon matinee.

Oh, and did I mention that a couple trains that blast right past the building every day?

But there were some factors that made the deal irresistible.

First, of all, there's the cost: $1000 for a week of rehearsal, plus three performances. And the room is huge, seating 175 per performance. I could have gotten a smaller theater in town for just $500 per week, but that one only seated 50, making it impossible to break even.

Best of all, they've already got a built-in audience base, a necessity when you're producing an unknown play with an unknown theatre company.

As it turns out, they do sell out. Another theater company sold out two performances of a musical version of Sense and Sensibility a month ago, so I know it can be done.

I've already got a director, a highly experienced drama teacher from a local private school. She's won national awards for her productions, and she thinks my play is hilarious so I know we're going to get along very well.

How can I afford her? Simple. I took in her in as a partner. I pay rent, she pays for sets and costumes, and we both split the profits.

I met her at Drama Lab, by the way, which is yet another reason why every playwright should belong to a playwriting group.

But now I've got work to do.

First, I've got to give the script one last pass. Then I've got to find an artist who's not only talented but cheap. I need a bold, funny logo for my bold, funny play, which will help in promotional materials and in the Indiegogo campaign I'm about to launch.

As a playwright and theatre critic, I've always sat on the sidelines before. But this time I'm jumping in with both of my size-12 feet.

Stop the world. I want to get on.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lester on the small screen

A big shout-out to the drama class at Shelley High School in Shelley, Idaho, home of the mighty Boomers. They performed my western comedy Long Tall Lester last week and have just posted the entire show on YouTube.

This represents a couple of firsts for me. This is my debut in the beautiful Gem State, and this is the first time a video of this play has been made available to the public.

It's great seeing these talented students having so much fun.