Part 2 – Rock of Ages Access All Areas: Planning

I’m Amy and I run a musical production company with my friend Becky, called Ruby Red. We’re producing Rock of Ages at the Maltings in Ely this July. This is our blog. We’re giving you an Access All Areas pass to look behind the curtain of Ruby Red and really see how we do things. Every week from now until Rock of Ages we’ll give you a little insight into what we’ve been doing and each time we’ll focus around a particular topic. Follow us on Facebook or buy show tickets here.
Let’s talk PLANNING.
Planning for a production is essential. Whether it’s on the back of a napkin, or using ridiculous amounts of Post It notes and your 50-strong Sharpie collection (of course I’m not talking about myself there…). Being organised is a must. Many amateur theatre groups stumble along blindly without budgets or doing their research. They make decisions based on preference rather than what makes sense, and what is sensible. First off, have regular meetings. There’s nothing better than a face to face gathering to get decisions made. I would also recommend having a quiet and inspiring place to work from. This is my work space. I love it quite a lot.

Here are my 5 tips for planning a musical production (I’ve tried to keep this short but there’s really no way to keep this short as planning is one of the most important topics we’ll discuss):

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH: Before you decide on anything please do your research. Shows differ so much. Size of cast, type of cast, costumes required, set and props needed, what size band you need, whether you need any specialist instrumentalists, suitable venue etc. All of these things can vary hugely from show to show and you need to have considered all of them before you make any decisions. Make your show shortlist and then…draw up your budget.
  1. BUDGET: It still surprises me how many amateur theatre companies don’t ever put together a proper budget when they are planning for a show. DO NOT DO ANYTHING WITHOUT A BUDGET. Don’t get me wrong, it is so easily done, and I have done it, but it’s not necessarily wise. A budget can be really simple. All you need to know is what money is going to be coming in, what will be going out, and whether you have enough money to cover if you have initial outgoings but you have no profit from previous shows. Always allow a buffer pot of money for unexpected things which will inevitably come up. Brainstorm several times – with different people – when you draw up your first ever show budget to make sure you cover everything. You’ll always forget something simple and more heads are just better!
  1. KEEP YOUR GOALS IN CLEAR SIGHT: Write down your goals and what success will look like when you achieve them (a little company in Cambridge called Redgate taught me that), that way you’ll know when you’re there. I really feel that being clear on your goals helps you to achieve them! You have to know when you’ve hit a particular milestone, in the very least so you can celebrate! Sold 800 tickets? Glass of prosecco? Don’t mind if I do… cheers!
  1. GET VISUAL: Once you know you can afford it, you’re happy with your decision, and you have your licence then you can really start having fun. I’ve always been very visual when it comes to planning. Write everything down on a Post It note and stick it on a wall so you can really get your head around the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve. Print off a calendar and stick that up too. If you’re a stationery geek like me you’ll use different coloured tape and stickers to highlight different types of activity. Having this all in front of you is so useful and it if nothing more it’s like a big to do list, reminding you of all of the things you need to get done!
    So, on to lists…
  1. MAKE LISTS: How can anyone get by in life without making lists? That’s a truly serious question. If you know someone who doesn’t make a list on a regular basis then send them my way. I’d be fascinated to pick their brain and see how they don’t fall down every 5 minutes;). I cannot get by without a good list! They focus the mind and are super satisfying to tick off. If you’re like me you’ll use highlighters AND tick boxes.

I did write a whole long section about all of the areas to cover when planning but at the last minute I decided to opt for short and (hopefully) more digestible post. With any luck this has given you an insight into how productions begin their life. It’s a busy time for Becky and I. We’re getting things off the ground as best we can, and rehearsals have just kicked off, but we’re in good shape.
My next post will be all about that very important person; THE DIRECTOR.
See you soon.
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