How to Start a Theatre Company
Creating your own theater company can be very, very exciting. The first few things you should seriously consider are: deciding on a collaborative structure; developing your company's mission statement; creating a name and face; registering your company; opening an account under the company's name; sign up with relevant service organizations; deciding on profit or non-profit status, and making funding decisions.
With a great pool of talents, who could possibly resist the temptation of creating their very own theater company?
Although it sounds very enticing, establishing your very own theater company entails a lot of hard work, and a lot more notch on your patience string. Talents may be combined to form a great theater production, but it is the business sense that usually keeps the theater company afloat. So as a business person, here are some of the basic things you need to do before actually launching your career as theater manager; and launching the careers of the theater folks who will work under you.
Decide on a collaborative structure of management: would you like to run your company under a benevolent dictatorship, a cooperative or a cross between the two? Who will choose what projects to undertake, and who will decide on administrative matters? Creative licenses may be one of the keys to a great production but it wrecks havoc on the business side of the theater company. That is why it is essential that on the onset, there is a clear demarcation as to who decides for the greater good of the company, and what responsibilities are attached to those decisions.
Creating an identity for your theater company is essential; and usually, in this line of work, originality and uniqueness are desired properties. Try to develop a broad but distinctive mission statement for your company – one that can make you stand out among the numerous theater companies anywhere. Creating a mission statement early on in your company’s career will help you establish what sort of projects you can accept, and which you can deny. Some mission statements may even be directed to a group of actors only – say, an all African-American born troop or an all youth troop etc. This is your theater company after all, so you and your peers can decide on such matters.
When you have created the very essence of your theater company, then you can decide on a name and a logo or a “face.” Make sure that the name is catchy and make sure the logo is memorable.
In order to become legitimate as a theater company, you have to register with your city as a DBA or ‘Doing Business As (name of company.) Preferably, after that, you announce your existence to the world via tri-media announcement or posting a site on the net.
Once you are “established,” make sure that you create a bank account for your theater company, and make sure that it is separate from your existing ones. Your bank account name should be a DBA account, and there are many banks offering incentives for such accounts. This is the best way to track down expenses and monetary gain regarding your theater company. One advantage to this is that you can now accept checks written off to your theater company’s name.
Signing up with relevant service organization is important, because these organizations can help you in more ways than one. They can offer assistance when it comes to creating audience development, computer systems set-up, contacts with lawyers about copyright issues, fundraising geared specifically for arts group, information about free audition listings, ticket sales, marketing, etc.
Deciding to have a profit or non-profit theater status is a difficult decision but one that must be considered carefully. One of the advantages of a non-profit business venture is that you are qualified for grants from foundations and individual donors. However, there is considerable bureaucracy and paperwork to navigate; plus most foundations only give grants to companies with a proven track record.
Whether you turn into a profit or non-profit theater company, your next viable step is to decide how you can actually rake in the money. Do you rely on grants, on membership fees, on merchandise sales and auctions? Do you give out workshops like acting, directing, or stage production to put money in the pot, while at the same time discovering new talent? Fundraising activities may be the lifeline of your theater company, so you really have to diligently work at this.
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