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.


  • Trixie said on September 24, 2009
    Brilliant advice Thanks
  • Black and Ice White productions said on October 14, 2009
    Thank you for the advice, however we are looking more at the marketing side as we were able to work most of this out for ourselves. We are completely unique and are already looking at offers of grants and it's only our first day. What we need is advice on advertising our company to schools and education boards. Thank you for your time.
  • Sherri Brown-Webster said on January 8, 2010
    Indianapolis, Indiana. This is very helpful information. We're getting ready to launch our Theater and this just seals the deal. Thank You!
  • Sherri Brown-Webster said on January 8, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN. What great information to have as we launch Indianapolis' newest theatrical company. Thank you very much for your help!
  • luela robosa said on April 21, 2010
    how could i create my own names in theater? can you please help me or else give me some idea regarding in a unique names of an theater?
  • ivette vinas said on April 29, 2010
    Miami, FL. I'm in the beginning stages of opening up a theater company here in florida and appreciate your information. I'm sure I'll be asking tons of questions! good luck to all of you with your dream!!!!! thanks!
  • Cassie Lovering said on May 11, 2010
    We are doing a show for our fringe festival in philadelphia. We are not a company yet, just a group of people putting on a show, but we are charging money. Does that make us an unofficial business. Should we register as a for-profit theater? Thank you. Your article was a very helpful.
  • Bryson said on August 6, 2010
    Minneapolis, Minnesota. very great advice.. i honestly needed this! thank you
  • The Garden Of Eden Productions said on September 19, 2010
    We are a small 501c3 non profit community theater in Philadelphia whose mission is to recruit at risk youth/young adults into our thespian program. We are experiencing some difficulty in recruiting. Are there any suggestions out there that could help me encourage the youth to join our program?
  • Sharon Blakely- Salaam said on January 12, 2011
    I am located in the Northern New Jersey area. I have become inspired by an old African American film I featuring some actors that are no longer with us. I want to use this film as an inspiration for a play that I would like to produce on dvd....I could really use some advise.
  • David Ration Lekoba said on January 25, 2011
    I am located in Botswana, Gaborone. I have grown to love theatre and have studied it in our local university (University of Botswana). My passion for theater has pushed me in the direction of theatre as a career. my country is stricken by lack of employment and i figured i could use my passion to crate employment for not only myself but also my fellow country people. i could use your advice and help in establishing a theatre business that will help in that regard.
  • Ekua said on January 30, 2011
    Cape Coast,Central Region,Ghana. We are a twelve member group who wants to establish a theater company in our country. Our major problem right now is winning contracts and getting sponsorship for a company's projects.We will appreciate it also if you will help us with marketing strategies.
  • alisandiford said on April 26, 2011
    i am planning to set up my theater company in Barbados. i have produced a stage production which have been well rec'd by the public, however my biggest challenge is finance
  • Paul Craig said on June 10, 2011
    San Diego California - Great advice = thank you - hi Sherri Brown-Webster! It's me Paulie from Menopause!!
  • Mbongeni Nomkonwana said on July 6, 2011
    Is it advantageous to register a theatre company as a co-operative, i'm in Cape Town, South Africa
  • Du said on July 18, 2012
    i have drama and poetry group at mayville (kzn durban) and i want to register it but i dont want to register it as an organisation i want to register it as a theater company and i real need help. i'll be very happy if you can help me.
  • N3wWave Productions said on September 17, 2012
    We're from the caribbean and what you just told us here is exactly what we were doing but now more indept thank you very much for this.
  • Shirley-Nora said on November 2, 2012
    Theatre Icon Independent Troupe, Buea, Cameroon, Central Africa. Hi, i am the sole proprietor of a 12 persons theater troupe. I graduated from the university with a minor in Performing and Visual Arts. Its indeed working out but i still need advice at the level of Marketing. I am very glad to read what you have already written. Its great believe me and i do hope that many theater troupes should connect to this site and make it possible that we could get in touch and share experiences. Who knows, sometimes in life we could do exchange visits. Theater Pays!
  • Armando Cuellar said on December 2, 2012
    Thank you for your advice, also I would like to Know more about, how start looking for Theater after you form the group , thanks. Armando.
  • Agatha Christie Theatre Company said on January 1, 2013
    Hello there, I am setting up a theater company to stage the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie however I am at a loss to see how to make a profit except for shows. You see the shows are going to be staged in Decemeber but I need a wage to be paid for doing this. The Hall costs £13 a hour to rent and I'm using the hall for 2 and a half hours= £32.50 how much should I charge for membership whilst still making it accessible to many people but that will generate a profit for me. Regards.
  • Sharnette @ Island Starz Theatre,Inc. said on February 18, 2013
    Island Starz Theatre, Inc. 300 W 43rd street New York, NY 10036. I thank you for your information. It has confirmed that I'm on the right track. Island Starz Theatre Believes in Talent. Island Starz Theatre Believes in you. "We are a Home for Great Talent, Stars, and Entertainments". Thanks.
  • Shetall Inamdar said on March 23, 2013
    We want to start our previous theater Vignaharta again with new Name Vighnesh Fils and theater which will be a profit making organisation is it possible to do so . From India Maharashta Satara City. Vighnaharta is already register but from last 5 years no programs are conducted . Pls guide.
  • Parable Productions said on May 15, 2013
    Fresno Tx. Need information on where to register with drama organizations
  • mohammed lawal hulerat said on January 27, 2014
    I am a student of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital,zaria Kaduna State. I want to start up a theater which comprises of drama, modeling, dancing presentations. My problem now is the name to give. I don't know what name to give the theater
  • mohammed lawal hulerat said on January 27, 2014
    I will be grateful if u really help me in naming my theater. Thanks
  • PHEELLO THATELO said on March 28, 2014
    i want to start my own drama group, because i have skills and experience in theater. i want to see my community participating or taking part on art


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