What have we done in the past? What haven’t we done in the past? What did we do last year? What were themes we explored in the last production? What themes haven’t we explored? What themes would I like to explore? What are our goals for the future? What plays will help us reach those goals?
And so on and so forth…
These are only just a fraction of the questions that go through my mind when choosing plays. Choosing a season is hard. So, when I am critical of other companies and their play choices, I get how difficult it can be. And, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for larger companies who have boards and subscribers to answer to.
It is easy to choose the first play your company ever does because usually you start the company in order to do a play that’s been nagging at you in the back of your mind. You really want to do such and such a play so you start a company. That’s the easy part. The hard part is actually putting on that first production.
The second play you do is still easy enough because I guarantee if you had that first idea to do such and such a play then play “B” is not sitting too far behind such and such a play in the back of your mind. And, the second time you produce a play, the producing part gets a little easier because you’ve done it once, learned from your mistakes or missteps (hopefully) and are ready to do it again.
But eventually at some point, you will inevitably run out of plays that have been sitting in the back of your mind because other people have done them by now or they just aren’t right for your company or whatever. And, then it is not so easy any more.
Because as your company grew over the years, it established a mandate and a set of goals & criteria that reflects that mandate so, now when you choose a play, it is not just about ‘oh, that’s a cool play, I’d really like to do it’ any more, it’s about asking yourself all those hard questions.
Sometimes it can still be easy. You can happen upon a play that just speaks to you and also happens to answer all your questions and fit the criteria. But more often then not it is hard. You read plays upon plays upon plays and it is not that you dislike those plays but for one reason or another they don’t quite fit. So you make the best choice you can at that time and hope and pray that it works out. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. Not every choice you make as an Artistic Director/Producer is going to hit it out of the park. That is a given.
So all you can hope for is that the majority will be “successful” (by the set of criteria or goals you have chosen that makes it a success not just monetary success). And, that when a play or production is not as successful as hoped that you go back and assess the “why’s and how’s” and use that information in the choices you make in the future.
Coming up with our very first official season of plays (announcement to come soon), was definitely a bit of a challenge. First because through the years we’ve established the winter spotlight production that features one emerging (there’s that term again) artist. First year of the series: easy. I knew exactly the play I wanted to do and I knew exactly the actor I wanted to do it. Second & third year: still fairly easy because they all started with an initial idea. But this year after a three-year cycle of putting a spotlight on an actor, director and then playwright, I decided it was time to come back to an actor.
So, you see, without really meaning to, I established a set of criteria for myself that I have to now follow. I need to find a one-person play (and an actor to do it) that also fits the mandate of the company. Not as easy as just choosing a play because I like it.
The new spring production was easy (not even easy, a given) and is basically the reason we are moving into a 3-show season. You can probably guess what that production is and if you can’t you’ll just have to wait for it.
So, onto our third and final show for the year, our annual summer production. This one was the hardest. As it should be. We’ve got five years under our belt. So, that means there is a lot more to take into consideration before I make my decision. What did we do this past year? What have we done in the past 5 years? What haven’t we done? If for this year I want to do a Canadian play then that narrows the selection pool down. If I want to do a play with younger characters after doing Blue Surge because the characters in that play were on the high end of our target demographic then that narrows the selection pool even further. These are just a fraction of the types of things I consider when making my choices. Again, it’s not just a matter of “Oh, I like that play” any more. It has become a lot more complicated than that. And, I can only anticipate that it will get harder and more complicated as the years go on.
This upcoming year we’ve established a 3-show season, and if I would like to continue with that the following year, then what?! I’ve got to choose 3 plays based on a set of criteria that have been established over the years. The craziest part is that I haven’t even announced this coming year’s season and I am already thinking about the following year. Choosing a season is hard. I can’t imagine having to choose and balance 6 shows per year or god forbid 17 shows like they are doing at the Arts Club (6 at the Stanley, 5 at the GI, 3 at the new Revue and 3 Touring) this year. That gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it.
Anyways, no need to give myself a heart attack at the moment, I’ve chosen the plays for our upcoming season. That is done. Now I’m just working out a few of the logistics. Then, the exciting part, official announcement time.