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Tri-State Theater
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Paying for Community Theatre - Part 1

A past subject on this blog has been how expensive it can be for a community theatre group to put on a show. The short version is, it can run anywhere from several hundred dollars (for small shows you never heard of before) to thousands of dollars. There have even been reports of shows costing in the $100,000 range (though that’s also rare in our area).

People who are involved in community theatre tend to be in it for the fun of it, but at some point, they have to look at the cold hard facts - and drum up the funding needed for their show.

So just how do local groups come up with thousands of dollars? Well, some have the support of wealthy individuals - someone with enough money to cover the expenses out of his or her own bank account. Lots of groups actually start this way (often with several people pooling their resources). I only know of a few incidents like this in our area, and it’s usually for a specific show - not a season. Needless to say, every community theatre group would love to have a supporter like that.

Some groups do fundraisers - car washes, bake sales, bagging groceries, pancake breakfasts - whatever they can dream up. First Stage once raised money by selling candy - gourmet suckers, to be precise. Fundraisers are a good way to raise extra money to add to the till, but it’s difficult to raise enough money to fund a show this way. Not impossible - but difficult.

Some groups rely on grants from federal, state or local organizations. This is an area I don’t really know much about, but I do know they take a lot of work and they can vary from year to year. And most grants are given for a specific purpose - not just a general fund a group can draw on.

There are other sources of money - selling ads for the program, selling snacks or "Star Grams" or other trinkets at the show - but most community theatre groups live - and die - based on “The Gate” - in other words, ticket sales. If you have good attendance at a show, you can raise enough money to stage the next one. Poor attendance, and your group may not be able to stage that next performance.

And that brings us to the tricky question every single theatre group has to answer - how much are you going to charge for your tickets?

It’s a tough call - and it’s the subject of our next post...