Updated: Nov 1
Let's be honest here, most of the time, one of the biggest problems we face in theatre (besides lack of time, support, and manpower) is the lack of a budget. We all have a vision of what could be, but without ready cash to spend, it can sometimes seem impossible to make that vision come to life. But after over 52 years of working with minimal (or non existent) budgets, we have some tips to help you think creatively and find ways to make a small budget go a long way!
Start by gathering your lists for props, costumes, makeup, sets, etc. An easy way to do this is to go through the script in detail with a different color highlighter for each department. Once you reach the end of the script, you can go through one color at a time and make a separate list for each category. (If you purchase the Show in a Box or Box+, these lists come already assembled for you!)
Now that your lists are in front of you, evaluate each one and cross through what you already have or could have access to via friends, church connections, cast connections, etc. (sometimes, we will announce a generic list to the cast on the first day of rehearsals, letting them know items we need that they might have, such as a rocking chair, table, etc). Then, put a star or highlight in a new color what is remaining that you will need to acquire.
Now is the fun part: Get creative! Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and there are so many resources to acquire everything you need in a budget friendly way. Here a few ideas:
- Borrow from businesses. If an item is very costly and you don't need to keep it around, ask a business if you can "rent" the item from them for an advertising exchange, such as an ad in your playbill or shoutout from the stage about supporting their business.
- Construct the item yourself. If it is a smaller item, maybe it can be made with materials around the house. You could even ask cast members to take a stab at creating items as part of a fun workshop to build unity AND get things done! (Hint: there are some FANTASTIC tutorials for DIY prop-making, set-making, costumes, makeup and more via The Director's Guild.) If the item is a larger item, you might consider asking a professional to make custom plans for you to construct the item yourself(also available via The Director's Guild), then work on getting the materials donated through a local hardware, lumber, or craft store! (Plans for building and sourcing key show pieces are also included in the purchase of a Show in a Box or Box+.)
- Rent the item. If it is something you will only need for one show, consider renting from a local shop or Logos Theatre Rentals. Renting an entire show can be costly, yet so helpful; however, if it is only one or two key pieces you need, it is often very cost effective and helps put the finishing touches on your show!
Now that the plan is in motion, maybe you're seeing your budget quickly slipping away. Producing a show is not cheap, and even the most resourceful team sometimes needs a way to bring in extra funds to cover those last few needed items. We've covered how to SAVE money, but how do you INCREASE your budget in a doable way?
Utilize your cast for ticket and ad sales! They want the show to go on more than anyone, so you can get them involved by holding a ticket sales and/or ad sales competition. Keep a log of how many tickets each cast member sells (or the total amount of ads they sell) and whoever sells the most gets a prize (we often utilize donated business cards, trips to cool places, or a free involvement fee on their account for future shows to get them excited!). You can offer a first, second, and third place prize and give multiple cast members the opportunity to win! This method ads up quickly and is sure to bring more dollars to your budget AND more people to the show!
Host an event to raise funds. This can be done in all sorts of ways. A car wash, a community drive, a bake sale, a family fun day hosted by your cast- all of these are ways to spread the word about the show while also increasing that budget!
Involvement fees for cast/crew. This is something MANY groups do to cover base costs, and is as simple as a single fee per participant. You can use the whole fee to cover the budget, or split it and offer your cast a fun incentive, such as a T-shirt or souvenir for participating!
Great! So what if all plans fail and there is a missing piece you are just NOT able to acquire. Cancel the show, of course! ...Just kidding. Get creative, take a step back, and look at the circumstances surrounding that item in a new way. Sometimes having to work around something or get creative in how to represent it yields a MUCH more stunning result on stage than you could have ever imagined! (We'll discuss this in the Director's Guild this week with a commentary from Artistic Director, Nicole Stratton, on how she was forced to adapt scenes from The Horse and His Boy WITHOUT a turntable for the showing at the Museum of the Bible in DC! Subscribe this month so you don't miss this unique Director's Commentary!)
Remember, you are NOT alone as you go! By now, hopefully you've created a team of helpers around you that you can clearly articulate your needs to and ask for help! Make sure to set goals and think-outside-the-box, but also to take a deep breath and take one step at a time! A phrase often said in The Academy of Arts Ministries is "What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!" This is a big task, but you CAN do it!