Insider Tips: Theatre on a Budget

by Matt Levy

08/15/12 09:34

Art ain’t cheap, and theatre is no exception to this.  Audiences can consider themselves lucky these days to live in a world in which attending mega-blockbusters like Chicago, A Tale of Two Cities, The Wiz, The Rocky Horror Show, and perennial favorite Peter Pan is the norm, both on Broadway and on national tour.  But how do theatre companies who must work with tighter budgets still manage to put on great theatre?  Without the benefit of nearly unlimited funds, how can the great stories of stage still be presented with their authors’ creative visions intact?


Many titles within the Samuel French catalogue have been through this artistic predicament.  Chicago famously opened on Broadway as a fully staged production in 1975 to dismal reviews and early closure, despite its classic Kander and Ebb score and Bob Fosse direction.   It came back from obscurity when it was revived for a short run in May 1996 for City Center Encores!, a yearly celebration of forgotten musicals of the past.  Now in a scaled-down form with no set, save a giant bandstand onstage, and hardly anything grand in the costumes, this version of Chicago was lauded for its sleekness and sense of style (not to mention Ann Reinking’s superb recreation of Fosse’s unique choreography), and this budget concert version is what transferred to Broadway six months later, and still plays today on 49th Street in Manhattan … as the longest-running musical revival in Broadway history.  It has since spawned replica productions which have criss-crossed the US, Great Britain, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, all fashioned in the same scaled-down vision which allowed clarity for the show’s dark message and let Reinking’s unforgettable jazz choreography shine.


But not every show can be presented in a bare-bones form.  Some plays and musicals rely on iconic sets and costumes, and luckily in the theatre world, infrastructure exists that can support buying, selling, and trading production elements between theatre companies.  Lighting equipment, microphones, speakers, props, scenery, shoes, make-up, wigs, and especially costumes can drive a show’s production budget into the thousands, if not even higher, so it becomes imperative that a cheaper solution can be found.  And if that solution comes in the way of buying previously used sets or renting costumes from another company, well, as they say, one theatre company’s scrap is another theatre company’s treasure.


Theatre Cambrian of Sudbury, Ontario is one such company which has put on a great show and now has a surplus of material.  From their production of Grease in 2008, they still have a full-sized shell of the famed car Greased Lightning.  “We would like to be able to sell these items to other theatre companies,” Theatre Cambrian Executive Director Mark Mennisto says.  “It seems such a waste that many theatre companies spend time, effort, and money for their productions and then at the end of the day have no storage space for them and inevitably [send them] into the trash.”


Some companies attempt to solve this dilemma by specializing in renting out costumes, props, scenic elements, lighting, and other miscellaneous items needed for theatres to put on a show.  The website “Theater Services Guide” provides listings suppliers, rental companies, and shops for many different production element categories, including costumes, equipment, lighting, make-up, props, scenery, sound, and specialty products such as pyrotechnics or flying effects.  Listings within each category are provided for as many states as possible, ensuring a maximum reduction of costs to theatres as possible and helping to boost local or regional interactions.  A theatre company in Fort Wayne, Indiana looking to rent lighting equipment can find a local service near downtown rather than attempt to find solutions for its specific needs from across the country in New Mexico or California.


A great national resource for theatre makers to check out is New York’s Theatre Development Fund, or TDF.  Known for its public face of TKTS, whose modern red and white booths serve as anchors in New York City’s Times Square and South Street Seaport, TDF is a non-profit organization which provides support to theatrical groups with its Costume Collection, which consists of more than 75,000 costumes and accessories which have appeared on professional stages across New York and on tour.  Intended for not-for-profit theatre organizations such as schools, colleges, community theatres, and performing arts organizations, TDF’s costume rentals are affordable and will doubtlessly help any amateur theatre production achieve a more professional look.  The collection is housed at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, but a Pulling Service is available for those who are not in the area and cannot make it in.  With this service, TDF’s design experts will pull costumes for you based on your production’s particular needs for an additional fee.  For more information about TDF’s Costume Collection, be sure to check out its website.


While some services specialize in connecting people to theatres or theatres to people, Samuel French has plans to link theatres to theatres.  Phase One of Samuel French’s website overhaul was recently completed with the launch of the brand NEW Samuel French website, but don’t think the fun ends there; plenty of exciting new features for the website are still in the works.  Chief among these will be the new community forum element.


When launched, the community forum element will offer an unprecedented way for theatre-makers to interact and discover what companies have done which shows and how they did them. Theatres can also use the forum to learn how they can acquire design elements such as props, sets, and costumes or to pass that information along to another company.  This flexibility will allow theatre groups to stay thrifty and keep competitive.  Individual theatres will be able to create a post explaining what show they want to put on, as well as any further details they wish to provide about themselves such as their budget and location, and with luck, another theatre who has experience with that show and perhaps still some props, costumes or equipment leftover will see the post and be able to establish a direct line of communication.  Sharing production elements is a great way to keep production costs down, so opening the discussion up and allowing theatres to see exactly what other theatres have and/or want to do is how Samuel French wants to help theatre companies keep within their budgets.  Every penny helps, and the innovative community forum will doubtlessly cut costs on a substantial scale once it is launched.


Other exciting aspects of the community element to look forward to will be a forum in which users can ask and find advice about logistics - the nitty-gritty how-should-we-do-this questions which invariably come up every time a group wants to put on a show. This will compliment open discussion about not only where and how companies can acquire design elements, but also help answer how to most effectively use them.  Also in the pipeline will be a play readers section for those of us who simply can’t get enough to read and want to ever expand our theatre knowledge.


What this all leads to is savings.  At Samuel French, we want to help you Make Theatre Happen, and we are in a unique position to understand the financial strain that comes with putting on live entertainment.  Performing arts and support agencies are under pressure from all sides in this economic climate to scrimp and save wherever possible, and it is those companies who can accomplish the most with the resources they have which thrive.  There are many things those of us in the performing arts industry cannot control, but what we can all do is spread the resources we manage out as far as we can.  When we cut down waste and lower individual costs, the whole community rises.  A stronger community means more variety, more theatrical diversity.  What better way to make theatre happen?



As the admin of this website is working, no hesitation very quickly it will be well-known, due to its quality contents.

my website ... -

3/21/2014 2:42:13 AM
  • kids running shoes

This shoe helps avoid injury by being rigid due towards the insertion of a medial (and at times lateral) post on the inner side of the shoe. In addition, they have their own website which allows you to save your data and monitor your progress and even share it with your friends via email or post it on your favorite social network. If your problem spot lies in your stomach, I suggest you check out these Asian weight loss techniques.

My blog -  kids running shoes -

3/28/2014 3:50:09 AM
  • Fat burning furnace reviews diet reviews

Rob doesn't recommend dietary fads and he explains an easy way to watch the foods you eat and what your body needs. The e - Book includes more than a hundred pages of information and facts on shedding pounds the correct way. With this said I think the Fat Burning Furnace Program is often a drop in the bucket and has a very handsome 60-day guarantee as well as $4.

My web site -  Fat burning furnace reviews diet reviews -

3/29/2014 12:53:11 AM
  • play what you hear review

You could certainly see your skills within the article you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.

Here is my site ::  play what you hear review -

4/2/2014 3:42:46 PM
  • guitar made simple course

We are a group of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with helpful information to work on. You have done a formidable task and our whole group will likely be thankful to you.

Feel free to surf to my page  guitar made simple course -

4/2/2014 3:44:40 PM
  • Belinda

Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I'm impressed! Very useful information particularly the last part Smile I care for such information much. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

My web page: play jazzpunk free ( Belinda - )

4/2/2014 3:44:41 PM
  • 60 minute stamina pdf

I am not declaring motion ought to come before discussion.  I'm stating the dialogue has become happening for many years already.  Decades!  We have experienced the discussion, we? know education is broken, we were just crossing our fingers and ignoring the issue hoping the NCLB bandaid would support and that our technology would magically uncover those dream positions they stored promising us so it could all perform out good within the finish.  Reform has become attempted already, and failed.  We've got to keep attempting, not speaking.

Here is my web-site:  60 minute stamina pdf -

4/4/2014 9:49:04 PM
  • 100 things that attract women

Firstly, how would you design a city system? Secondly, you say that self-sufficient city techniques are prisons simply because, quote, 'you tend not to own house, you cannot become wealthy, individual rights are given up' - would you feel that today's capitalist program is a prison in? that folks have to operate as a way to survive and that you have restricted choice, depending upon your schooling and socio-economic history, in what role you participate in in society? What form of social technique do you advocate?

My site;  100 things that attract women -

4/5/2014 3:15:22 AM
  • 60 minute Stamina Download

I liked the entire video clip besides to the college training part. It really is? not necessarily true, schooling is achieved through self motivation and passion regardless of attending college or not. My personalized view is really a college training nonetheless costs way also a lot.

Also visit my webpage ...  60 minute Stamina Download -

4/8/2014 5:20:17 AM
  • cure premature ejaculation pdf

such type of sex training is not required and stupid, which make the college students looked just like the fully idiots in this region,  and also? as if they came in the Paradise. Another thing, parents' instruction in their proper ages is enough plus in the natural planet, this aspect is unavoidable..   Why this sort of schooling was put in college education system?

Look at my web page -  cure premature ejaculation pdf -

4/17/2014 10:40:08 PM
  • play what you hear course

Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they just don't know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

my blog  play what you hear course -

4/19/2014 3:46:00 AM
  • chris standring jazz guitar video masterclass volume 2

Heya i'm for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

my page ...  chris standring jazz guitar video masterclass volume 2 -

4/19/2014 4:17:21 AM
  • guitar lessons free

I love looking through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

my weblog -  guitar lessons free -

4/19/2014 4:38:39 AM
  • marcus london 60 minute stamina for free

Muslims, Christians cant control their sexual urges so they invented  anti sexual dogma. Muslims want girls? to cover up since the males  cant't take care of their boners

My page -  marcus london 60 minute stamina for free -

4/19/2014 6:35:27 AM
  • marcus london 60 minute stamina torrent

Another interpretation would purely sexual... and since it truly is a wet dream (superficially)? from the earlier lyrics, she might be having his 'wiggly dog' (heh heh heh) and 'consuming it'.  And biting... therefore the higher pitched 'bread'. This is sort of reaching... and metaphorically it could possibly be about him being emasculated.  Or it could be Waters' clever wink wink nudge nudge towards anal sex (obvious what 'buns') (Sparks Will Fly!)

my web site -  marcus london 60 minute stamina torrent -

4/19/2014 11:17:56 PM
  • things that attract girls

Howdy I am so thrilled I found your blog, I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Aol for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don't have time to go through it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

Here is my homepage ::  things that attract girls -

4/28/2014 4:22:32 AM
  • sports cash system by tommy krieg

I usually do not drop many remarks, but i did some searching and wound up here Breaking Character | Insider Tips: Theatre on a Budget. And I do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it only me or does it look as if like some of these responses look like they are left by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are posting on additional sites, I'd like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of all your shared pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

Feel free to visit my web-site;  sports cash system by tommy krieg -

5/8/2014 7:26:18 AM
  • mk

7/10/2014 8:56:38 AM
  • polo

8/30/2014 7:02:15 AM
  • sfs

10/10/2014 6:36:20 AM
  • Write Financial

Jack Shantry ended up being the first cricketer EVER to take and score a load 10 match wickets batting at No. 9 or lower.

My homepage:  Write Financial -

11/18/2014 2:36:32 AM
  • easy backyard garden ideas

The truth is that the job isn't as predictable as it may sound. Easements are created when another property owner (or interested party) requires access to property that may only be accessed from the primary owner's property. Consequently, individuals have two choices: They can bite the bullet and pay whatever it takes to get their front yard up to snuff, or they can see if they can do some or all of the work themselves.

Here is my blog post -  easy backyard garden ideas -

11/28/2014 11:39:28 PM
  • landscaping ideas

As a Green Keeper on a golf course, and landscaper with experience, I'm asked, continually, for help with people's gardens. i - Scape - Available from Home Revivals, this one allows users to plan their landscaping layouts on their i - Phone or i - Pad. With its thick, glossy needles and dense, upward-reaching branches, the yew is useful as both a shrub and tree.

my homepage -  landscaping ideas -

11/30/2014 11:05:50 PM
  • polo

12/1/2014 12:40:04 AM
  • keyuanyuan ;

1/2/2015 2:08:55 PM
  • fdfdsafds

1/12/2015 5:55:30 AM

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview