Ever wondered what it takes to be an amateur pantomime producer? Amateur producers have similar roles to professional ones. The role encompasses everything you might need to do to make the production happen. Here’s a few tips form my experiences producing amateur and professional theatre.
One: Amateur Pantomime Scripts
The first step of producing any Pantomime is picking the right script and this can be particularly important for amateur productions. There are some things to bear in mind if you’re picking your Panto:
- Cast size – how many principal and supporting roles do you want your production to have? What’s the male/female casting breakdown?
- Scenes – how many are there? Do you need to cut some down? Are you building the set from scratch?
- Jokes – is it funny? Did it make you laugh when you read it?
- Costumes – do you already have the costumes? Will you be hiring them? Are there any specified in the script that you will need to make?
- Running time – is there an estimated running time on your script? I’d advise an ideal running time is around two hours 10 minutes including interval
- Songs – is there a good range of opportunities for songs to be included?
Two: Casting your Pantomime
I always say that casting is the key to a good production. Even if all else fails, a decent cast will have your audience in stitches. Always cost a mix of old and new faces ensuring you have reliable cast members and your key roles that you can trust to work hard in rehearsals and deliver great performances on the night.
Three: Write Yourself a Budget
To keep the finances of your show in check, make sure you have a solid budget in place to succeed. A budget should be your worst case scenario – i.e. all costs should be detailed at the maximum possible expense giving you plenty of wriggle room and opportunity to move chunks of money around if needed. I like to run show budgets with an ‘actuals’ column alongside the ‘budget’ column which I keep up to date as the project evolves and tickets sell. This way if projected sales aren’t as strong as you’d hoped, you can re-adjust your budget where possible to mitigate this.
Four: Organise, Plan, and Prepare your Amateur Pantomime
Great organisation is the way to any successful production. Ensure each department is properly briefed on their designated role, the budget they have to spend and then schedule regular production meetings to check in on progress and actions. I’d recommend monthly production meetings with weekly meetings taking place with 1 month to go until the show. These meetings should be separate to regular committee meetings which are usually about wider issues and the strategic direction of the group. The production meetings are solely for issues relating to the production and then a general update could be circulated to the committee at their monthly meetings.
Five: Remember to Enjoy Yourself!
As production week gets closer and the inevitable stresses and complications begin to come to a head, it’s a really good idea to try and remember that theatre is rarely life or death. Pick your battles well, expend your energy on the things that mean most to you and bear in mind that everyone’s on the same team – you’re all trying to make the show the best it can possibly be. I like to schedule in a casual drink after some of these final rehearsals for everyone, and then a drinks or dinner session after the dress rehearsal for the creative team so that there is some time and space to let off steam away from the theatre and the cast.