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  • Writer's pictureeleanormallinson

Amateur Theatre: The cost of a production

For many people, being part of an amateur theatre company provides them with a place to be creative, make friends and a have the chance to throw themselves into a role on stage, performing in productions that make them feel alive and provide mental health benefits through the chance to step away from their stressful lives for a few hours each week.

There is nothing like performing on stage or rehearsing a favourite score, but there is one thing the musicals 'Mamma Mia' and 'Cabaret' made clear, everything needs money.

With rising living costs the amateur theatre world could be facing a crisis. The costs of putting on a production has risen and continues to rise, but members of societies and companies cannot afford an increase in their membership due to their own personal cost of living issues. You might not realise, as sadly most members of these companies don't, just how much it costs to put on a show these days and how difficult this is going to be for many groups.

You might be asking yourself, "ok, but what exactly does it cost to perform a musical and what do you have to pay for?", so let me enlighten you based on my own experience as director and producer for two companies and secretary for another...

  1. Theatre.

  2. Scenery.

  3. Music.

  4. Costumes.

  5. Insurance.

  6. Rehearsal Space.

  7. Technicians.

  8. Rights and Scripts.

  9. Marketing.

So now I've added everything together and looking at over £12000, which is 71% of ticket sales to cover costs, not including the rights and initial script costs and assuming recorded backing tracks (81% for an orchestra!). That means needing to sell 852 tickets for your show just to break even, which is 162 per performance night...

Although this isn't unachievable, it is still a tall order and one main reason why some fantastic shows aren't performed anymore because they aren't known non-musical people and lack the commercialism to sell to general public. Many a company now sighs in dismay at choosing a future show because the challenge of finding something which can sell at least 70% of tickets to break even is increasingly difficult and still doesn't consider other company costs like rehearsal space, paying directors and choreographers, insurance and any unexpected bills.

As costs look set to continue to rise, what does the future hold for amateurs? Will there come a point where companies just can't afford to put on productions anymore? What will this mean for local communities cultural activities and the mental health of those who get so much out of being part of a performing arts group? It is unlikely this will change and all we can do is hope that companies can continue to find the audiences they need to break even, or sadly more and more will end up folding and theatre may become something only for the professionals to perform.

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