Welcome to the official Hamilton Players blog: All the world's a stage...

Thoughts and ruminations on all things theater...and then some!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Isn't this worth fighting for?

At the end of today's post, you'll see the year-end letter that the Players sent out back in October.  I have been thinking about it a lot these past weeks because it is always a struggle to write. It's purpose?  Ostensibly to remind friends and patrons to make a donation to our organization this calendar year, but I always want it to do more than that.  I want people to step outside the box of thinking of the Hamilton Players as just a community theater, because "just" is word that has no place there. The Hamilton Players is so much to so many...but how do you explain that in one single, simple page?

Of course we put on plays and musicals; that is a prime part of our mission statement.  But it is the why we put on plays and musicals that people seem to miss.  Our mission statement reads, "Hamilton Players:  Putting the spotlight on education, inspiration, and community through the performing arts."  Education.  Inspiration.  And Community.  That is the true core of the Hamilton Players.  We love plays.  And we love to put on plays, but it is the why we love it that makes it so important.  And that why is confidence, self-esteem, empathy, beauty, friendship, fun, laughter, joy...if there is a positive adjective out there, you can apply it here.  That's why we do it.  And why it's so important that we keep doing it.

I have had parents and grandparents come to me and tell me how the Hamilton Players made a life saving difference for their loved ones:  depressed /sad children finding skills to bolster their self-esteem, bullied children finding a haven of acceptance, lonely children making friends and finding mentors. I have seen the Players community come together to help a struggling family with food. I have seen new friendships grow into life-long relationships; romances that  blossomed into dedicated partnerships, and I have seen Hamilton Players mourn together, cry together, and support each other through the darkest times life can offer.  We laugh together and cry together.

I have received letters, like the one below, that thank and credit the Players with helping children grow and mature.

Dear Hamilton Players,
Today I had the great joy of accompanying my daughter to a school function. Normally she doesn't like to go to these things but was insistent that today we go. So of course I jumped at the chance to take her. Once inside I was met by one of her teachers who pulled me aside and wanted to tell me how much M had changed over the course of the year. They couldn't believe how this once painfully shy girl could have bloomed into this talkative, confident young girl. One of her other teachers then joined our conversation and told us that she had seen M in her play and how blown away she was by the fact that M was not only standing up on that stage, but was really good at what she was doing.
I wanted to take a moment to share this story with you because as a parent hearing such things is so wonderful that you want to share them with them people who helped make them possible. M auditioned for a play at the Playhouse two years ago and had trouble standing on the stage, but DR cast her in the chorus. This year she auditioned for another play, and stood up on that stage without any fear and was cast in one of the lead roles. I am very confident when I say that had she not been given the chance to stand up on the stage two years ago, she never would have auditioned for another play, or had the confidence she does now in her classroom.
Thank you! You provide an invaluable service to the community.
I distinctly remember that incident and have had the pleasure of working with her several times since.  That day, she tried to perform her audition 3 times!  3 times she asked to go up onstage and try and 3 times she froze in tearful misery, unable to vocalize.  There were few dry eyes in the audience as she struggled and failed to master her shyness.  Bravery like that cannot go unrewarded, so we cast her in a chorus role so that she could be surrounded in performance and not feel the spotlight quite so keenly.  She was able to perform surrounded by new friends and was a delight to have backstage.  A mere two years later, she auditioned and earned the only child's role - a featured cast member - in an acclaimed production of Clare Booth Luce's The Women.  When I see her in the community now, I see only a confident and beautiful young woman and I am so proud and moved to have been a part of her life.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these stories that come from the Playhouse: people of all ages who's lives have been touched and bettered by their participation with the Players. Not all of the stories are as dramatic or publicly awe-inspiring as rescuing a child or feeding a starving family, but for every person - man, woman, or child - who holds their head a little higher, or sees new beauty, or empathizes a little more because of their participation here; it makes our community better, stronger, brighter, and more successful.  And that, my friends, is the magic of community theater.  And isn't that worth fighting for?

Dear Friend of the Hamilton Players,


What if a community had a place that allowed people of all ages and walks of life to come together for a shared experience?  A place that fostered an appreciation of diversity and beauty; a place that allowed people to put aside their differences and be a part of something larger than themselves: a place where everyone uses their strengths AND weaknesses to achieve something magical?  The Hamilton Playhouse is that place.


The Hamilton Players are getting ready to celebrate their 20th Anniversary at the Hamilton Playhouse (1996-2016).  Like all businesses, the recession hit the Players hard: ticket sales went down, donations decreased, and sponsors were increasingly difficult to find.  But the Players persevered and so did you. Together we kept the magic of community theater alive in the Bitterroot Valley.  And as the Players enter their 20th Anniversary Season, I ask you to continue your amazing support.   Your tax deductible donation makes it possible to continue amazing artistic programming, offer special events, provide educational opportunities, and much, much more! 


The Hamilton Playhouse is more than just a theater; it is a place where community comes together to make magic and memories…and when all is said and done, its success rests squarely in your hands. Please help keep that magic alive by remembering the Hamilton Players in your end of year giving.



denise rose

Executive Director

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spotlight on Theater Production

     As the Hamilton Players just closed a box office record breaking Pride & Prejudice production and are  preparing the 2016 / 20th anniversary season, it seems a good time to take another look at what it actually takes to mount a theatrical production. The details may come as a surprise to you.   As a rule, scripts are not free to the public. Most scripts are copyrighted and theaters are required to pay a substantial royalty to produce them.  Each licensing house has a slightly different formula for determining royalties that can be as simple as a set price per performance (as is often the case for non-musicals) or as complicated as a proprietary algorithm combining number of seats available, ticket prices, actor pay scales, and professional/amateur standing into a per-performance royalty.  The performance rights for non-musicals are less expensive than those of musicals and are often a set price regardless of venue size or ticket price and averages $75/show. There is no materials deposit:  you buy and keep the scripts. Musical licensing is more complicated.  Musical royalties for the Hamilton Players average $200 per show, and in addition require that you RENT the musical scores and scripts as well as provide a security deposit.  All this is due prior to advertising auditions, much less starting rehearsals!  Add to these licensing fees the artistic budget (set, costumes, hair, makeup, props, tech, SFX,); artistic payroll (director, music director, choreographer, musicians); marketing budget (print ads, digital ads, posters, flyers) and direct show expenses (programs, concessions, box office personnel, ticket stock and fees); and the average Hamilton Players production costs $7450 for a non-musical and $13,695 for a musical. What’s more, these numbers do not include venue overhead (phone, heat, lights, internet, property tax, cleaning, maintenance), or administrative costs (office management, grant writing, fundraising, insurance) or the thousands of other expenses a venue generates (snow removal, repairs, supplies). 

     Expenses are only ½ of the equation. There is another set of numbers that needs to be considered when discussing a community theater production and that is volunteer hours. In the most recent Hamilton Players production, Pride & Prejudice, more than 4200 volunteer hours were put in to make the show come to life.  27 actors rehearsing 14.5 hours/week plus 9, 5.5-hour show days equal over 3600!  In addition there was an average of 5 volunteers working 5 hours/Saturday for 6 weeks building set (150 hours), 3 costumers working 12 hours a week for 6 weeks, (216 hours), house volunteers for the shows (70 hours), and offsite hours for artists that equaled more than 350 hours!  As employees, at minimum wage these hours would be valued at over $32,000! As volunteers, their hours are priceless and indispensable.

     So what exactly does it take to produce a show?  Money.  Passion.  Commitment. And community.  The Hamilton Players invite you to be a part of the magic in their 20th Anniversary Season. Volunteer.  Buy a ticket.  Sponsor a show.  Keep the arts alive in the Bitterroot Valley.  For more information, visit the Players online at www.hamiltonplayers.com.   

Friday, May 22, 2015

More "State of the Players!"

Hamilton Players, Inc. - a non-profit (501 c 3) community theater.  Its mission?  Putting the spotlight on education, inspiration, and community through the theater arts...and I believe we do a fantastic job of doing just that.  Each year we offer 30 weeks of K-12th grade education classes, 2-7 weeks of adult education, a 4-5 show season ticket, two concert fundraisers, and a handful of other events including reader's theaters, a comedy roast, and a black tie awards event. In the last few years we have staged more than a handful of productions that are still getting rave community reviews!  I have been privy to testimony that credits the Players with "saving the life" of not 1, but 3 separate children; bullied and depressed children who found mentorship and self-esteem in participating in Players programming. I have letters from parents about painfully shy children who "found their voice" on the Players stage.  And we have a bottomless well of talent in the Bitterroot Valley; full of professional artists and other stunningly talented entertainers who regularly grace our stage, providing riveting, professional quality performances. So why, then, is Hamilton Players struggling from month to month to keep the doors open?

The short answer is simple:  in an income/expense based analysis, the Hamilton Players expenses exceed their income.  Simple, right?  Just spend less money. ...Which brings us to the long answer, which is not quite so simple.

We have worked hard to keep expenses down to the essentials and trim the financial fat wherever we can, so we are really operating as tight as we can. At this point, for nearly every additional expense dollar the Hamilton Players cut, income will also be cut. Decrease administrative staff/payroll?  Right now there is one full-time employee and one part-time employee who function as the Executive Director, Managing Director, Education Coordinator, Box Office Manager, Special Projects Coordinator, Costume Shop Manager, Safety Officer, Accessibility Liaison, Volunteer Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Grant Writer, Patron Services Manager, Development Director, and 24/7 on-call emergency person...as well as do anything that comes up needing to be done.  Between the two of them, they do the work of 3-4 full time staff positions!  Decrease marketing? Lose ticket sales.  Decrease show budgets? Shows with lower production value = less ticket sales.  Cut production stipends? Lose production staff = less shows or lower production value and that equals, yep, you guessed it:  less ticket sales.

Here's the general breakdown of our last musical:
Materials rental .......................$900 (cost to rent music & scripts)
Materials deposit......................$400 (damage deposit)
Royalties.................................$1845 (cost per show x 9 shows)
Musicians................................$1250 (piano + 3 musicians)
Art/Music Direction...................$1500 (Directors' stipends)
Artistic Show Budget.................$2800 (Set, Costumes, Props, etc.)
Admin/Box Office.....................$1650 (Show related admin costs)
Ticketing.................................$150 (ticket fees & ticket stock)
Programs................................$900 (printing fees)
Bldg. Overhead.......................$1000 (Heat/Air, utilities for show)
Marketing...............................$1300 (posters, ads, etc.)

If every showing of a musical sold out (165 seats x $15 x 9 shows) the Players would make $22,275 -$13,695 for a total of: $8,580. Unfortunately, average attendance for a NOT well-known, musical is <55% (or >93). So 93 seats x $15 x 9 shows =$12,555 - $13,695= -$1140 (Yes, a LOSS of $1140!).   This musical averaged 97 per show which came out to $13,095-$13,695 = -600.  Luckily, this production had a 1/2 sponsor that helped offset the royalties leaving the Players with a profit of $600...for the production itself.  Now, this budget does not include day-to-day operations, salaries, and show incidentals (like custodial services and feeding the work crew); nor does it quantify the burden placed on our volunteer pool for the 1200+ DESIGNATED volunteer hours it took to bring this show together.  Non-musical comedies are less expensive to produce, but they also bring in significantly smaller houses as they run about 25% or less (>42)...and if it is a drama?  We're looking at houses that are > 15% or an average of 25 people per show.  That is why the Players do 2 or 3 musicals a year out of their 5 show season, and why we choose at least one well-known, popular musical; because popular musicals (think: Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady) bring in houses that average 115 people or 68% for a profit of $1830.00...more if the director can come in under budget and we get a sponsor. 

Without sponsors, it is almost impossible for a show to break even. Thankfully, THANKFULLY! Most of the 2015 shows have sponsors, (A HUGE thank you to:  Taco Del Sol in Hamilton, Ravalli County Bank, Family Medicine Center of the Bitterroot, Ann and Paul Thomas, Chapter One Book Store and Roaring Lion Ranch!), but we are still looking for a partial sponsor for Pride & Prejudice, and 4, $250 sponsors for the Summer Session 1 Theater Camp.  It is the rare performing arts organization that can survive on ticket revenue alone, and when I say rare I mean not just unicorn rare, but rainbow-maned-flying-unicorn rare.  And Hamilton Players is not one of those unicorns.  So we plead for community sponsorships, madly write grants and compete with the hundreds of other non-profits in the community and thousands in the state (and sometimes more if it's national) for the same grant dollars, and continually reach out to our community for support. 

The Hamilton Players is a non-profit community theater.  We love what we do and judging by the fact that we are still open and going on our 20th year at the Playhouse, you love us too.  We need your continued support. And in return, we will give back all that we can:  our talent, our time, our gratitude.  We will keep reaching out to this community to entertain, educate, mentor, and help. We will still: partner with other organizations to raise awareness and money (for them and us), donate tickets to fundraisers, give away tickets to other non-profits (youth homes, SAFE, 4H mentorship program), and try to help out the schools whenever we can by supporting their projects (musicals, wax museums).  We will work every day to fulfill our mission statement and prove that we are worthy of your support!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Introducing the new and improved...

So much has happened since my last blog...in 2013!  As a mid-year resolution I have decided to make weekly blog posts a priority.  There is always so much happening with the Hamilton Players, that the issue isn't finding something to say, but rather, finding the time to say it!  So in the upcoming posts, I will be talking about events, funding, programming, wants, needs, wishlists, thank you's  and everything in between. 

Just a quick update/overview...a snapshot, so to speak, of the 2015 Hamilton Players:
  • We currently have an 8 person Board of Directors that meets at 5:30 pm on the third Thursday (generally) of every month at the Playhouse.
  • We have an amazing 5-show season that started in February with The Drowsy Chaperone, followed in April by The Curious Savage. The remaining 3 shows of the 2015 season are: Singin' in the Rain (June), The Odd Couple (August), and Pride & Prejudice (October).
  • As of today (May 12, 2015) our sponsors for the season are: TACO DEL SOL, RAVALLI COUNTY BANK, FAMILY MEDICINE CENTER OF THE BITTERROOT, ANN & PAUL THOMAS, MONTANA CULTURAL TRUST, and ROARING LION RANCH.  Without these sponsors, we would not be able to keep the doors open.  Thank you, Sponsors, for keeping the magic alive!
  • We just closed out an amazing performance tech upgrade made possible by a grant from the Montana Department of Tourism combined with the generosity of our theater donors.  This $33,855.00 project enabled us to purchase new light and sound boards and upgrade the wiring, acquire new masking curtains (legs), a new scrim, a new performance keyboard, monitors, 28 new light fixtures, 4 headsets, a tech laptop, 2 LED spotlights AND install new dimmer packs.  This upgrade, along with the new seating installed in 2010 takes your theater experience to a whole new level.  The production value is at an all time high and you will just have to see it to believe it.
  • The K-12th grade education program has expanded to include 2 weeks in the summer, 12 weeks in the fall and 16 weeks in the spring.  This summer the session 1 camp ends with a production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Jr. (licensed by MTI:  Music Theater International).
  • We have added 3 reader's theater productions to the season lineup:  March, September and December.  The September title is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf featuring denise rose, Terry Croghan, Mara Luther, and Eric Monson.  The December title, which is going to be an annual event, is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Anyone who is interested in participating in that production should contact the Playhouse Box Office.
  • We are currently engaged in campaign to recruit volunteers for all aspects of Playhouse functions, but we are focusing on recruiting builders and carpenters to help build sets.  If you have any interest in volunteering in any capacity, please contact the Playhouse Box Office.
  • Box Office Hours were reduced to Wednesday-Friday, 1-5pm to help reduce the operating budget and keep the Playhouse afloat.  This economy has been rough on the arts across the nation and the Playhouse is no exception.  But we are passionate about what we do and we will fight to keep the magic alive!
  • 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Hamilton Playhouse.  We will be kicking that season off with the first show ever produced at the Playhouse:  Something's Afoot.  It is our dream that this production will bring the Playhouse full circle and bridge the gap between the past and the future at the Playhouse.  Bring back our favorites from the Players past and sprinkle in new faces and talent...both on and off stage! 
...and that, in a nutshell, is where the Hamilton Players are today.  I look forward to sharing more about the Players; where we've been and where we're going.  And I look forward to hearing from all of you: your thoughts, your ideas, your suggestions...let's make some magic happen together!