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

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Retrospective (Guest Blog)

There are countless theaters in the world. A fathomless number of them that are constantly pumping out various amounts of entertainment for the masses, but in this expansive mass, there is one single theater. A small theater tucked away inside a small valley with a small stage and an even smaller budget. However, what they lack in physical space and financial backing, they make up for in talent, ingenuity and heart. This place is called the Hamilton Players and it is my favorite place on this earth.

For five years now, I’ve been a part of the Hamilton Players productions, both on stage and behind the box office window. From a jealous space-faring cook to a drunk cockney ruffian to a kind-hearted chief clerk who fell in love in a single evening. I’ve loved every role, every stage direction, every late night line memorizing sessions. After Hello, Dolly! is finished, I’ll have concluded my eighth production with the Hamilton Players.

As much as I enjoy being on the stage, the majority of my time here has been spent behind the desk, selling tickets and making calls. It’s been an incredible learning experience! As far as first jobs go, I couldn’t have been more lucky with the one I ended up with. My time here has taught me the ins and outs of theater, how it’s managed and how it’s run. It’s taught me people skills and how to handle customers and work under stress. Through both ups and downs, I’ve enjoyed every second of it.

My five years at this magical place have been the best of my life. My experiences on stage are what have shaped me as a person and allowed me to realize what I want to do with the rest of my life, which is professional theater. Everything I know, I learned in a small house with 168 seats with character that is bursting out of every seam. Here’s to the next grand adventure!

Hamilton Players, thank you for all the memories!

-Nathaniel Heckeroth

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Blog, Blog, Bloggidy, Blog (Guest Post)

Hi everyone, my name is Morgan Kellar! The E.D. asked me to be the guest blogger and to tell everyone about my Hamilton Players experience.

I have been an employee at Hamilton Players all throughout high school and while people usually have terribly strange first jobs, I can safely say that I was extremely lucky. My “debut” at the playhouse was through various theater camps once I moved to Hamilton in 4th grade. My first official production was Return to the Forbidden Planet where I played a robot that shot an alien and got into a fist fight (a.k.a. the best role EVER). After that, I talked to the E.D. and became the theater intern which sounded like an elaborate role to me as a 13 year old but basically consisted of organizing and cleaning. After my year-long internship I was offered a part time job! Working at the playhouse has had ups and downs, like anything, but when I look back over my four years in high school, there is nowhere else I’d rather spend so much time.

To give you some background, theater has always been a part of my life. My older cousin used to write short skits that I’d perform with my cousins every holiday. There was thanksgiving in space, cowboys at Christmas, and many more embarrassing memories. Since becoming a Hamilton Player I have performed in Music Man, Into the Woods, Singing in the Rain, and more. I have also participated as an assistant director and stage manager for Pride & Prejudice, Into the Woods, Chicago, and most recently I was the director of Charlotte’s Web! Directing a show at 17 was an incredible experience and I learned so much about theater that I hadn’t thought about before.

It is hard to summarize how much one place means to me. My parents divorced in 8th grade and while both are incredibly supportive I switch houses every week so there isn’t a “permanent” home. I have decided that while I have two homes, I consider the playhouse a third one. I have a new family here, new friendships and new memories. I have learned about teamwork through volunteering, patience in the box office, problem solving during shows, and compassion with my fellow cast/crew. Participating in theater at the Playhouse was one of those moments I know I’ll remember and carry with me all through my life. I hope that students and community members of all ages will continue to participate and support their local theater because Hamilton Players certainly is an organization that embodies inspiration, education, and community.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Theater etiquette...revisited Part 1

I have posted about this before, but since our theater continues to grow and bring in new participants, patrons, and actors, I think it's time to revisit the idea of theater etiquette. What is acceptable for a move theater is very different (although, truth be told, it shouldn't be!) that what is acceptable for live theater...but unless you have really stopped to think about it, you may not realize it.  The main difference is due to the fact that in live theater there are real people in real time performing for you, whereas in a movie it is pre-recorded.  What this means is that the performers in a movie will not be distracted or interrupted by the reaction or action of the audience and their performance is the result of multiple takes, editing, and camera angles to bring you the best possible performance.  In live theater, the real actors are right there in front of you, in real time and not only can they be distracted or interrupted, but they have only one chance at each show to bring you the best performance they possibly can.  They don't get another "take" to get it right. So let's look another look at the etiquette expected from a live theater audience.

First and foremost: BE ON TIME.  In most professional theaters, if you arrive after curtain (start) time, you will have to wait until intermission to be seated.  Many community theaters will still try to seat you, but you may have to wait until a scene change/break in the action.  However, even in a community theater you may not get to take your seat late if the house if full and your seats are located where it will create a great distraction to get to.  We know you paid for a ticket, but so did everybody else and it is not fair to the other patrons or the actors to interrupt the whole show to help you find your assigned seat in the darkened theater.  Most theaters cannot compete with the special effects and point of view created by movie magic, so it relies on the willing suspension of disbelief from its audience.  Interrupting the flow of the show once it has started takes the audience out of the fantasy and makes it difficult to recapture the magic.  Many theater also have a 10 minute policy for will-call tickets:  if you haven't picked up your ticket by the 10 minutes to curtain mark, you ticket may be released and resold.  The best solution is to simply plan ahead and make sure you arrive in plenty of time to find parking, use the restroom, hit concessions, and pick up your ticket.

Second, and another important point:  TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!  Taking a call during a show is one of the rudest and most disrespectful things you can do in live theater. Not only does it show a total lack of respect for the patrons around you, but it also shows a disdain and disrespect for the actors on stage.  Texts are no less rude.  The noise and light of a cell phone is distracting to the show for both the audience and performers.  And filming or photographing is also right out.  Theaters and production companies sign contracts when the license show rights and these usually include a stipulation to not record the show.  Even for marketing purposes, the rights to record even small sections are severely restricted.  So not only is it distracting to other audience members and the cast of the show, it is also very likely illegal. Not to mention that it could be considered intellectual theft. (http://www.playbill.com/article/ask-playbillcom-why-cant-i-take-photos-in-a-broadway-theatre-com-180456 )  Some theaters are relaxing their pre-and post-show photography rules, but even then it is not okay to take pictures during the show.  There have been instances in live theater where an actor has stopped the show to call-out a cell phone user.  (http://people.com/celebrity/kevin-spacey-in-character-stops-show-to-scold-audience-member-for-ringing-cell-phone/     http://people.com/theater/glenn-close-stops-sunset-boulevard-photo/ ) I would say that is an inappropriate response, but day after day of audience disrespect can wear on an actor and sometimes enough is enough.)  Suffice it to say:  Don't be that person.  Turn off your cell phone.

UNWRAP YOUR COUGH DROPS BEFORE THE SHOW.  Unwrapping cough drops or candy is surprising loud when everyone around you is being quiet.  Paper crinkling is an unwelcome distraction.

Along the same lines is: DON'T TALK ONCE THE PERFORMANCE HAS STARTED.  The only noise in the theater should be coming from the stage (or speakers) as part of the show.  Talking, unwrapping candy, squeezing your plastic water bottle...all of these things are distracting to the patrons around you and to the actors on stage.  And along with don't talk; DON'T HUM OR SING ALONG WITH THE ACTORS unless they have asked you to.  People around you paid good money to hear the actors perform. Buy the soundtrack and sing along in the car.  In the theater it is just rude.

REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU.  Leaning together and cuddling or wearing a large hat, or not sitting correctly in your seat blocks the view of the stage for the people behind you.  Please remember to be courteous to other patrons; they want to see the show too.

I can't say I thought I would ever have to actually say this one, but based on actual experience, I must.  DO NOT TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF IN THE THEATER.  This is not your living room and removing your shoes is inappropriate and potentially offensive.

Theater etiquette basically comes down to common courtesy and common sense. If you take a moment to think about it, you won't have any trouble. Theater is a shared experience and a good audience member will do what they can to be a positive part of theater experience for themselves and everyone else.

Theater Etiquette Part 2: Children and live theater? YES!

Live theater can be a magical and memorable experience for children of all ages. It truly is one of life's greatest cultural treasures.  When the experience is done well, it can create a lasting joy and appreciation for theater for the rest of their lives.  Done poorly, it can be a disaster for everyone:  the child, the rest of the party, and the other patrons.  What makes the difference?  Preparation and education.  Below are some guidelines for bringing children to the theater.

1. Show selection is the foundation on which everything else is built.  If you bring a child to a show that they won't enjoy or understand then it will be impossible to keep them engaged in the production.  Not all shows are a good fit for children; including musicals.  Make sure you have selected a show that will be of interest.  Shows designed for children (like Broadway Jr. shows or ones based on children's books like Charlotte's Web) are a good starting spot.  And remember, just because a musical is a classic, doesn't mean it doesn't have adult content.  Even The Sound of Music has Nazis!  Everyone is different, but typically:  Toddlers through the age of 4 do well with short productions (>40 minutes) with a lot of audience participation.  Pre-schoolers, ages 4-5 can handle longer shows (50-75 minutes) as long as the material is interesting to them.  Another plus to choosing a show designed for children is that the actors expect a certain amount of fidgeting, as that's part and parcel of childhood!

2. Get your tickets for seats near the aisle, if possible.  That way if it turns out that it just isn't a sit quietly kind of day (and don't we all have those?), you'll be able to take your child out to the lobby for a break.  The House Manager will be probably be able to help you rejoin the show later.

3. Speaking of tickets, ALL patrons require a ticket no matter their age or if you expect them to sit on your lap.  (And please remember that having a child sit on your lap can block the view of the person behind you.)

4.  Make sure children use the restroom before the show. Remember:  their bladders are smaller than yours!

5. Go over general theater etiquette with your kiddoes before they arrive at the theater.

  • They will be expected to be quiet, sit still in their own chair and not disturb others around them
  • They should not put their feet on the seats or kick the seat in front of them
  • They should not stand during the performance
  • They cannot eat in the theater
6.  It is also helpful to let them know what to expect from a show:
  • Theater lights will dim at the beginning of the show and it may get quite dark
  • Sometimes there a sudden, loud noises in a show
  • Sometimes the audience claps during a show (after a song or at the end of a scene)
  • Let them know if there will be an intermission and that you will be watching a second part after a short break
  • Everyone can join in to clap and show appreciation for the actors at the end of the show!
7. And tell them a bit about the plot of the show so they know in advance who the characters are and the generalities of what will happen in the show.

8. Remind them that the actors are real people just like them.  They may be wearing a mask or makeup, but underneath they are a real person!

The memories created by a live theater experience will last a lifetime. It can be a life-changing event and a wonderful experience for anyone of nearly any age.  (An exception may be babes-in-arms because there is not way to prepare them or explain what is going on.  Loud noises and changing lights can startle an infant and cause distress that  results in fear and/or startled crying.  For the benefit of everyone - including the infant! - we do discourage you from bringing babies to a live theater production.)

With a little bit of preparation, live theater can be an exciting part of any child's life!


Monday, March 5, 2018

Theater Jargon

Like any specialized industry, theater has it's own set of jargon.  In looking for gifts for your theater friends, you have probably seen the "Theatre Dictionary" on mugs, t-shirts and the like at Cafe Press (www.cafepress.com)
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Not sure who came up with it, but it's pretty darn funny, as theater jargon goes.  Not all community theaters have the facilities to require the use of all these phrases, but let's take a look at a few that are specifically used at the Hamilton Playhouse.

HOUSE:  1.) The auditorium area where patrons sit to watch to the show, 2.) The audience

PROSCENIUM:  The opening of the wall between the audience and the stage or, more poetically, the picture frame through which the audience watches the performance.

APRON:  The part of the stage in front of the proscenium

BACKSTAGE: The part of the stage and theater that is out of sight to the audience

BLOCKING: The movement actors do onstage

CHOREOGRAPHY: The dancing actors do on stage

CALL TIME:  The time an actor needs to arrive at the theater

CALL TIMES: (verb) To verbally note the countdown to the start of the show.

FLAT: A wood frame covered in muslin or wood (plywood, Masonite) that is used as backdrops, walls, and masking on a set.

SET:  The stage setting for a scene or show

MASKING:  Flats or curtains used to block the audiences view of something offstage

GREEN ROOM:  The backstage area where actors relax.  It is not usually green.  At Hamilton Players it doubles as the dressing room.

CHEAT OUT: Angling your body (as an actor) to face the audience.

COUNTER:  An actor's stage move to naturally get out of the way of another actor

WINGS:  The out-of-view area to either side of the acting area

THE FOURTH WALL:  The invisible "wall" between the audience and the actors

STAGE DIRECTIONS:  1.) The directions in the script telling actors how and where to go. 2.) How an actor orients himself on stage:  Stage Right - the actors right, facing the audience; Stage Left - the actor's left, facing the audience; Up Stage - the stage area away from the audience, towards the back wall; Down Stage - the stage area nearest the audience, towards the apron of the stage: Center Stage - the area in the middle of the stage.

**Here are a few more phrases you should be familiar with, even though they may fall more into the category of theater lore than actual theater terminology:

BREAK A LEG:  The traditional statement that replaces, "Good Luck!" ...as it is considered bad luck to wish an actor good luck

THE SCOTTISH PLAY:  This is what superstitious actors call Shakespeare's Macbeth. It is considered extremely bad luck to say the word "Macbeth" inside a theater at any time.  Lore says that if you say it, to remove the curse you must leave the theater, spin around 3 times to your left, spit, curse, and then knock to be readmitted.

GHOST LIGHT:  A single, uncovered light left on onstage when the theater is dark (closed). In terms of safety it helps the first person in find the light switches, but superstition says it gives the theater ghosts a light to perform by.

To learn more about theater terminology, check out these links:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This is community theater...part 1

In 2012 the British Museum had a book on display that rivaled the Gutenberg Bible for media attention.  The book was not particularly old, it wasn’t a rare text, it wasn’t a clean text; it had scribbles in the margins and was obviously well used.  It had been owned by Nelson Mandela. but more than that, it had been owned by Nelson Mandela in prison and for years this so-called "Robben Island Bible" sustained and inspired him..  He often read aloud from it to his cellmates and it inspired and sustained them all. The book? Not scripture, but sacred nonetheless.  It was the Collected Works of William Shakespeare.  Those characters, those stories…they sustained him and others through those dark years in prison.  That, my friends, is the power and magic of theater.

Hamilton Players’ mission is to put the spotlight on education, inspiration, and community through the performing arts.  But even more important than our mission, is “why” behind it.  What drives us, as an organization, is a belief that live theater has the power to change individuals, both those who participate in it, and those who view it.  Performing on stage is a life-changing event–you can never be the same, afterward, when you’ve worn another person’s life in front of an audience. Each time, you become a little more open-minded, a little more understanding, a little better parent, a little better neighbor.  Just a little better.

Over the years Hamilton Players has staged more than 100 major productions, everything from classic Shakespeare to a drama about the effects of 9/11; from big musicals with upwards of 50 performers, to intimate 1- and 2-person shows.  In the course of a typical year, easily 5,000 people--and sometimes as many as 7,000--will attend or participate in our productions and events. Imagine that: 7,000 opportunities for our community to become just a little better.  That’s the power and magic of theater.

Hamilton Players has a large and growing number of all-purpose volunteers of all ages; an extraordinary corps of performers, directors, musicians, dancers, costume builders, designers, helpers, advisers, and artists.  All of them participating because they have each, on their own, decided that this is the most valuable thing they can do with their time, the most important thing they can do for their community.  Not everybody enjoys being out in front of an audience, but nearly everyone enjoys the feeling of having contributed to something larger than themselves, and a Hamilton Players production offers just that.  Beginning with nothing more than words on a page, everyone - from the director right on down to the person who checks to make sure there’s toilet paper in the bathrooms - begins working together to create the transforming experience that the audience has. Inspiration. Teamwork. Community.  That’s the power and magic of theater.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The volunteer conundrum

I don't know how it works at other nonprofit community theaters, but here at Hamilton Players we have only a tiny paid staff:  Executive Director (FTE), 2 box office interns (>.5 FTE), a house keeper (.25 FTE) and a handful of transient or "seasonal"  artistic staff that come and go; tied to a specific show.  Everything else is staffed by volunteers...which is amazing...and also difficult.

For years our organization has had a paradigm of very loose leadership for volunteers; if you want to volunteer, great!  Have at it! That worked well when Hamilton Players was a loose collective that came together to put on a show and then disperse.  But once the Players had a formal venue that required constant attention and upkeep, and expanded the programming to more than two isolated shows per year, AND became a corporation and nonprofit; the volunteer needs increased substantially and more often than not, the old-school "Have at it!" concept led to dissatisfaction for both Hamilton Players and the volunteer.  Projects would get started by one and then finished by another; leaving both frustrated and dissatisfied.  Information, or rather; misinformation, was passed along according to each individual's varying understanding of the situation.  The administrative learning curve for nonprofit and corporate legal requirements was steep and suddenly there were a lot more volunteers to keep informed and many of them were disgruntled to find that the way they had been doing things was no longer acceptable to the organization. Plus there was the added pressure of satisfying insurance requirements or face constantly increasing premiums. This led to a huge turnover in volunteers, a variety of unsafe practices, and a widely varying quality of experience for volunteers, patrons, and donors.  Dissatisfaction led to reduced volunteerism which in turn led to more work and responsibility being heaped upon volunteers, which led to more dissatisfaction and reduced volunteerism.  It was a slow, deepening spiral of negativity that was impacting the organization on all levels.

Fast forward to today.  2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the Hamilton Playhouse, Hamilton Players home venue.  It also marked the start of a newly reorganized volunteer committee with a commitment to growth and excellence.  By "growth" I refer to volunteer recruitment and by "excellence" I refer to both the experience to and from the volunteer.  Hamilton Players has made some mistakes in the past, but we are working hard to create an environment where volunteers are integrated into the day to day culture of the organization, given responsibility and autonomy, and are appreciated and rewarded.  We want volunteers to become a part of the fundamental structure of the Playhouse day-to-day activities. In the name of transparency, volunteers need to know that there will be some training up-front.  Policies and expectations will be clearly outlined as will the structure and processes of the organization.  Depending upon the position, there will also be periodic evaluations to help keep expectations - on both sides - in alignment. Sure, there are rules, but within that framework real magic can happen.  Change cannot happen overnight, but Hamilton Players is making a dedicated commitment to develop an organizational culture that is open and appreciative and values dedication, creativity, collaboration, and accountability - both from employees and volunteers. 

Hamilton Players invites you to become a part of the theater family. See what's new and bring your own special talents and strengths to work with us at the Playhouse!  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Make this year a win/win: goals for 2018

Back in a December blog post I talked about it being the time for"taking stock and setting new goals," but I never really got past the "taking stock" part of the post.  So today's post will look at the second half of the equation:  setting new goals.

As always, Hamilton Players will strive to produce high quality shows that entertain and educate. Our goal for 2018 season ticket shows is to increase participation/attendance by actors, volunteers, and patrons.   Part of the reasoning behind the selection of 2018's line up was to try to bring new faces to both the audience and the actor/volunteer pools.  So far this strategy has been working very well.  Chicago, the first show of the 2018 season, is in rehearsal and out of a cast of 22 actors, 11 of them are new to Hamilton Players!  The next show, Charlotte's Web, features a 1st-time director and we expect that the final show of the season, 12 Angry Men, will bring in another new group of actors.  Each actor new to Hamilton Players brings along a handful (or more!) of new patrons that will attend the show.  (Children's shows are particularly good at leveraging attendance as each child has parents, siblings, extended family, teachers, mentors, etc. who usually attend the show...and usually more than once.)

A second goal Hamilton Players is  working hard toward is to expand our volunteer program and recruit more volunteers.  We now have an official volunteer coordinator and are working to restructure and expand the volunteer committee.  The committee instituted training programs for house staff and general volunteers and is also actively recruiting volunteer House Managers to train for show nights. 

As far as non-season ticket programming goals are concerned, Hamilton Players is trying to expand the programming and bring in more participants. We are expanding the reader's theater program from 3 to 4 titles a year.  We are also adding a 3-day Haunted Playhouse event in October to augment the Mansion Murder Mystery and the Halloween Spooktacular.  We are adding another day to the Murder Mystery, so it will now go 4 days and we will be opening ticket sales a day earlier for a special "full table" event for people who are purchasing a full 8 seat table.  And we are looking for ways to market and increase the attendance of the Halloween Spooktacular - Hamilton Players' adult Halloween costume party.

The goals for fundraising are much the same as always:  raise as much money as possible to support our mission.  To that end, Hamilton Players is instituting a plan to do a fundraiser every September.  Every other year (starting last year) we will host a gala titled, All the World's a Stage.  On ATWAS off years, we will present a performance based fundraiser.  Our formal fall fundraising event this year will be Forbidden Bitterroot; a comedy roast and Broadway inspired musical parody. 

A final goal Hamilton Players is working towards is increasing awareness in our community about Hamilton Players and our programming.  We are partnering with several downtown businesses to have "Hamilton Players Nights" where employees and volunteers of Hamilton Players attend to meet the public and answer questions while the business donates a percent of the evening's proceeds to us. Currently the 2nd Tuesday of every month is Hamilton Players Pasty Night at MineShaft Pasty Co.,  and Tuesday, February 20 will be Hamilton Players Night at Pizza Hut (in Hamilton). 

As you can see, we have a lot going on all year long and the common thread throughout ALL of the goals is to increase participation.  The Bitterroot Valley an amazing community, full of talent and compassion, and right now participation levels have barely scratched the surface! Hamilton Players has so much to offer the community and the community has so much to offer Hamilton Players...let's just join forces, spread the joy, and make it a win/win for everyone!  See you at the Playhouse!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Anatomy of the Season Selection

Happy New Year!

We are a couple weeks into 2018 and already it's time to start thinking about the 2019 season line up. Different theaters have very different methods of selecting season titles.  Some have Artistic Directors that choose the season, others accept Director proposals, and still others have committees or Boards that make the decision.  Hamilton Players has tried several different methods over the years, with varying degrees of success, but has in recent years found a formula that seems to work.

Hamilton Players has a "Play Reading Committee" whose function is to read and assess plays and then come up with a season recommendation.  There are parameters laid out by the Board and the Executive Director regarding what the goal of the season is (usually ticket sales and community involvement), and the committee works within those guidelines to pick what they believe would be a strong, successful season for the Playhouse.  The committee consists of some Board members, the Executive Director, some long-time Hamilton Players (actors and directors), and some community volunteers.

There is a list of play and musical with about 220 titles on it that is generally considered.  Titles are added to the list whenever someone recommends a play/musical for the committee to consider.  Members of the committee read scripts and fill out evaluation forms that list the cast and show requirements and why or why not they think it is a good fit for Hamilton Players.  Some of the issues the committee has to consider are as follow:

RACE:  There are many shows that the Players would love to do (and based on word-of-mouth, the public too!), but due to a lack of diversity in our community, it just isn't possible.  Color blind casting aside, there are just some roles that require a person of color and whitewashing the role would be insensitive at best, if not outright racist or offensive.  Consider the musicals West Side Story or Once on this Island who's major plot components revolve around Puerto Ricans or West Indians;  or the classic, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, where it is plot-imperative that the fiancee be a man of color.  How are these to be cast in a community of 42,088 that is 95.9% white (according to the 2010 census/2016 update)?  There are approximately 50 adult actors in a given year who participate in Hamilton Players Productions.  That is .0012% of the population.  If 4.1% of the given population are persons of color,(1726 people), and .0012% of them participate that gives a grand total of 2 people.  And that doesn't take into consideration scheduling issues or just standard color-blind casting:  just because a show needs a certain ethnicity for a single role does not mean that is the only role an actor of that ethnicity can audition for!

ADULT CONTENT:  Historically speaking, the average audience member for Hamilton Players productions is averse to significant adult content.  And by "adult content" I refer to profanity - the f-bomb in particular, sexual situations, and overly risque costuming.  This is evident through the reduced ticket sales we see for shows with this content.  A show with substantial adult content is considered a "risk" show in a season and Hamilton Players must balance that out with a show that has a better than average ticket sales expectation (like Annie or Sound of Music).

STYLE:  Dramas are a very hard sell in this community.  Dark shows are too.  Sondheim is also a hard sell.  Shows that are complicated, dark, negative, or deal with sensitive issues do not tend to play well in this community.  There is definitely an audience for them, but it is a small audience, so dramas and the like are also considered "risk" shows.

NAME RECOGNITION: Again, historically speaking, the Hamilton Players' audience likes titles they already know.  New shows, original shows, or just lesser-known shows do not perform strongly in our community.  If the production is excellent (which we always strive for!), then ticket sales will pick up by the 3rd and final weekend because of word of mouth...but that is too late to make up for two weekends of less than stellar ticket sales.  Shows with little or no name recognition are considered "risk" shows.

HAS IT BEEN DONE RECENTLY:  Hamilton Players does not want to be in direct competition with other, local theaters.  It does not benefit anyone to play the comparison game of "who did it better?"  Arts organizations need to collaborate; not compete:  a rising tide raises all boats We need to help each other succeed, not sow seeds of conflict and dissension. Plus, theater audiences can get burned out; why should they by a ticket to a show they saw 6 months ago?  This is a weird and contradictory line to walk because there are a lot of theater goers who would buy tickets to The Sound of Music EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.   But the other half of this particular issue is found in the next issue to consider.

THE ACTING POOL:  Most actors like a challenge.  That means with the exception of a favorite role, they want to try new things.  And actors have egos that balk at criticism; especially when it comes in the form of, "someone else played it better."  When there are two productions of the same show in close proximity, inevitably there will be comparisons and someone will come out on the losing side.  Leaving a space of 5-10 years between repeating shows allows comparisons to fall into a mode of sweet nostalgia and the discussion becomes more of a comparison of strengths rather than a tally of weaknesses.

THE TALENT:  When selecting shows, the committee can only work with the information they have.  When it comes to actors, directors, crew and whatnot, they have to consider whether or not the necessary talent exists.  Even if it does exist, there is no guarantee that the talent will be available or even willing.  So the committee has to ask itself, "Does the talent exist in the community to pull this off?"  Take for example the musical Cabaret.  It may be well known, but it falls under the "risk" show category because of the adult content and dark themes. Add to that the challenging featured role of the Emcee (who's portrayal runs the gamut from asexual or sexually ambiguous to highly sexualized) and the committee has to ask itself, "Do we have someone who can play this role?"  Do we have someone who can direct this show and be sensitive to the issues that it will bring up?"  Can we do this show well?"  If the answer to these questions is "No" or even "Not sure," then they probably cannot risk putting the show into play.  Please do not confuse this with pre-casting; it is not that at all.  It is simple figuring out if the resources necessary even exist. 

THE MISSION STATEMENT:  In addition to all the above issues, the Play Reading Committee must also consider the mission statement:  Putting the spotlight on education, inspiration, and community through the performing arts.  The mission statement can offset a number of other considerations if the committee believes that a particular title is a fantastic mission fit and bring in new participants and patrons.  Conversely, it can also put a stake in a title if it is too controversial or divisive for a season ticket production.

As you can see, the committee has its work cut out for it.  But I am confident that they will, as they usually do, wind up proposing a stellar line up for the 2019 season.  If you have any titles you would like to see added to the list for consideration, please feel free to contact me at boxoffice@hamiltonplayers.com.