THEATRE THOUGHTS: Notes From the Executive Director
Play selection. One of the most important things a theatre does. It is an incredibly time-consuming, yet incredibly engrossing process. At Theatre Charlotte, we pick plays to meet the following criteria: fulfill the theatre’s mission and vision; attract not only audiences, but talented performers, as well; to physically fit our facility; meet budgetary requirements; and not be a recent duplication. Oh, and something else that has become increasingly challenging—being able to secure the rights to produce the show.
At Theatre Charlotte, I am responsible for the selection of plays and musicals to present to the Board of Directors for final approval. Each summer I recruit an advisory committee made up of theatre practitioners, theatre-goers and several board members. In the spring, we survey our patrons and ask them for show preferences. We pay close attention to the opinions of our audience members. After analyzing the survey results, checking the Theatre Charlotte list of productions over the past ten years and checking to see if other theatres have done any of the shows recently, I prepare a list of some 75 musicals, comedies and dramas and send it to the advisory committee for their initial feedback. This feedback usually reduces the list to around 50.
I prepare copies of these scripts for members of the advisory committee to read upon request. I also gather CDs of the musicals for distribution. I begin checking with other theatres in the area to see what might be on their lists. And I receive more feedback from the advisors. By now, the list is down to around 30. This is when I begin to put combinations of possible seasons together. Should this be an opening musical or one that closes the season? Should this be in the traditionally tough October slot or perhaps in March? Is there enough visual diversity in this grouping? How many male actors are in this combination, how many females? What strong roles for men are there? For women? Racial and ethnic diversity? This process reduces the total to around 15 to 20.
Then I begin to see if the rights can be obtained to produce these shows. This has become a very complicated process over the past couple of years—for several reasons. First of all, there are so many revivals on Broadway—and revivals of shows that are traditionally the mainstays of community theatres.
When these shows go on tour, it becomes quite difficult to get the tour producers to release the performing rights. And to top it off, Charlotte has become an “A” list city for these tours. We totally applaud the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Broadway Lights Series for their success over the past few years—it enables all of us to see high quality productions without having to wait for several years for a tour to come through—but, it does make it difficult to secure the performance rights for some shows.
So far, in putting together FY13 (2012-2013 season), we have been denied the rights to CHICAGO, HAIR, DRIVING MISS DAISY, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. We were denied the first three because of tours and the latter due to a Broadway revival and probable tour. We produced ANNIE this past season after trying for two years to get the rights. After being denied this season, it is therefore imperative that we have a list of back-ups for each slot in the coming season.
We now have put together quite a strong season for 2012-2013 to present to the Theatre Charlotte Board of Directors. Stay tuned for a future announcement of the next season!
-Ron Law, Executive Director of Theatre Charlotte