Any student in the Five-College area may participate in a PT show!
Not really, no. Project: Theatre is a place to learn about being a part of a production. We on the board, and hopefully those you are working with, are always happy to talk to you about what any particular job description might be, but we also welcome you to figure out what your position might mean to you and might mean within any number of different productions.
If you’re worried about taking on too much with your first project, start small – assist a designer, shadow a stage manager, email the board to set you up to talk with someone who did your job last semester. If you’re used to working in theatre, great! Just remember that like all theatres, Project: Theatre may run a little differently than you’re used to. If you’re already good at lighting design, maybe you could use those skills and become a technical liaison. Don’t be afraid to work with people more or less experienced than you are – doing either is a good way to learn.
Most importantly, use Project: Theatre as an opportunity to learn a new skill, or twenty. What we’ve found is that as long as you can be confident, responsible, communicate well, and use your resources wisely, you can tackle any production position you want.
A Project: Theatre show is a full theatre production. Shows are proposed the semester before their productions are scheduled to go up, and may propose for a budget of up to $1000. They have first choice of campus spaces, including PT’s pre-scheduled Chapin dates for a given semester, and are given full support in terms of light, sound, and other technical or multimedia needs. Shows must have a “Big Four” in order to be proposed. Shows are also voted on by the PT membership.
Project: Theatre events are anything that does not fit into this category, such as staged readings, PT movie nights, trips to local theatre productions, or any kind of workshop; specifically, they are events that can fit into smaller or less hard-to-get spaces on campus, such as classrooms or lounges. They should require a minimum of tech (such as an iPod with speakers and a few lamps) and may propose for a budget of only up to $500. Events do not need a “Big Four” to propose, but must have a dedicated student as the “responsible party” to see the even through from the planning stages to the clean-up.
Who are the “Big Four” on every show? What are ‘tiers’ of the production team?
The “Big Four” consists of a production team’s producer, director, stage manager, and technical liaison. There is no official hierarchy to these positions; instead, these production team members need to work together to put together a show that is well-organized, well-rehearsed, creative and practical, all at the same time.
The first tier consists of primary designers, assistant stage managers, assistant TLs, and assistant directors.
The second tier consists of assistant designers and anyone who may work backstage or on preparation for a production.
What do the “Big Four” do?
The producer is responsible for all administrative duties of the show. This includes calling and running production meetings, checking in weekly with the PT board, helping create and enforcing production deadlines, managing the show’s budget, and publicizing the show.
The director is responsible for overseeing artistic decisions and building the show as an artistic whole, from cutting and interpreting a script, to rehearsing actors, to working with designers to create a finished product that is in line with the director’s artistic vision.
The stage manager enforces a logistical reality on the director’s artistic vision. Stage managers are responsible for all personnel, cast and crew, and for running, scheduling, and calling rehearsals (the latter two in cooperation with the director). Stage managers are also responsible for creating a prompt book that will contain, at the very least, the final version of the script, all sound, light, and other cues, contact information for the entire production team, final versions of set, costume, lighting, prop, makeup, etc. designs and plots, and anything else the stage manager deems necessary to efficiently run an organized production. Stage managers will also run technical rehearsals and keep a signed copy of actor contracts on file.
The technical liaison is responsible for the logistical reality of the designers’ visions. The technical liaison will oversee the coordination, construction, and implementation of designers’ plans before and during the week of technical rehearsals, and coordinate in advance with, contingent on the space, Student Programs or the Theatre Arts Department for all technical needs and the safety of any constructed items. The technical liaison will also be responsible for all items borrowed from PT or the Theatre Arts Department, or rented from an outside company.
How will I know what’s going on in my production? How will the PT board know what we’re up to?
Production teams should hold production meetings at least weekly. The producer will call and run these meetings. The Big Four should attend all of them, and other members of the production team should attend at the discretion of the producer. At these meetings, discuss deadlines, designs, progress, budget, and anything else relevant to your production’s health and success.
Every week, the PT board will hold a show check-in meeting, which the producer must attend to give an update on the production’s progress. The PT board will also give the producer information to bring back to members of the production team.
How many crew members do I need to propose a show?
To propose a show, you must have at least the Big Four positions filled. To propose an event, you must have at least one person (the proposer) willing to be responsible for everything pre, post, and during the event.
Can I propose a show if I want to star in it? What if my stage manager wants to play the lead? Can my costume designer also design my lights? Do I have to hold auditions?
You MUST hold open auditions and CANNOT pre-cast parts in your show. We also do not tolerate favoritism in casting or building crews. These allegations are difficult to prove and as such, there are no official penalties for them, however, we consider it a serious violation of the Honor Code to engage in pre-casting and favoritism.
In addition, no member of the Big Four or anyone in the first tier may appear on stage in your production. Anyone else on the production team may perform in small roles, but not as main or supporting characters.
No member of a production team may every take on more than three roles. Those on the first tier may never take on more than two first tier positions. The Big Four may not take on any additional positions.
Does PT have an official audition procedure?
No. You may audition people for your shows however you want! Some techniques we have found helpful include the creation of an audition questionnaire to collect basic information and let auditionees know what the commitment will be for the show. Some shows provide cold reads, others allow people to bring in their own monologues. Audition sides may be helpful at callbacks to see how people read parts together.
Where should I hold my auditions? How about my rehearsals?
PT makes frequent use of common rooms in dorms for rehearsals and auditions. Please be sure when you use these spaces that you must reserve these spaces through whatever policy the dorm uses. This might mean emailing the HP of the dorm or signing up on a reservation form outside the space itself.
You may also reserve other spaces through the Campus Space Request form. These are spaces such as classrooms and cultural houses, which will need to be reserved 7-10 days in advance. The PT Locations Coordinator can assist you with this.
Dance studios can also be reserved through the Dance Department, and it may be possible to reserve the Black Box through the Theatre Arts Department.
What locations are available to me besides Blanchard and Chapin?
Project: Theatre has always been fairly creative when it comes to spaces. We have done shows in the Cassani Lounge, the Amphitheater, and even classrooms in Dwight. Other spaces include Gamble, Hooker, and cultural houses. We have occasionally worked with the Theatre Arts Department to borrow their Black Box. If you can think of a space on campus, PT’s Locations Coordinator can help you figure out who to contact about reserving it for a show.
Note: generally common rooms are not possible spaces for performances.
What are Campus Space Requests and the ERF?
These are forms that PT’s Locations Coordinator will help you fill out before your show. The Campus Space Request submits an official request to Heather Tetrault, MHC’s Event Coordinator, for almost every space on campus that is not in a dormitory. The ERF, or Event Registration Form, is used to register your show or event with Student Programs so that it can be publicized on the Mount Holyoke and Five College Events Calendars. The ERF also lets Zara Nizami (the Student Programs Event Coordinator) and Kris Bergbom (Assistant Director of Student Programs) know when our shows will be, when our rehearsals will be, and what assistance we need such as seating, lights, and sound.
How do I borrow things like lights, microphones, cameras, etc.?
Through PT’s Locations Coordinator, you can get in touch with Student Programs a few weeks before your shows to see what they can provide. They may also be able to suggest outside companies to rent equipment from, such as Theatrix.
You may also be able to reserve some of these things (particularly cameras) through Media Services, but these requests must be submitted two weeks in advance.
Through PT’s Theatre Department Liaison, you may be able to negotiate borrowing equipment from the Theatre Arts Department.
Do I have to contact Newsflush/the MHNews/the Radio to publicize my show?
Technically you don’t have to. But these are significant and simple ways to publicize your production beyond just posters. Please see our Publicity Guidelines for suggestions and regulations on publicizing a PT show. This includes using PT’s logo and name on everything you distribute, and making sure that the PR Coordinator has a chance to check everything before it is published, copied, or distributed across campus.
How do I buy rights for the play I’ve chosen?
Different companies own the rights to plays. Some popular ones are Samuel French and Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. Do some research on your play and see what company owns the rights. You will probably have to let them know when the show is going up, where it is being put on, how much you are charging for tickets, how many performances, etc. Some plays may cost a flat fee per performance, others are on a sliding scale based on how much tickets cost. Once you have figured that out, you may pay for the rights yourself and be reimbursed, or make an appointment to use the Business Office credit card with our PT Treasurer.
Please not that some rights and permissions come with conditions, such as how large the name of the author must appear on publicity or programs, and submitting box office reports once the production’s run is over. You must uphold your end of the bargain!
You gave me all this money! Now how do I spend it?
There are a number of options, all of which involve your show’s producer, who is in charge of the show’s budget:
You can spend your own money, then turn in a receipt (with your full name on it) to your producer, who will get it reimbursed by the PT Treasurer.
For larger purchases, you can have your producer contact the PT Treasurer and use the Business Office credit card to make online purchases.
Your producer may also be able to arrange petty cash in advance to go buy supplies, but since this freezes our account until all receipts have been returned, you would need to work this out with the Treasurer so as not to inconvenience other shows and PT as an org.
How do I get petty cash for all those donations I’m going to receive?
The week of your show, speak to our Treasurer. She will get petty cash (cash on hand used for making change)from the business office, and hand it over to your show’s producer for use at the front of house on show nights.
How do people reserve tickets for my show?
PT’s PR Coordinator will help you! Tickets can be reserved on our website at mhcprojecttheatre.org/tickets, which lets our PR Coordinator collect these reservations in one place. Put this address on your posters, on your facebook events, and on any other publicity you distribute, especially if your show is going up in a location with limited seating. The PR Coordinator will then hand these reservations over to your house manager before the show.
How do I find a house manager and ushers for my show? How can I house manage or usher a show?
Unless you have already found your own, we will send out an email for volunteer house managers and ushers between one and two weeks before every show. Ushering requires no prior experience, just show up half an hour before show time to distribute programs, help with reserve seating, and assist the house manager in any other way. House managing in larger venues (Blanchard or Chapin) requires at least one prior ushering or house managing experience, and all house managers must be in contact with the PR Coordinator before the show to get the ticket reservations, the house management box containing a counter, table cloth, and house manager record book, and to generally go over house management procedure.
Can I charge admission for my show?
As a general rule, Project: Theatre does not charge admission for shows. This draws a larger audience and often enables us to pay much less for show rights. You can, however, suggest a donation to Project: Theatre on your posters and at the door.
Do I have to buy everything for my show?
No! Project: Theatre has an enormous stock of props, costumes, and some building supplies and paint. You may peruse our inventory, and then consult our Borrowing Guidelines to figure out how to use these things in your production.
You may also consult the Borrowing Guidelines and the PT Theatre Department Liaison for information on how to borrow from the Props or Costumes departments in the Theatre Department.
Please note that anything you do buy will be added to PT stock, not kept by members of the production team and cast. PT may also assist productions with buying large items or a large number of simple stock items that can be reused. The producer of your show should contact the Locations Coordinator in advance of purchasing if this is something you are interested in.
I don’t have a car and the PVTA doesn’t go where I need. How do I shop for my show?
A number of members of the Project: Theatre board have fleet licenses, and are registered to drive and reserve fleet cars on behalf of the org. Just let us know when and where you’d like to go, and we can reserve a car and see if one of us is available to drive it. If you let us know far enough in advance that you will need to use fleet vehicles often, we can add you to our authorized drivers so that you may take the cars without needing a board member with you.
Can I propose that Project: Theatre takes a trip to a local theater production?
Yes! You can use our “Propose an Event” form to suggest that PT go see a show. You will need to provide us with as best a budget for this trip as you can, and help with some of the initial organizing. This means researching things like group rates for tickets, and whether anyone is interested in driving or has a fleet license. We will be happy to help by seeing what interest there is from the PT membership, and depending on our budget and amount of interest, figuring out how much of the ticket price we can subsidize.
Can I propose a show or event that I wrote?
Yes! Project: Theatre loves to support new work. If you are proposing a show, you will need to submit a mostly complete draft of the play you have written when you submit your proposal, before you come in for your individual interview. A finished draft allows the production to focus more on polishing the piece and seeing how it works as a full-fledged show. Obviously we understand if you are still working on the play, but we would prefer it not change drastically between the proposal draft and what actually gets produced. With events, we can be slightly more flexible, but again, we want to see a draft of the play it is you would like to produce.
If there are any other questions you would like to see answered here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.