by Allen Broach
I first became involved with theater in 1963. I attended the first ever Governor’s School at Salem College in Winston-Salem. I was in the drama department. I had never been in a play and had only attended one prior to that. I was smitten. I loved helping to build the sets, and we even had to make the costumes! I have to say that I wasn’t that great as an actor. I was in several plays over the years and at some point either my audiences or I decided that I was much better working behind the scenes.
In 1984 I bought the former Salvation Army building on South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro. The building had great offices on the second floor and also included a gym and a sanctuary. Stephen Gee, Hall Parish and David Bell approached me about using the sanctuary as a theater. It went on for 25 years producing 100 shows. I am currently the president of Touring Theatre of North Carolina.
Local theater is booming in the Triad. There are so many live performances it is impossible to see all that there is to offer, whether it is theater or music. There are many existing venues and several under construction. Most of us can name our favorite actors and musicians, but who can name a single person who works behind the scenes who actually make these performances come to life?
For every person on stage, there are countless people who work behind the scenes. Where to start? I am going to address live theatre since that is what I am most familiar with but the same basically holds true of live music performances.
First a director reads many plays or in some cases writes a show then hones it to what will be produced in the season. From there the stage manager and director work with set designers and costumers to create the environment for the show. The sets and costumes can take weeks if not months to produce.
Ads, posters and mailers are created either in house or with a graphic designer. Someone then has to get quotes to produce these items and then award them to the best person or organization for the job. The media has to be contacted for pricing and placement for the ads. The posters must be distributed. The mailing list must be kept current — an endless job.
Photography that will be used in all the promotional materials as well as press releases must be arranged. Then someone has to work with the photographer to style the session.
A press release, whether done in house or through a marketing/communications agency needs to be written and distributed. Generally, the releases and images are sent by email to the editors as well as community calendars. The editors receive so many of these they often go unnoticed. To ensure coverage, someone must call the editors directly and arrange interviews with the appropriate people with the show producers.
Websites need to be updated with the appropriate information promoting the show. A brief synopsis about the show as well as the dates, times, location and how to purchase tickets needs to be in the write-up. Today, most companies also promote on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Someone has to handle this as well.
The office staff has to keep the books, write grants produce and sell the tickets. A whole crew has to create fundraisers and letters asking for money since it is rare that a company can survive on ticket sales alone. This is usually handled by a board of directors.
So, continue to love the performers who make us laugh and cry. They are the face of the performing arts community. But remember all the thousands of people in the Triad who really make the show happen. A very few are listed on the playbill. See who they are.
I could start naming names of the support staff I have worked with in my 50-plus years of theater involvement, but that wouldn’t be fair to all the others. So keep these behind-the-scenes folks in mind as you watch a great performance.
Allen Broach is the publisher of Triad City Beat. He owned the Broach Theatre for 25 years and is currently volunteer president of Touring Theatre of North Carolina. Find him at [email protected]