Oh yes it is, if you’re looking to put on a stage production in January or February because that is generally how long it takes to put on a Pantomime. In fact, for many Directors and Producers the task of selecting the right production for your thespian group usually starts in July or August with the search for a suitable script. Obviously, the cheapest option is to write your own but there is a comfort in buying a script that is already tried and tested – and funny.
Pre-internet, it used to be a case of trolling through a suitable library (Leeds for example) but now you can preview them on line. I’m fortunate that with the Thurgoland Thespians where I’m Producer/Director, I have the advantage of knowing how many players want a principle role, players that are maturing into roles and then number of youngsters that want ‘bit parts’ or want to be dancers. This focuses my search by cast size but we do have a large number of players that does restrict our options.
A script can be as little as £5:00 to buy on line but you then have to pay for performance license. A license fee is calculated on how many performances you want to run and the seating capacity of the venue. A standard rate for us for five shows and 100 seats is around £350. That gives you the words but you also have to pay for the rights to use any music. There may be track suggestions in the script but often you have to choose your own songs that fit the storyline.
If you’re lucky and you have players that can sing and act then you have to think about any accompanying music. Professional musicians can add to any performance and offer flexibility on tempo and enable you to play around the words a little. Alternatively, you can buy backing tracks. If you’re already set up for using ‘recorded tracks’ then I find it easier to sequence in the sound effects and other noises needed to bring the Pantomime to life. Again, either option will add to the cost.
For our group, rehearsals start in the first week in October and during that first read through and auditioning at the Village Hall, we can agree production dates with the players and the hall management team and set rehearsal times for the different elements of the pantomime. I usually need to invest around 4 hours on a Sunday every week to watch all aspects of the play before bringing it all together four weeks prior to the launch. So room hire fees are an important consideration.
I’m fortunate that we have an excellent ‘back stage’ team who will start collating props and making costumes. I’ll produce the posters (ready to launch in December) and design and print off the tickets. I learned very early on that if you have a seating plan and tickets are numbered, sales start straight away as family and friends want to get closer to the action.
Our backdrops are a very simple system using canvasses that are each hand painted and rolled up and dropped as needed. W generally have four scene changes and use in front of the curtains for the ‘fill-in’ parts of the show.
Over five shows (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and two on Saturday) we will generally sell 400 tickets (maximum capacity is 100 per show) but we end up turning people away for the Friday and Saturday performances. This is how we set the budget for the whole production and with tickets at just £6:00 for adults and £4:00 for children, discounted for the Wednesday and Thursday shows, we should be around for a good many years yet.