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“The stage is a magic circle where only the most real things happen, a neutral territory outside the jurisdiction of fate where stars may be crossed with impunity. A truer and more real place does not exist in all the universe.”

—P.S. Baber

There is something ancient about the stage. It is raw, primeval, cross-cultural and colourblind. It lies at the shared heart of what it is to be human—to tell our stories, to relate and perform. It is the foundation of our acting traditions and therefore, at the core of our craft. In short, theatre is a very human need.

Welcome to Casting Networks’ new column for all things theatrical.

As your personal “Theatre Angel,” we will be connecting the disparate dots of the theatrical – bringing pragmatic tips, industry news, insider knowledge, and interviews with experts and leading international professionals.

There is nothing quite as wildly electrifying as stepping out on stage. Or as rewarding as a world brought to life from a bare black box and few creaky chairs, moving an audience member to tears, making them laugh, think, and occasionally fall asleep (I find a sharp, loud clang with a nearby prop does the trick in this instance).

This is all well and good when working, but it’s not all star-crossed lovers and roaring applause. When confronted with an awkward void in your acting calendar, or perhaps spurred on by a casting director’s favourite question, “so what have you been up to lately?” your itchy acting feet may well edge themselves back toward that sacred space of the boards.

So you want to produce your own show?

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Producing your own show, whether as a project of passion or personal showcase, can be both intensely rewarding and seemingly insurmountably fraught with hidden costs and difficulties. Raising adequate funding, obtaining and affording the rights to plays outside of the public domain, and the never ending challenge of “getting bums on seats” are just a sprinkling of some of the pitfalls that can befall new theatre producers.

There are, of course, hints and tricks to help the project have a greater chance of success. As your monthly Theatre Angel I’ll be speaking with actors who have successfully staged their own productions, as well as theatrical agents, casting directors, professional producers, theatre directors, and other industry experts.

Today, Australian actress Elisa Armstrong, fresh from a sell-out Melbourne season of an all female production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, brings us her five top tips.

5 important things if you want to produce your own show (and act in it!):

  1. Lock down a venue and crew before actors. There are so many great actors, too many, and you will always find fantastic ones for your show. A great venue or great designer is harder to come by and you can’t leave it until the last minute.
  1. Choose a piece you are passionate about but won’t bore the audience. We chose a familiar playwright but put on a spin on it by casting all women. Having said that, if a traditionally cast Hamlet is your passion, go for it.
  1. Hire a publicist. That is all. We played to well over average indie theatre capacity and got reviewers in because we hired a great Publicist (Eleanor Howlett at Sassy Red PR). They make your job easier and reach people outside of your grasp.
  1. Stay healthy. Sleep. Eat well. Take your vitamins. Use hand sanitiser and nasal spray and don’t be afraid to move away if someone sneezes. Your passion can become a chore if you are unwell.
  1. Most importantly, if you are co-producing, make sure it is with someone who shares your vision. My fellow Artistic Director, Jo Booth, and I have a similar approach and vision for the company. Even when we disagreed, it was never taken personally or detrimentally. In fact, we are even closer friends now than we were before we worked together.

Elisa Armstrong

Elisa Armstrong is a graduate of Drama Centre, London and also trained at RADA. Favourite roles whilst training include the title roles in Hedda Gabler and Pericles (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Arkadina in The Seagull (Vakhtangov Institut, Moscow). In London, Elisa performed in and co-wrote an adaptation of The Alchemist (Firehouse Creative Productions), acted in numerous short films and did voiceovers for the BBC and NBC. Last year she played Rosalind in As You Like It for the Melbourne Fringe. Film and TV work includes Seven Types of Ambiguity (ABC), Acoustic Kitty, Chasing Dreams and The Kiss. Elisa recently produced and acted in Coriolanus for Heartstring, of which she is Co-Artistic Director.

Up Next …

. . . Now Actors Manager Dan Zizys candidly reveals the hidden realities of theatrical casting from an agent’s perspective— including agents’ secrets to help you land the role.

. . . Critically acclaimed British comedy writer and actress Beth Granville explains how to write, produce and star in your own comedy, including conquering the Edinburgh Fringe and London Stage.

“Movies will make you famous; television will make you rich; but theatre will make you good.” 

– Terrence Mann

Alys Daroy (AADA (Acting), BARTS (Hons 1 English Literature/Classical Theatre) BARTS (Journalism) is an Australian actress specialising in classical theatre. Ian Charleson Award Commendation for Outstanding Performance in a Classical Production by The National Theatre, England and The Sunday Times (Yelena, Chekhov’s The Wood Demon). Recent stage roles in the UK include the title roles in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and The Master and Margarita; Ophelia, Hamlet; Kate, The Taming of the Shrew; Helen of Troy, The Complete Voyages of Falstaff;and most recently in Australia, Brutus, Coriolanus. Screen credits include Fleur Simpson in Home and Away,  Marianne,Sense and Sensibility and Alexis in BBC miniseries The Kangaroo Gang: Thieves by Appointment.

Represented by BGM Agency Australia and Mia Thomson Associates London. Full stage and screen credits: Let’s connect! Instagram/Twitter @alysdaroy #theatreangel