Or FUNraising, if done right.
I have done a LOT of fundraising in my life. As a Girl Scout, I sold calenders and cookies. As a band member I sold World’s Finest Chocolates until people got tired of seeing me. As a member of various Drum and Bugle corps, I sold various sweets to help offset the cost of my participation and help pay to keep the corps on the road. I’ve bought and sold candles and popcorn and subs and…yeah. There is a lot of me going out and doing the door-to-door thing, or sticking a box of something (or a form) on the end of my desk or my mom’s.
But how can a theatre group raise money. In a world where it seems like the arts are getting the raw end of the deal, and spending money for a night of live entertainment is seen more as a luxury than a necessity, how can they raise funds that they are not getting in ticket sales to keep the building going, get rights to shows, pay the people who get salaries, etc, etc, etc?
One of the groups back home presents an “Audience Choice” show every year. This voting for this show doubles as a fundraiser and is done online or through their box office. They present a list of 5 titles for the audience to vote on, and each vote costs $2.00. I do not remember seeing synopsis of the show, so it was up to the voter to learn more about each production. This year they are closing their season with last years winner, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL so it proves that the “trusty dusties” need to be in the mix. The other shows in the running included: GODSPELL, WORKING, NUNSENSE, and I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE.
Recently, I was invited to take part in another fund raiser. For this one, the director picked a group of actors – ones that had appeared at the venue before or that he had always wanted to work with and had not been able to for whatever reason. For each of the performers he chose 2 songs for them to be featured in. None of the shows had been produced by the theatre in the last 10 years, if ever. Tickets were $10.00 at the door and the audience was given a program that featured each song, the show it was from, the performers being featured, and the numbers 1-5. 1 was “I hate it, don’t ever put it in front of me” with 5 being “this better be produced here soon because it was wonderful!” The difference between the show/song with the highest number of votes and the show/song with the least was 1 percentage point! One.
So, basically, what does this mean? To me it says that audiences want to, and are willing to pay, to have a vote in what shows a theatre company produces, and that maybe that input should be valued. Sure, you can do the same old fundraising dinners and 50/50 raffles (all of which are great ways to raise money), but perhaps you can build your audience by involving them in the process.
But really, that is just my $.02 worth.
ps–if the ballot idea is duplicated in future years, I don’t think a much longer rehearsal period would do it any good. the performers all had their music a month in advance to start working on it, and too long might lose some of the ….idk, panic, joy, terror, exhiliration?? And new ideas that involve the audience are always great!
Ok, seeing as how I just posted a blog about the good of IOA (minus Harry Potter, which deserves its own post), probably not too much. But before that it has been a while. And the reason for that is because I was in a 20th Anniversary Revue for a theatre company I work with on occasion.
The show had some technical difficulties and struggles, and I admit that I was initially disappointed by what I was asked to do in the show. I know I had a bad attitude during some rehearsals, which is something that I have absolutely NO pride about. My number one goal going into every rehearsal is to be positive, to learn as much as I can from other performers, to be a sponge, and the one guideline that I really try to abide by — BE POSITIVE!!!!! Negative energy brings more negative energy, and I dislike feeling negative!
I did this show because I needed a show that would make me happy. My last show in January was rough and I actually took a break during the spring because I needed to shake the negative juju. But it must have still been a bit stuck on me. So it slightly discolored the experience of sharing the stage with some of my favorite people.
And these really are some of my favorite people. I came to Chicago knowing exactly 1 person. The people I got to know were his friends. When that relationship ended, I was pretty much adrift for a year. Then I started doing theatre. I have 2 groups that I go back to because they are family, even though I try to perform with as many different places I could. And one group has more people that I feel like I can turn to when I need a hand up or to share a laugh.
The Hale Theatre Company is run out of one of Chicago’s many, many parks. The Park District used to have many theatre companies and even performed at the Theatre on the Lake building. Sometime, many years before I moved here, that stopped happening, and with budget cuts, I can only think of 3 park district companies that are still running — Hale, Munroe/Ridge, and Chase. This past season was Hale’s 20th season, and it has been run for those 20 years by Lauren Polenske and her husband, Michael Murphy. Sure, it has its flaws, what theatre company doesn’t, but their joy shines through.
It was here that I sang my first solo in a “Murph Made Musical”, played my first dramatic role, came back to experience GODSPELL, take part in another “Murph Made Musical” after taking a break from going a year and a half straight, then this spring taking part in the show that just closed. Since it was a revue of the musicals they have done over the past 20 years, most of the songs were sung by the person who originated the role. Being new to the theatre group, that meant that I had not originated any roles in shows. But I was still lucky and blessed enough to sing Golde to one of my dearest friends Tevye in “Sunrise, Sunset” from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, even though it aged me about 20 years! I also got to be the “object of desire” (i.e. walk sexily in front of the stage) during 2 numbers from A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
But the real joy was seeing my friends shine in songs that I never had the opportunity to hear them sing originally. Hearing Thom as Tevye, or Patrick as Fagin, or Robin singing Momma Rose, or hearing Heather sing “Oh Bless the Lord My Soul” again, or the highlight of the entire experience: hearing Thom, Murph, and Patrick singing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” and bringing down the house.
I really do believe that people are blessed with 2 families. The family that we are born into and the family that we choose. And to the people listed above, and many more — I cannot begin to tell you how much joy I have sharing the stage with you and how you have become my family here in Chicago.
And I hope we get to share the stage again sometime soon. I promise I will keep it positive!!
Now to get ready for my show in August and fall auditions!