How do I get money to make plays?

I just finished my undergraduate in theater, and would like to start putting on my own plays. My only problem is plays cost money and I don’t really have any.

I know that there are people out there who put on plays, found theater companies etc, but no one ever told me how to go about doing that for myself. I was shown how to create the play, and how to get a job working for someone else, but never did anyone ever say “hey, if you want to get some money to make a play yourself, this is what you have to do.”

I have been toying with the idea of founding a not for profit theater group, because then I could apply for government grants etc, but I am not sure if that is really the best way to go about doing this. Does anyone know what my other options are, or at least how to find out? Also if anyone does have experience with not for profit groups (art groups are better, but any not for profit will be a start) and has advice in that arena they would like to share, please do.

I realize that to make a living I will probably have to work for someone else, but in the meantime I just want to make theatre. But now that I no longer have the support of my university (and I never realized that I had so much support until it was gone) I don’t really know where to start.

I’m hoping you are already aware of the large, vibrant theater world in here in the LA area. I’d recommend just calling these folks up and asking how it’s done. They can steer you to more info sources.

You didn’t identify an area of concentration or specialty in your post. Theater in general is a huge area. Are you a playwright? (I’m assuming you’re not an actor.)
Are you interested in the three main areas of design: lighting, set design, and costume?

The business of playwriting:

At LA Public Library:

Playwrights Guide to Los Angeles

Shaking the Money Tree (grants for film and video projects, but the same agencies may also fund theatre)

The LAPL Central has good resources and the librarians in the Lit Dept are usually not too busy. Call or better yet, go there and ask.

I’m not sure what you mean, but I know that around my location there are a few small community theatre groups who solicit for directors and original plays. I also know that at least one of them pays its actors (and so probably the director too, I’d guess, since I know that particular one just put on an original play by a former director of mine). Perhaps there are some of those someplace you could look into.

Well, first I would think that your want to determine who you target audiance is and do a skit that appeals to yourself, with them in mind. You will not make any money on your first play, but it will mark yourself forever on what you do. Seriously consider how you what yourself to be potrayed by your peers in the years to come, do something “artsy” with the friends you have now. Don’t sell yourself out coming out of the gate or no one will ever respect you. IMHO.

Thanks Belowjob,

Yes I am aware of the community in Los Angeles. I work as a stage manager occasionally (hopefully now that school isn’t taking up all my time) at a lot of the small theaters in town. My focus is actually directing, sorry if I didn’t make that obvious in my post. Also, I am not looking for advice on how to put on plays that make money, I don’t expect that to happen right away. I am well aware that for an upstart like myself putting on a play is a money losing proposition. What I am looking for are avenues I can persue in order to secure some sort of fincancial backing that way I don’t drive myself into bankruptcy by the age of 23. I am good with minimalism, but even the most modest of shows is going to cost a couple hundred bucks, and it will be more if I have to pay for anything other than props. Rehearsal space, performance space, furniture/costume rentals, lights, and actors all cost money. I know I can get a bunch of stuff for free, but I don’t want to count on that and have the production fold due to lack of funds.

I spent 4 years at UCLA learning to find my voice as an artist, now that I am out it is a little frustrating that I don’t have a way to speak. So I am trying to fix that problem.

I’ve heard this question asked by writers – "How do I get the money so I can write my first novel? – and the answer for plays is essentially the same:

Get a job – in the theater or elsewhere – and write plays in your spare time.

Once you’ve completed a work, there are various play competitions across the country; enter your work in as many as you can find. If you’re good, you’ll eventually get a commission or two.

There is no law that requires you to write full time in order to succeed, and most successful writers keep a day job until they have a few successes under their belt. Writing an hour or two a day would probably yield a completed play in less than six months.

Chuck, he’s not asking how to get his play produced. He wants to, well, be a producer, if only so he can be a director.
I would strongly recommend going Not-for-profit. It’s likely that this will be an accurate description of your financial health, anyway, so you may as well have access to grant money. After that, you will have to solicit grants and donations. If your experience in local theater has acquainted you with any potential patrons, that’s where you want to look. If you can get noticed that way, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to move on to a more established company, and eventually start your own for-profit operation.

I’ll second Garfield’s 226 recommendation of community theatre.

Have you thought about children’s theatre, working with high school, middle school (yikes!) and grade school aged kids? The schools, park services and youth agencies may provide venues and a minimal amount of funding.

There may be volunteer opportunities too, especially at private schools. They may be thrilled to provide you with a venues, money for costumes, etc. as long as they don’t have to pay your salary and benefits (rich folks love to get stuff for free).

Switching gears here, a lot of the extras I worked with in TV production were staging showcases to advance their acting careers. I don’t know if they had directors for these events, or if they just directed themselves, but there may be some opportunities there for working with actors.

Another strategy is to pick an established venue, and get in any way you can, in any job that brings you into contact with decision makers, and then work your way in to where you really want to be.

Getting a career going can be tough work. Break a leg.

Moved to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Theater + Los Angeles = Waste Of Time

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I worked for a woman who was a major producer of plays/musicals in NYC and lordknows she tried to bring them to LA - with modest critical success and huge loss of money.

Go to Chicago or NYC. That’s it in a nutshell.

(There is a reason they never mentioned this to you in school. I love LA, but in LA, “theater” is a place where people go to see movies. End of story.)

1.Raise the money by seducing rich little old ladies into backing you.

2.Find a guaranteed flop. Spring Time for Saddam!

  1. Profit!

Not that I don’t agree with you DMark, on some level making theater in LA is ridiculous. On the other hand there is a sense of freedom in putting on plays where no one cares at all. I don’t plan to stay here to become famous, but I was going to UCLA (not to brag, but it is the top theater school in the country) and don’t really have the money to move without a job waiting for me in the other city. I plan to go to Chicago, New York, London, or Grad school within the next 2 years, but for now I just want to work on my own projects and develop some of my skills.

I am probably going to incorporate as a not for profit with another director friend and a writer friend. I was just wondering if I had any options, but it looks like I don’t. That’s fine, I always wanted my own theater company.

Unless… you know Shirley Ujest’s idea is just crazy enough to work!

Wait, would I have to change my name to Max? Because there is no way I am doing that. I will do a lot for my art, I will lie, cheat, steal and prey on little old ladies; but I refuse to call myself Max. :smiley: