Few of the challenges in running a successful theatre company are as fun, and as important, as picking an exciting and dynamic season for your audience base and your artistic staff. We at Playhouse on the Square are committed to maintaining a resident company, so our job becomes even more exciting, dynamic, and challenging. By maintaining three separate performance spaces (a 347 seat state of the art performance space, a 217 seat converted movie theater, and a 100 seat malleable space), we’re able to create a dynamic season filled with 17 shows that we feel will appeal to an extremely broad cross-section of our community here in Memphis, while also challenging our resident company of actors and artistic staff. Our top six considerations for building a successful theatrical season are:
1) Shows that are of interest and importance to our diverse patron and subscriber base
One of the benefits of having a full season is the ability to do shows that will appeal to our extremely wide and diverse audience base. Heathers, for example, is a show that we know will appeal heavily to our college age audience members as well as those with nostalgia for the film; whereas a show like The Flick (which we’re staging in our second space, a converted movie theater) might be more appealing to an older audience with an interest in new works and/or film. By staging these two wildly different shows (in addition to fifteen more), we’re ensuring that we’re giving our audiences the diversity that they crave.
2) Shows that we as artists find intellectually and artistically stimulating
We know that, in a season, every show can’t be everyone’s favorite. But it is so incredibly important that we have shows to work on that we find artistically fulfilling. We try to balance our season with a good mix of guaranteed blockbusters, as well as shows that we know our artistic and acting staffs will find both challenging and fulfilling.
3) Shows that you know are of interest to and appropriate for the company of actors that you have
In the world of regional theatre, our talent pool is often limited to actors in our immediate vicinity and guest artists. There is nothing worse than selecting a show, and realizing too late that your pool of actors is not appropriate for the roles OR picking a show that you’re excited about but the actors aren’t interested in auditioning for. Finding that middle ground is a key to selecting a phenomenal season.
4) Show availability
We know, we know, seems overly obvious but we can’t build a season with shows that aren’t available. We’ve gotten extremely lucky this year, especially with our Samuel French selections, to be able to produce some of their newest offerings. We’re especially excited about Shakespeare in Love and Fun Home
5) Opening and closing shows that will generate excitement about selling subscriptions
Like most theaters around the country, building a supportive and engaged subscriber base is one of the most important ways that we have to ensure the long and healthy life of our theatre. By picking opening and closing shows that we know will resonate heavily with our audience base, we can give ourselves the best chance at success at not only maintaining but adding to our subscriber base while at the same time creating a wonderfully diverse season.
6) Last, and certainly not least: we don’t forget our youngest audience members!
It goes without saying that kids are the future, and by having programming that is appropriate for, or even better, targeted at young audiences, we’re building ourselves a future audience base of theatre lovers who will go on to patronize or even participate in the arts in the future.