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10 Rules On Running A Small Theater Company

The Folks At Split Knuckle Tell You What To Do, And What Not To Do

By FRANK RIZZO, frizzo@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

3:33 PM EDT, June 12, 2014

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We asked Greg Webster, artistic director of New Haven's Split Knuckle Theatre Company, the Top 10 do's and don'ts in running a small theater.

1. You should know that your fellow artists and friends don't have any money either. Seek out the rich and make friends with them. Better yet, marry one.

2. Don't buy a run-down abandoned church and think you will somehow convert it into a "hip site-specific theater". Buying a space instead of renting a venue will usually be the last nail in the coffin for your theater company.

3. Make new work with dedicated theater folk. Nobody wants to see your new imagining of "Macbeth on Ice!" Wait. Hmmm. In any case you won't be able to compete with big rep companies in this regard . They have resources that you don't.

4. Make sure your shows are tourable. Everyone and everything should fit into two cars. That being said you don't want to travel to gigs like a Ringling Brothers Clown Car. If your face is smashed against the window of a Subaru Outback and your leading man is pressed against your sweaty thigh for the 16-hour drive to the gig in Montreal, it's going get real real quick.

5. Share the administrative load equally. This is really hard to do. Many theater companies are founded in a bar by drunken actors at 2 a.m. who just got off a [expletive] restaurant job and that is as far as it goes. Most artists don't like doing arts administration, but it's going to be a daily task. Just suck it up. You're in show business so act like you mean business and people will give you the respect you're hoping for.

6. Work the fringe circuits throughout the U.S. and Canada. That's how you will get people and the press to notice you.

7. Choose a community that will support you. We all want to be stars on Broadway, but at last check there were already a few actors and theater companies in New York City

8. Don't sleep together. You will, of course, ignore this rule and it will, well, complicate things.

9. Always drink top shelf booze. Life is short and your liver will thank you.

10. Don't do survival jobs that suck what's left of your soul after a hard work day. If you are so spent at the end of the day that you don't or can't rehearse, then it's all for naught.

All this being said, the most important thing to do is show tremendous love and empathy to your fellow company members. A life in the theater is noble and beautiful. Anybody who is willing to step into the ring in that pursuit of that fight is truly a brother or sister.