How the Sausage Gets Made: Play Selection!
There are many questions from members on how the board chooses shows, directors, and producers. What happens behind the curtain, oh great and powerful Oz? Actually, not much magic to it, but there is plenty to share with you, our members. So, we are starting this multi-part series on “How the Sausage Gets Made” that sheds some light on the backroom of the Italian Cafe’ among the many interests, experiences and desires of a 15-person board. So much to tell, and so interesting (at least for some, perhaps).
But first, who is on the board you ask? Well, it’s in every playbill we produce, but feel free to click on the link to see the most updated list of officers and directors.
The first topic is “play selection.” What an onerous, daunting, exciting and most important task we take on (in my opinion). The board is responsible for putting together a season each year, and it starts with the Play Selection Committee. Yes, that’s right. We have a committee dedicated to putting forward ideas on scripts, new works to consider and actively reading plays all year round. It’s a significant commitment of time, and we are so thankful to the individuals dedicated to this effort each year. This year, the committee consists of: Mike Daze’, Jimmy Gertzog, Beth Gilles-Whitehead, Jayne Victor and Roxanne Waite.
Where do ideas come from? From everywhere! A board members sees a play in New York, or a local community theater. A member mentions something they read, saw or heard about. New ideas are emerging all the time. Play readings offer insights on plays the board is interested in hearing, and so are put forth to be read. In the end, the entire board is provided a (short) list of possible plays to consider, and then it hunkers down and reads them. In December, January and February, the real fun begins. Board members come to board meetings – and sometimes special meetings scheduled just for the purpose – to discuss favorites, an exercise in coming to some consensus on what we like. Consideration includes a wide spectrum of important elements, and here are just a few:
- Is it artistically interesting or challenging, and would we enjoy producing it?
- Do we think it will be interesting to our audience, and will they come see it?
- Is it marketable as a “season,” and can we afford to produce it recognizing the balance between selling tickets and producing shows that stretch us as a company?
- Can we find someone to direct each play selected? (Ah – you’d think this would be easy, but wait until the next edition of the WEBLetter – not so easy!)
- Can you attract the talent to cast each show? (Even with all the talent in the Northern Virginia/DC area, you need to have some confidence that the company can take it on and deliver to its own standards.)
What happens after plays are selected? Oh, there is more to do. Because…there is a process of getting the rights. Just because you want to do a play doesn’t mean you get the right to do it. Sometimes, rights are not given because there is some plan to do it on Broadway, or make a movie of it, or the rights aren’t available in the United States, but only in the UK (for instance).
Once rights are acquired, than we have a season. This process takes all year, but a real dedicated effort on behalf of the entire board for about three months of real focus. Even then, we don’t always get it right, and we’ve had to revise our season, or replace a show with another. It doesn’t happen very often, but it happens.
As always, we welcome any input on the information above, or improvements on the process from our members.
Board Member Spotlight: Meet Vice President, Mike Daze’
Mike Daze’ is a founding member of PPF, and has held positions on the board as Treasurer and Vice President. He has acted in many shows, including “Heaven Can Wait,” “The Laramie Project,” and two productions of “You Can’t Take It With You,” among others.
“More than 20 years ago, a group of parents in the Mantua community had gathered together to mount a production of You Can’t Take It With You to benefit the PTA at Mantua Elementary School, and they asked me to join them to play the role of Paul Sycamore. I’m really glad they did!
As we followed our kids to Frost Middle School, other parents joined the group and we produced a
number of plays on the Frost stage, including an original musical developed by Susan Devine, who had directed You Can’t Take It With You, and Paul Nasto. It became clear that, as the group expanded, it was ready for the challenge of establishing a new community theater organization, and the Providence Players of Fairfax company was born.
I’ve always enjoyed going to the theater. Growing up in western Massachusetts, I looked forward to the summer stock shows produced by the various companies in the Springfield area and the Berkshires. Unlike other PPF members, however, I didn’t become a theater major but pursued an undergraduate degree in science and went on to law school. For me, being part of a community theater was the best of two worlds: I was involved in theater and I could bring skills to the table to help run a small business.
I’ve had my share of parts on the PPF stage, and particularly enjoyed reprising the role of Paul Sycamore in 2012, but I’m more comfortable working behind the scenes. I’ve served several terms on the company’s board of directors, currently vice president, following a three-year stint as treasurer. Another favorite role has been that of box office manager, playing host to all the wonderful people who subscribe to an entire season or just come to see an occasional show. Without their continuing support, PPF would not have become the successful company that it is today.
The greatest rewards from being a member of Providence Players, however, are all the friends I’ve made and all that I’ve learned about theater, thanks to a dedicated and talented group from all walks of life, including fellow lawyers, construction company owners, and those who have worked professionally as actors and directors. If they’ll have me, I hope to be a part of PPF for years to come.”
Don’t Forget the Holiday Party: January 5, 2019
It is just a few days away. If you are an active member or current donor, please join us! If you need to renew your membership or make an annual gift, you can do either online. Simple and easy. We will also take member dues and donations at the door. Either way, join us for the New Year celebration. It’s going to be a great event!
Are You a Member?
You are about to find out. As you may recall, in our first WEBLetter we shared that we were giving membership an overhaul, and those changes will take place on January 1st. If you renewed your membership at the annual meeting (in June) or since, you are good for an entire year. If you are not a current member, you will receive an email this month asking you to renew your membership online. As I know you will enjoy the many additional benefits we are adding, and continued association with this quality theater company, you will want to renew. Now that it is online, it is fast and easy! Here’s a quick summary of the changes that take effect:
- Membership dues for individuals will increase from $10.00 to $25.00 per year – still a deal. PPF has added a family membership for families of three or more – flat rate of $60.00 (so all members of the family are considered members).
- Membership renewal will take place during the month in which you joined (no longer based on the season schedule or annual meeting).
- Members will receive a discount on all PPF events that require an entrance fee (e.g., opening night events).
- Members will be offered opportunities to participate in workshops scheduled during the year (a new offering in 2019, and the schedule is already coming together).
- Members will be offered the chance to provide input on plays for season consideration.
- Members will be offered opportunities to provide input on PPF productions.
In January, members will begin to get a reminder to rejoin, and you can do it right on the PPF website. Quick and easy. No muss, no fuss. If you think your membership is lapsed, you can even do it today. Check it out! Don’t remember? Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we are happy to let you know whether your membership is current.
Here are some common questions:
- If I renewed at the annual meeting, am I still a member? Yes, your membership is good until June, 2019.
- If I renewed during a recent production in the current season (i.e. Lovers and Executioners or A Christmas Carol), am I still a member? Yes, your membership is good for one year and you will need to renew during your anniversary month (i.e. October for Lovers and Executioners and December for A Christmas Carol).
- Do I have to remember which month I renewed? No, we will send you a reminder to renew in the month it is due. So, no need to try and remember. We will remember for you.
- Can I still just pay at the annual meeting each year? Yes, of course. That remains a wonderful option as we get to see and spend time with you at the annual meeting – which is loads of fun!
Blast from the Past: Winter Show Photos
In recognition of the long winter lull, we are bringing to you some photos of the winter show slot. This particular time slot in the schedule usually includes our most artistically-daring productions, as well as some comedy favorites. Click on the image to enjoy the full collage. Enjoy!
- Congratulations to Susan Garvey in her new role as Executive Director of The Shepherd Center.
- Welcome new member, Danette Illig.
- (Have an update you would like to share with your fellow members? Please send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Member Update” and we will include it!)
(In a show with another company? Join our Facebook Group page. Share the news!)