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How to Properly Approach an Artistic Director

April 7, 2011

I’m not going to lie, sometimes I dread meetings with directors or thespians simply because they just seem to want to talk theatre.  I’ve had the, “I’ve got this idea on how to do a cool version of The Crucible requiring a Broadway space, budget, and designers.”  I run an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Company, my seating capacity is 50, and my budget is slim to mediocre.  I’m glad you’re inspired by a classic piece and are a theatre enthusiast, but I’m a busy girl and would rather have coffee with you on a day off to chat about theatre aesthetics than listen to a “pitch” for an interpretation of a show that my company simply cannot produce.

I’ve recently had such a meeting.  My “what do you expect from my company” was answered with flubbed “isn’t it a cool idea?  Even though we’d need a much larger space, and couldn’t do it at your theater, isn’t it a cool idea?”  Again, I say “how would you like my company to be involved should we choose to hop on board.”  “Ummm… it’s a cool idea?  What do you think?”  Honestly, I’ve decided it’s not a project for us half an hour ago when you mentioned the hydraulics and split level set. After so many of these “give me money to do my crudely planned dream production” meetings, it’s hard sometimes to stay positive when having a pitch meeting.  But today was a pleasant surprise, and inspired me to share my tips on approaching an Artistic Director.

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First of all: dress nicely (graphic tees & holey jeans SCREAM unprofessional and that you don’t take the industry seriously).  Nice pair of jeans, slacks, skirts, and solid color or textured tops are appropriate.   Second, understand that an Artistic Director is mostly interested in the interpretation/direction planned for the piece if it is an established play (DON’T say “I’m bald and tall… I have a 10-year-old redhead daughter… I want to do ANNIE!!!”).  Have a printed copy of the script, along with your written (concise – 1 page tops!) proposal to hand to the Artistic Director. Have sketches and be fully prepared to answer any questions about the proposed production (note: “that’s still in development” is an appropriate answer.)  Stay attentive, listen to the Artistic Director’s concerns and ideas.  Be willing to “riff” ideas with the Artistic Director to show the flexibility of your creative vision.  Also, though we never like to admit it, the money does come into effect.  Make sure you include in your pitch what will appeal to an audience or if you already have an established fan base that will help boost ticket sales.  Creative guerilla marketing techniques are the new fad, too (not to mention: they work!).

So, in short, remember the business end of this crazy industry when approaching a theatre company with a project that is dear to you.  This way, your idea will be taken more seriously, and the time will have been beneficial to both you and the Artistic Director you’ve presented your project with.

One Comment leave one →
  1. The Restless Dramaturg permalink
    April 10, 2011 11:39 am

    I totally agree! I’ve been in too many meetings where the artist vs artistic staff begin to stare blankly at one another, because of someone’s lack of flexibility. The “riff” that you talk about is one of the most important parts of this business, in my opinion. The ability to say… this is my “cool idea” and how can we interpret/make this happen on X budget, in X space, etc. I’ve seen the most amazing and awe-inspiring shows with no sets, limited costumes, really low low budget. Yes, money helps, but you don’t need the broadway pomp, you just need imagination and a crack-shot creative team.

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