What it Costs to Run a Theatre Festival — and how you can help!

Shakespeare in Paradise 2010 (October 1-11) is well under way. Building on the success of last year, we’ve booked our productions, extended the festival by a weekend, cast our local shows and are beginning to rehearse. Everything is on schedule. The only thing we’re missing? Money.

Last year we took a huge gamble. We pulled together Shakespeare in Paradise on a dream and a prayer, with no money to get things going, but armed with an idea and some faith that it could work. And it did — thanks to the support of the public, who bought tickets and came out in good numbers, and because of the generosity of many partners who gave grants and exchanges in kind that helped cut our cash expenditures in more than half. Thanks to you all, Shakespeare in Paradise 2009 was able to break even.

But breaking even is only part of the picture. We’ve got a plan for this festival, and we envision a future that has Shakespeare in Paradise as a regular part of the social and artistic calendar. So it’s not enough just to cover our costs — we have to cover our costs and bank a little to make sure we can mount a festival in a year’s time.

Just so you know — the festival costs roughly $200,000 to produce, all told. To put that in perspective: our ticket prices last year topped at $25, and we offered several discounts to make it possible for people to attend multiple performances and to help students afford to come see our plays. But for us to cover all our costs from ticket sales alone we would have had to sell our tickets at $50 a head!

Now that leaves us in a difficult position. We could raise our ticket prices. We could eliminate all discounts. But neither of these is an option that appeals to us. We happen to believe that theatre isn’t a luxury in a democratic society. We buy into the Shakespearean idea that theatre holds a mirror up to nature, and that societies without theatre don’t often get to look properly at themselves or the world they inhabit. So we won’t be raising our ticket prices anytime soon, and we’ll let the discounts stand.

So what are our other options? Here’s where you come in. You can help us bring off this festival in one of any number of ways:

1. Become a sponsor! Last year, Shakespeare in Paradise reached audiences of 3,500 people. This year, we’ve added an extra weekend and a production or two, and we hope to increase our reach to 5,000. Your support will benefit us both!

2. Make a donation! If you do not have a business and would like to contribute to the growth of theatre in The Bahamas you are welcome to just make a donation to the festival!

3. Become a Partner! If you are low on funds but you have services or goods to offer, consider a barter or in-kind exchange. If it were not for our barter exchanges last year we would have never been able to pull off the festival—your help this year will be invaluable!

4. Book early! We’ll be releasing our schedule in the next two weeks, and we’ll be opening our phonelines for advance bookings. Get your tickets then! I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the more actual ticket sales we get, the more streamlined we can make our advertising budget. And it’ll help you as well as us — advance bookings are the best places to get discounts on multiple shows. What we seem to lose on advance sales can be saved in advertising dollars, so help us out and buy your tickets as soon as you can!

5. Buy our merchandise! Last year we printed up t-shirts for each of our productions, and we sold the t-shirts at the productions. This year we hope to have a range of t-shirts — not just the expensive limited-edition poster tees that we sold last year, but also a more affordable generic Shakespeare in Paradise 2010 tee as well. Come and help us sell out of both!

6. Help us move last year’s merchandise! We’ve got shirts left over from all of our productions except for The Tempest. You’ve still got a chance to wear a small piece of art by Jace McKinney (One White One Black), Reuno Pratt (Caribbean Voices), Lindsay Braynen (Zora), Jon Murray (Love in Two Acts), or Trevaughn Neely (Music of The Bahamas). We’ve also got CDs and VHS copies of Music of The Bahamas for sale as well (special order DVDs – burned specifically for you can also be purchased). Move fast, though — we’ve got limited supplies!

7. Sponsor a schoolchild or two! For $15 per person, you can help us subsidize our school discounts of $10 a student. Help us make theatre an integral part of the Bahamian schoolchild’s experience!

8. Advertise in our programme! We’re printing a minimum of 5,000 of these for distribution throughout the festival. Like last year, our programmes are attractive and collectible, so contact us for pricing!

9. Support our sponsors! We’ll add their logos to our website as they come on board, so please give them your business!

10. Spread the word! The more you talk about Shakespeare in Paradise, the more word of mouth we get, the less we’ll need to invest in advertising and marketing coverage. Let’s make this festival a viral thing!

Contact us for more information: admin@shakespeareinparadise.org

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