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               FIRST RUNG - Our series for EMERGING THEATRE COMPANIES,  



For those of you trying to make your way in theatre, it can be a frustrating and sometimes overly expensive venture.  In this series we want to give you a summary of what you need to know to get on the first rung of theatre.  If you’d like us to cover other topics, please get in touch with the Editor, Heather Jeffery




1.Finding a Venue

2.Money Matters – Raising the funds

3.Writing a press release and getting a reviewer

4.Connecting with and finding an audience



2.MONEY MATTERS - Raising the funds



There are two types of financial structures for your company.   The profit share and the London minimum wage (Equity low-pay-no-pay).  


Paid work model

The EQUITY low-pay-no-pay model is for a company that has a hierarchical structure in which the director will audition and direct the cast.  In this case it is expected that the cast and stage manager are paid.  Others may also be paid including the creatives.  The person who is paying them may vary. Although this person (or persons) is the producer - the producer could be the writer, the director or other. Everyone is generally self-employed.  In this model the minimum hourly wage is usually paid, and contracts must be signed.  Contracts are beneficial to protect all parties.  More information to help with this can be found on


Collaborative model

A true collaboration, in which all are working together to create a piece of theatre is usually a profit share.   This often means that nobody is paid because any profit from ticket sales can be eaten up by the cost of producing a show.  Yes, that is right, the collective is the producer and must bear the costs and responsibility for putting on the show.  You may also have the cost of hiring a technician if you cannot provide one of your own.




These may include, rehearsal space, theatre hire, technician, wages, costumes, props, scenery

Note: Front of house and ticket sales are usually included in the package with the cost of hiring the theatre.  Most theatres are able to provide a technician at extra cost.



You can hire some theatres for a flat rate and keep all the profit.  Others allow you to use the theatre free of charge but will take a percentage of your profits.  We cannot compare all the theatres in this article for you, so you will need to do your research.   One model that we advise against is when you are required to have a minimum number of audience members and must pay an additional sum of money if you don’t reach it.  Once you’ve exhausted family and friends, you will really need to bring in an audience.  In the early stages of your career this can happen, but it might not.  Can you really be certain?



It is worth re-iterating that you need to fully understand the financial package you are getting.  It is also necessary to think about ticket pricing.  Do make sure you are fully agreed on ticket prices.  Be careful about reduced price tickets and your tickets being given away free of charge.  If the majority of your audience arrives on the days when ticket prices are rock bottom when in fact you aimed to have that audience paying full price, it could seriously affect your sales.  Of course, reducing ticket prices to attract an audience can work well but clarity will help to make the most of your potential sales.





One of our favourites.  Start-up companies might be fortunate to have designers on board who can turn junk and cast-off clothing into incredible sets and costume design.  Okay we understand that a set might not be possible or desirable, particularly if you’ve got good props or other means of adding theatricality to your show.   However, it is worth considering, rather than just a couple of chairs or the ubiquitous sofa.  You could take a risk on something far more imaginative.  Getting the stuff to and from the theatre is good fun for the brave.  We’ve seen things being wheeled around on the underground which attracts a fair amount of gauping.  Hand them a flyer!


Work experience 

This is worth considering for those emerging companies who are genuinely able to offer some expertise in a particular area.  

People interested in getting involved, perhaps those changing profession or wanting to learn on the job can bring a lot of value to your production.  You might find an assistant director, stage manager, or producer would help to spread the load, but beware - without a paid contract between you, you should not expect to rely upon them.   If they get offered paid work elsewhere, they are likely to grab the opportunity.


Free and low-cost Rehearsal space

Do have a chat with the theatres when booking, about whether they are able to provide any free space, or discounted space which they might be prepared to do in quieter periods.  Of course, many pub theatres have rehearsal space available at competitive prices.  Some pub theatres who are particularly helpful to startups are:


Etcetera Theatre  


Lion and Unicorn Theatre


Bread and Roses Theatre  



There is free outdoor rehearsal space in the capacious Regents Park (close to Etcetera theatre), Hampstead Heath and others.  

Many pub theatres are quiet during the day and are suitable for analysis and a read through.  The public love nothing better than to catch a group of theatricals at work in pub theatres.  

Other pubs off the beaten track might have rooms which they will let you use for the cost of a couple of drinks.  Some pubs have rooms to rent at reasonable prices but beware of those taking advantage of you by charging fancy prices for hitherto unused spaces.  

There are also a number of organisations offering competitive studio space such as Cuckoo Bang Studio, Aegis Studios and Theatre Deli.  Some of these options might prove too expensive for start-ups, so let’s get thinking about fund raising.




Crowd Funding  

This can be very successful if everyone has friends and family willing to chip-in but it is more of a mixed bag if you are hoping to raise the funds via social media.  It might be that you have a unique story which could attract attention, or you are raising the profile of a particular issue or cause that could get you noticed.  Some companies are very savvy about what they are offering in return for funds and thinking outside of the box cannot harm.  


Private parties  

Consider a private party for friends and family.  Have an auction or raffle.  People may generously donate items to the event, or you could go for a themed event, auctioning off vintage clothing, sports equipment – you get the idea.



With a bit of hunting it should be possible to find a friendly venue who would welcome your event because you will be bringing customers to their venues.   Have a chat with the managers at privately owned businesses such as cafes, bars, and pubs (off the beaten track).    Other venues might also be able to help such as libraries.  Event fundraising can be very successful if you’ve got friends and family on board, but it can also work well if you’ve publicised your event in the right places.  

We have a few event ideas to float - a stall, a cabaret evening (or similar).

Stalls are a favourite of ours because essentially its community spirited and can often be recycling goods to the people who want them.  You only need a table or two and a creative mind to get started.  Keep it themed (for example vintage clothing) and it’s possible that you might be invited back if you attract the right sort of customer to the venue.

Cabaret events, or something similar seem a possibility with your talents, particularly if you’ve got triple threat skills, the stand-up comedian, the dance number, the song, a sing along or dance along, or other.  If its professional done (or just really good fun if you want to be less formal) and well-publicised around the local community it could bring in a crowd.  If you’ve got the space for free, try a spoken introduction to the punters, appealing for ‘pay what you can afford donations’ to help you get your show on the road.  This is also an opportunity to get emails for anyone who likes what you do and wants to keep in touch with your activities.


Working with schools/offering workshops

Until you are really established as a company with a proven track record, this kind of fund raising is likely to be something for the future, but it's worth considering.



Always a very tricky route but not impossible. There are two types, individual and collective.  Small sums are sometimes awarded for individual development and this can help you throughout your career.  As for raising funds for a show, currently Arts funders seem to be interested in supporting under-represented voices, for example work featuring disability and they are also interested in helping regional theatre. It’s not worth tailoring your show to fit the criteria, you have to develop your own unique voice to get noticed.

Here are some places to start:



Other places to try

Embassies - For shows which are ambassadors for the country

Charities – For shows which are raising awareness of their particular concern (They might not help with funding but give support and outreach which is very valuable)


Please do get in touch with LPT Editor, if you have any suggestions to add to this list


Next in the series

3. Writing a press release and getting a reviewer



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