A new (and cheap) way to try shows out out-of-town.

A lot of folks come into my office with musicals underneath their arm.  Some need rewrites, some need readings, and many need actual productions.  Of course, that’s the hardest and most expensive thing to get.  But there comes a point when every show needs one.  Without a design, without choreography, without an audience, there’s only so much development you can do.

That’s why one of the most common questions I get from those folks, and at my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar is . . . “How do I get a production?”

My white-boarding answer usually includes festivals, showcases, enhanced regional productions . . . and especially targeting regional theaters and even summer stock theaters that don’t usually do “enhancements” and might be interested in debuting something new, and getting the future revenue stream that goes with it.

And then the other day I thought of another groups of theaters . . . theaters with budgets . . . theaters with talent . . . and theaters that aren’t depending on ticket sales to keep afloat.  Many might not even care about a future royalty!  And get this, there are literally thousands upon thousands of them around the country.

I’m talking about colleges.

We’ve always had a ton of great drama programs at schools around the country, but in the past several years, as Broadway and Musical Theater especially have boomed, more and more colleges and universities have added programs . . . good ones . . . to their list of majors.

And every one of those programs does at least one show a year.  Most more.  A lot more.

And that’s where you come in.

Why sure, they probably have to do some big “stock” show like a Carousel or a Millie or even a Urinetown.  But I’d bet 10:1 that out of the thousands of programs out there, you could find at least 10-20 that would kill to get their hands on a new piece of musical theater . . . so their students could see what it was like to work on an evolving piece and so they could debut something original that might be the next Rent and put their school on the national theatrical map.

Couldn’t that be your show?

Why sure, you’re going to have to use their actors, maybe even their creative team, but for shows early enough in their development process that just need to get on their feet and hear how an audience responds, this may be more than enough.  And it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than a typical enhancement at a major regional theater for sure (those deals can now easily run in excess of $1mm).

I actually know of a few shows that have gone the college-tryout route, including this one by a former employee.

And get this . . . an email just arrived in my inbox the other day from a college that is actually LOOKING for a show!

Northern Kentucky University (which purely coincidentally happens to be my wife’s alma mater) is holding a contest for new plays and musicals . . . and the winner gets $500, and an all expense paid trip to see their production!

You can learn more about this contest here.  And if you have a play or musical, you should enter!  What’s the downside?  You get a production?  Poor baby.  😉

I’d expect other universities to follow NKU’s lead . . . part of the mission statement of higher education institutions is to give the world “the next” whatever.  Your play or musical could be it, and they’d love that to be part of their commercial to attract new full-tuition paying students.

So look for other contests like this one.  Or be ballsy and just contact schools on your own.  Make the pitch that your show is worth the production.  Heck, offer an enhancement if you need to . . . I bet whatever the price was it would be a heck of a lot lower than any other option.

Shows were not meant to be read.  They were meant to be seen.  And this might be a brand new way for you to get that production that you so desperately want need.

(If you want more ideas like this and a ton more to help you get your show to the next level, come to my Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminar this Saturday.  There are just two spots left so register today.)


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