Blog post number 2! This week I thought I'd talk about the importance of family and friends in getting any venture like ours up-and-running. At first glance it may not appear that the people around you have the necessary talents to help you with setting up your theatre company - but that's where you might be wrong.
I was luckier than some in that my husband and most of my friends were already involved in the theatre in some way or another but it isn't just theatre talent you need.
If you think of all the jobs involved in running a company and putting on a performance there are actually very few of them on stage. You're going to need people who can do accounts to help organise the finances of the company and keep the budgets on track. You're going to need people who know the ins and outs of social media to make sure that your public profile is kept in the forefront. Artistic people to create your flyers or paint your set. People who love sewing to organise your costumes and do repairs. The list is pretty much endless. The point is that your family and friends will probably want to help but might think that they have none of the talents you need. However, even something as simple as a fantastic smile and a warm personality can be put to great use front of house selling programmes or raffle tickets and helping people to their seats.
In Threepenny we're keeping quite a lot in the family because they have an amazing array of talents. My husband is Production Manager for example because I'm the artistic one. I know how I want the set to look, I can even design it in 3D and give everybody a great picture of how it's going to be - but I can't be bothered with the measurements. He'll go along to the theatre, measure the space to within an inch of its life and then plan my set out on graph paper and work out exactly how many flats we're going to need and all their sizes. He then hands that to my Dad who is the king of DIY and has been doing joinery projects all his life. He is now over half way through building the set. My brother-in-law has a degree in Sound Engineering and loves all kinds of music both listening and playing. Although he doesn't use his degree in his day job, he still has a keen interest and is going to help out as our Sound Designer, providing all our sound effects. My Mum has already been assigned a job front-of-house because she has a really warm personality and will make people feel welcome. She's also our assigned wardrobe mistress in charge of repairs (we don't need costumes per se as our play is modern dress) because she's been a keen seamstress all her life and has spent many years making costumes for me. She's also keen to help out with the edible props and devising ways to keep the costs down on copious amounts of Christmas cake! My sister is very artistic and will (although she may not know it yet) be drafted in to help with the dressing of the set. Our company Business Manager Gillian is also helping out with props because she has the talents of persuasion and resourcefulness. She is our chief haggler and telephonist. I have a distinct aversion to the phone (possibly something to do with not being able to gauge people's true reactions to what I've said because I can't see their face) whereas Gillian has absolutely no problem talking to people in any way.
That neatly brings me on to something else I think is important. Don't be scared to ASK people for help - even complete strangers - because you'll be amazed how much some people are prepared to do for you when you tell them what your project is. An example of this for 'Elephants' was when we were thinking about building our own set. The set is split into two parts - the main part being a living/dining room and kitchen and a small side set of the inside of a shed. We thought it would be much easier to use an actual shed for the walls rather than trying to manufacture something. My husband and I were driving to our local garden centre one weekend and they have a shed company right next to them. I spotted a dismantled shed lying on the ground which made me think of the show. I suggested we go in and ask if they had broken bits of shed that they might be able to sell to us cheaply. My husband duly went in and asked and it turned out that the shed lying on the ground was brand new but had been returned because the slats in the walls had started to separate. We explained what we needed and a few phone calls were made. To cut a long story short we ended up buying a whole brand new shed (minus the roof) from this lovely company for only £60. It definitely pays to ask!!
Having said all that the most important thing once you have all those lovely people helping you out is to never take them for granted! The words 'thank you' have an amazing amount of power and cost you nothing (although a box of chocolates and a few beers or a bottle of wine would probably be appreciated too). Much as you may want to, it is virtually impossible to do everything yourself, so ASK for the help you need, APPRECIATE the people who give it and remember that everybody has a talent for something.