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I’ve been working in the arts for over thirty years and I’m really excited about a new trend I’m noticing around the way folks are producing their own work, Now, in some disciplines that’s always been the case. But in the performing arts, particularly theater, folks have felt the need to create a  company then create a season then produce their work. There have been exceptions, of course. Commercial theater has a lot of solo producers. But in the non-profit and community realm, starting a company has been the first step for most folks by rote. Or folks aspire to start a company. That’s changing.

I’m seeing two trends in this. First, a lot of the folks diving into this are working in the small/fringe scale. For these artists, starting a company and planning a season can be a resource drain. These groups are usually under-funded, and most folks participating are working several jobs to make it all work. Trying to produce two or three shows a year is a heavy lift. By taking on one project, the focus of money and resources are focused. Lessons are learned, audiences are developed, and the next project can be tackled.

Second, a lot of these productions are working in a multi-disciplinary way. Artists are proudly and proactively reaching out to other folks and adding elements that add a depth and breadth to the work. Theater pieces that include live music created by musicians who don’t normally work in theater. Dance pieces that include visual artists. Concerts that include projections. Artists developing work for the web. New work being developed for non traditional spaces like breweries, public parks, farms, living rooms, and in cars. There have been people working in this realm for years, but the model is spreading.

I like this trend for several reasons:

  • Producing one show can be easier than producing an entire season, at least at first.
  • Solo producing lets you explore working with different collaborators, or doing different types of work without being locked in.
  • These solo pieces can be remounted or scaled up if they are successful.
  • They are a great way to showcase talent or experiment with form.

The skills to pull these productions off aren’t insignificant. They include producing the work on the creative end while using business skills to make sure budgets are in place, a fundraising plan is on track, and a marketing plan is ready to roll from the beginning of the process. All of these skills are learnable, but learning them on the job is an added stress to an already fraught process.

Experimenting with different scales and types of production is a great way to build your career and your artistic life. It requires reframing yourself as an artist entrepreneur. How do you make that leap? I’ve created a free video series to help you with that.

Have you noticed this same trend? What excited you about it?



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