Theatre and Crowdfunding: How is the West doing it?
Posted on 20 March, 2017 by Team Wishberry
...Theatre is signing its own death warrant when it tries to play too safe. On the other hand, that is also the reason why, although its future often seems bleak, theatre will continue to live and to provoke.
- Girish Karnad
Let's cut to the chase: Theatre is losing ground and the signs are everywhere. This is simply not to do with a dearth of talent — look around and you will find incredible powerhouses of talent in ‘theatreverse’. Then why is it that the masses are slowly but surely disconnecting from this actually ‘freeing’ form of art? Is theatre becoming too bourgeoisie or is it simply not producing content that will engage more ‘eyes’? The answer lies in ‘space’. And by space, I simply don’t mean physical space — theatre has to reimagine and maybe even reconstruct the spaces that it functions in, whether it is to do with how it amasses the financial backup to stage productions or where it decides to take those said productions.
And this is something that Western theatre groups, ranging from Broadway plays to a theatre group creating awareness regarding what it’s like to raise children as pensioners, are doing. They are letting their audiences become a part of the process of creating their art.
The big fish
Some of the big names reach out to the public despite being assured of finances… why do you think they do so?
Image source: Kickstarter
American Psycho — furthering a legacy
This title is a modern-day pop culture classic. From the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis which became a bestseller to the bone-chilling portrayal of Patrick Bateman by Christian Bale in the 2000-film he same name, every movie buff knows this one! Therefore, when producer Jesse Singer decided to make a musical on American Psycho, he turned to crowdfunding for the musical's initial non-profit production (interestingly he wanted the funds for extending rehearsals’ time, wardrobe and live music). American Psycho raised $154,929 on Kickstarter.... Of course the musical had an established line-up of artists backing it, however, what American Psycho did was to show that it can be done. You can get people talking about your play and thereby become stakeholders in your dream production.
Spring Awakening — Recall value
This play was special — right from putting up a cast of deaf actors, partially hearing actors and hearing actors, Spring Awakening also had their Los Angeles production crowdfunded. After gaining recognition at Broadway and earning a spot to perform at the Tony Awards, the producers turned to crowdfunding once again — this time to fund their performance! They raised $211,634 on Kickstarter. What Spring Awakening accomplished via crowdfunding is a classic example of recall value and they used it to their advantage.
The ‘smallish’ fry
These groups believed in the power of the people and went for it — unsurprisingly, the ‘people’ did their bit!
Image Source: Ushers
Ushers, The Front House Musical — Cutting it to size
Newcomers Yiannis Koutsakos, James Rottger and James Oban quickly realised the importance of trial and error when getting their musical crowdfunded. They initially tried to raise £10,000, but after getting donations from a number of private players, realized that it was best to reduce the amount that they were trying to raise via Kickstarter. They went back to the drawing board and came back to Kickstarter and successfully raised $1000 (they contracted their goal) and production was kicked off. Today, Ushers is popularly known as an ‘Off West End’ musical hit.
Saint Joseph Notre Dame school — All for a good cause
This California school put up the production of their musical The Wedding Singer on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform. The aim was not just to make it happen but to add to the infrastructure of the school to encourage more students to join theatre, learn the tropes and put up great shows! They went on to receive $12,570 which helped with the production, setting up mirrors in the drama room and even wood floors.
Go Fund Yourself!
Theatre in India has to find new avenues of making their art a reality as well as making the said art accessible. The use of social media to talk about upcoming plays, rehearsal dates, sharing updates regarding a specific piece and well, getting productions crowdfunded, are, today, organic ways of ensuring that we continue to witness exciting theatrical productions.
Crowdfunding is a cohesive way of making sure that your play will see the light of day. More importantly, what it also means is that more and more of the general public will have access to plays and performances and that is never a bad thing, is it? After all, theatre is one of the most democratic forms of art!
P.S.: There have been both musical and theatrical performances in India which did successfully crowdfund their production.