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5.1: Budget

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    Budgeting is one of the most important and contentious issues in creating theater. All theater companies are broke and are looking to produce the show for as cheap as possible. You are going to need to look at all of the production needs and see what you can afford. Every production is different and there are always creative ways to save money. Things to keep in mind while creating your budget

    Production Rights

    Production rights are non negotiable and are absolutely necessary. You are using someone else's work in order to make money and you need to pay them in order to use their creation. Production rights for a non musical are approximately $100 per performance for published plays. You will also need to purchase copies of the play for all members of the cast as well as designers and stage managers. Published plays carry name recognition, have been audience tested, have had successful productions at multiple theaters, and have a story you respond to.

    Musicals are roughly $200-$500 per performance and you also have to rent the scripts which cost roughly $100 per script. You will also need to account for stipends for a musical director, acompanyist, and any orchestra members.

    New Plays or plays held in the public domain are free to produce with no production rights fees. If you are doing a new play get a contract in writing where the playwright agrees to allow you to produce their work free of charge in order to workshop the script.

    Venue Cost

    How much does the space you wish to use cost to rent? Sometimes the space is owned by the company and is free for you to use. This is ideal since you can divert this savings to other areas of the production. Some venues will allow you to use the space in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.

    If the venue you like is too expensive then you will need to get creative. Look around and see if there are vacant buildings in the area or if anyone you know owns a small business and would either rent the space to you or volunteer the space as a donation for the duration of the show.

    If every building is out of your budget look to city parks and contact the city to see what is needed in order to hold a public event. If you need a permit then investigate the costs.


    The set establishes the atmosphere of your production and assists in the staging of the story. Plays can either have large and elaborate sets or can also be staged with minimal set pieces. I always try to train directors to develop the skills necessary to stage a production with as little as necessary. The good news is that you can stage most plays with a couple of acting blocks, chairs, and tables. However, the more minimal your theatrical elements, the more impressive your acting has to be.

    Create a budget where you allow for supplies and a designer stipend. Your designer will hopefully be connected with other theaters, designers, and technical directors and can often borrow items from other venues.

    When creating a budget for your set design you need to ask yourself the following questions:

    • What set elements does your play require?
    • Can you pull set pieces from storage or have them donated or will they need to be purchased?
    • Can you afford a set designer?


    Costumes are vital to production and can be very expensive. The more modern the setting the easier you show will be to costume. If your play takes place in modern times and the age ranges of the characters match your cast you can cut costs by having cast members bring their own clothes. If you can afford a costume designer you will have to provide a stipend. Know that if the stipend is small the designer will select costumes from storage and there will be little to no construction, however your costume designer is also connected with designers and theaters around the area and can borrow from other venues or artists.

    When creating a budget for your costume design you need to ask yourself the following questions:

    • Can I afford a Costume Designer?
    • What time period is the play set and can I cut costs by altering the time period without sacrificing the story?
    • What specialized costumes does the play require?
    • Can I pull costume pieces from storage or have them donated or will they need to be purchased?


    Props are the hand held items used by the actors. Read the play and determine which props are absolutely necessary in the story. Get rid of all of the others. Most props listed in the prop list of scripts are not necessary and will only drain your budget. See if you can get a props master or designer and if your budget is small, you can ask your cast to help create the props. You will need to get rehearsal props as soon as possible and throughout the process if actors need additional props they can bring them in and/or you can inform your prop designer if you have one. You will have 2 sets of props. Rehearsal props and show props. Rehearsal props are durable place holders that actors can experiment with and not damage or destroy. Show props are detailed art pieces that aid in the story telling.

    When creating a budget for your costume design you need to ask yourself the following questions:

    • Can I afford a Props Designer?
    • What are the props essential to the story?
    • What specialized props does the play require?
    • Can I pull props from storage or have them donated or will they need to be purchased?

    Marketing Materials

    Producing a play is expensive and exhausting and it is all in vain if you have no audience to share it with. You will need posters, flyers, a social media presence, and word of mouth. First find someone you know to help you design a dynamic poster that appeals to your Target Audience. Next, go to a local print shop and see how much printed posters and flyers will cost. Look at your budget and then analyze your target audience. Where does your target audience hang out when not at plays. Target those areas and purchase enough materials to market to those areas. Have each member of the cast and crew promote the production on social media and promote the play by word of mouth. The process does not need to be expensive and sometimes your creative team can come up with incredible ideas for promoting your show. Use your teams ideas.


    You will need and want to make sure that each individual who has contributed to the production receives recognition for their contributions. Create and order programs for each patron buying a ticket. In planning your budget go to the local print shop and inquire how much printing will cost. Factor in the printing and plan to print for a full house each performance night.


    See if your budget will allow you to compensate your team for their time. Do research by contacting local theaters and asking what a typical artist stipend is for the area. See if you can afford to provide a stipend competitive to what other theaters offer for similar services.

    5.1: Budget is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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