Putting a Face on Theatre
The words "on time and under budget" were the favorite of a former colleague and good friend to give a simple and accurate report that her shop was in good shape, and that she didn't foresee any problems with costumes being ready by first dress or any major emergency or cash hemorrhage on the horizon. I have to say, I really miss hearing those words, as it seems that these days, the time is impossibly short and the money incredibly thin.
And isn't that always our goal as theatre producers? Getting our jobs done in a fiscally responsible, timely fashion? Along with (of course) producing quality art?
Despite fewer crew members, less money, and what seems like fewer hours in the day - keeping it under the line and ready on time is still something that I strive to achieve as a department supervisor - something that I'm more successful with at some times than others. Keeping things going with fewer funds, less available hours, and often less information is going to be challenge for anyone - and getting through it successfully calls for some creative problem solving - and sometimes doing some things the hard way, taking on more, delegating more, and finding short cuts to cut cost and time rather than quality and product. Why not? We're miracle workers? Right!?
The biggest way to start to accomplish both budget and efficiency is is managing my own time, as well as being selective about my own workload. I have to make sure I've got the hours my projects need around the day to day running of a theatre - production meetings, design presentations, rehearsals, outside events, etc. If we have a full week, I'm going to need to put in some extra time after hours or at home to make sure that my design or accounting or whatever things I have going on get the attention they need.
There are also some projects I've learned to delegate that I once preferred to do myself - like small side project designs or reinforcement - that I've passed on to my engineer. I've also found that there are some projects I simply can't do on my own - and I have to ask for help from other shops - something I've been hesitant to do since it's asking someone else to share my work load. For example, I am not a carpenter by any stretch of the word. In order to have an actor friendly and usable self-contained doorbell, I had to go to our props master to ask him to build me a box, rather than coming up with some elaborate idea that probably wouldn't have worked. In exchange, I did some hand-written prop letters (which were girly notes - and my handwriting is really girly.) The trade saved us both time, and we both had an end product we were much happier with than if we'd done it ourselves.
There are all kinds of ways to purchase what I need without breaking the bank - a previous blog has already been dedicated to buying expendables - and minding my nickles and dimes does make a big difference at the end of the day.
I've learned the hardway over my career that "no" is not usually an acceptable answer - so I've learned over the years how to make some crazy schedules work without killing anyone including myself. I've also learned to get help when I need it, and most importantly, walk away when I want to scream at someone and then come back and get the job done.
In the end... on time, and under budget.