How to Start a Non-Profit Theatre Company

Written by tucker cummings
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Running a non-profit theatre company is challenging, but also rewarding. You will have a chance to entertain, educate and enrich your community. Once you have assembled a great ensemble, you will be well on your way to creating a wonderful non-profit theatre company.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Business plan
  • IRS form 1023
  • Performance space
  • Storage space
  • Actors
  • Directors
  • Investors
  • Technicians
  • Costumes
  • Stage lights and sound equipment

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  1. 1

    Form a corporation and register it with your state. You can form a corporation online at a website such as or by using a local attorney. You will then need to register that corporation with your state's Division of Corporations or Secretary of State's office.

  2. 2

    File the IRS form 1023 with the federal government to register as a 501(c)3 corporation. You will have to pay a small fee, usually about £195.

  3. 3

    Decide if your theatre will be equity or non-equity. An equity theatre is required to adhere to strict guidelines regarding payment, breaks and rehearsal schedules. A theatre cannot become an equity theatre immediately; there is usually a waiting period of several years.

  4. 4

    Open a business account for your corporation at a local bank.

  5. 5

    Find a location to hold your performances and rehearsals. Some options might include a dance studio, a high school auditorium, an open field or a classroom. You may need to reserve the space months ahead of time, so make sure you take care to reserve the space before you plan your rehearsal schedule.

  6. 6

    Plan your season. How many shows will you put on? How many performances? Will you run in rep? Will you specialise in musicals, drama or classical theatre?

  7. 7

    Hire upper-level talent. This includes a director, a musical director, a choreographer and a technical director. You can advertise these positions through your local arts newspaper or through unified auditions such as UPTA or Strawhat.

  8. 8

    Coordinate with your director and tech director to hire actors and technicians. Again, you can hold your own auditions or attend unified auditions such as UPTA or Strawhat.

  9. 9

    Obtain investors. Investors can help you pay for any needed costumes, technical supplies or other costs incurred while running your theatre. They will expect repayment in the form of advertising or cash.

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