How to Start a Theatre Company

Updated February 21, 2017

By starting a theatre company, you can bring a group of people interested in theatre together. Your theatre company can be a large group with its own venue, employing actors, directors, producers and designers, or a small company of two people who perform at festivals or in public places. If you're interested in starting a theatre company, there are some essential steps that need to be taken.

Decide what type of theatre company you wish to start. There are many types of theatre companies, among them Shakespearean companies, puppetry companies and companies that focus on contemporary performance art. Decide if you want to do a variety of styles, or if there is a particular style or genre that you want to focus on. Create a timeline, a budget and a statement or constitution that outlines objectives and procedures. Set realistic goals of how long it will take to prepare for a play and how many you would like to do in a year.

Decide whom you will form the company with. Choose people who will be committed to the project, who are creative and who have a wide variety of skills in theatre. Necessary skills include acting, directing, lighting and scenery, hair and make-up, and costume design. In addition, find people who can manage the administrative and business side of the company. Secure proper contracts if you plan on hiring members of trade unions that represent actors and theatre workers (see References for link).

Determine the structure of your company's operation. A company can be run by single ownership, a board or directors or as a cooperative, where all company members have ownership and profits are divided equally. Theatre companies can also be non-profit and volunteer-based. There are many grants available for non-profit theatre companies. Seek out possible donors. For a non-profit theatre company, apply for your Articles of Incorporation. Also decide how tickets will be sold; by phone or through a website are common methods.

Establish a location where you will have performances and where rehearsals will take place. There are several options: You can buy or rent a theatre building or convert another type of space, such as warehouses and vacant commercial spaces. Consider renting or borrowing community spaces, such as civic halls or state school auditoriums. Book your shows into restaurants or bars that are also performance venues. Many theatre companies perform outdoors at street fairs, in public parks or on the sidewalk; in these cases, research the laws in your city regarding public performance.

Create a name and a logo that fits your company. Use the same logo on announcements, flyers, advertisements, your website and any other promotional materials. Create a publicity budget. Make well-designed posters for your first performance. Advertise in local newspapers. It is good to send out a press release a few weeks before your first opening. Also join local and state theatre organisations in order to network and gain recognition within the larger theatre community.

Things You'll Need

  • Collaborators
  • Start-up funds
  • A venue
  • Publicity materials
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About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.