Raising capital for theatre ventures has always been hard work. Rafts of paperwork must be filed to qualify for federal and state funding. Grant applications need to be filled out. Fundraising events have to be organized. Playwrights are compelled to solicit solvent theatre companies to produce their works, and vocal artists require a record company's monetary muscle to make an album happen. It's a time-consuming pursuit that calls for an army of personnel and nearly as much energy and as many hours as it takes to mount a production.
Lately, however, theatre artists have been streamlining the fund-raising process by turning to Kickstarter.com, the popular Internet site that allows any individual with a worthy project, and a drive to make it happen, to petition complete strangers to donate dollars to their cause. In recent months, thespians have used Kickstarter to back everything from albums to productions to an entire theatre company.
"We had initially come together to start a company because a benefactor-type person had offered us the opportunity to work with him and start a theatre company, but with his money," said Fisher Neal, a member of Old Sound Room, the theatre company in question. "When we went to work with him artistically, it didn't work out well. But we had already decided we wanted to start a company. At that point, one person in the group had done a successful Kickstarter campaign for making an album as a musician. So we resolved that we would launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money."
Kickstarter requires that applicants set a specific monetary goal, and a time limit in which they must reach that ambition. For the 12 Yale School of Drama students who formed Old Sound Room, that goal was $20,000. Kickstarter recommends a month as an ideal time span to raise funds. Old Sound Room, however, chose to do it in less time.
"We had to make it 25 days, because it all happened in a very short period of time," said Neal. The dozen artists—half of whom were Yale graduates, the other half still in school—decided to form the troupe in March. The only time window that worked for all 12 was in May. Time was of the essence. But the company exceeded its goal by a few thousand dollars.
"We were able to acquire a donated rehearsal and performance space, which took out a big chunk of what we had to raise," explained Neal. "So really all we had to do was to raise enough to quit our day jobs, so we could work on the thing, and to buy whatever props we might end up needing." The production—an adaptation of King Lear—went on as scheduled.
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