Theatre Artists Now Kickstarting Their Projects With Kickstarter

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27 Jul 2013

Duncan Sheik

"Since we had a free space, and spent very little on props and costumes—between that and the box office, we were left with a few thousand dollars left over," explained Neal. "We don't have enough to mount a production of that size again, but we do have enough to file applications to become a 501c3 [nonprofit] and hire a lawyer and an accountant, and also maybe do some smaller productions in the meantime."

Some Kickstarter theatre projects are even more ambitious. Jesse Singer set out to raise a whopping $150,000 for an upcoming stage musical he was producing based on Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel "American Psycho."

"I thinks it's the highest amount raised for a live stage project on the Kickstarter project," said Singer. The project is a high-profile one, with music by Duncan Sheik and direction by Rupert Goold. The cash raised will function as enhancement money for the Almeida Theatre in London, which plans to stage the musical. (Goold is artistic director of the Almeida.) "It's not enough to put up the show on its own," said Singer, "but it's definitely a huge help toward our ultimate goal."

Amusingly enough, Singer got the idea of using Kickstarter from Ellis himself. The novelist had used the site to scare up funds for a film he made called "The Canyons." Singer and company just barely achieved their end, crossing the $150,000 mark on the final day of the drive. "The ticking clock is a big motivating tool for people," he said.

Actress Judy Kuhn agreed. "The advice I had gotten was you really need the last few days to kind of finish it off," she said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning and there's a lot of enthusiasm at the end, and in the middle it's a bit of a slog. I wanted those days at the end to give a push at the finish line. What I found out was that turned out to be totally true."

Kuhn, a theatre and cabaret veteran, employed Kickstarter to collect monies to finance her more recent album "All This Happiness."

"I was inspired by a couple other people who had used Kickstarter," she said. "At that moment, I wasn't sure who was going to pay for the album. I knew I wanted to make it fast. I didn't want to wait and I knew I couldn't pay for it myself. It seemed like a faster way to do it than to shop the idea around to labels and try to get investors."

To prepare for his inaugural Kickstarter expedition, she spent some time studying other people's efforts. "I looked at all the different kinds of projects other theatre people like myself had done, and started exploring how people went about doing it," she recalled. "And it seemed doable. It seemed the worst that could happen is I wouldn't raise the money."

That's a big "if." Kickstarter rules state that if you don't reach your target amount in the time allotted, you receive none of the funds. "You can be a dollar short of your goal and you don't get any of the money," said Kuhn.


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