We all know that a show in production has many moving parts at any given moment. We also know (often from hard-won experience) that frantic multitasking is just about the least efficient approach to getting anything done well—or on schedule.
Organization is key, and your weekly production meeting is one of the most important strategic tools you have to keep everything running smoothly. From housekeeping issues to business tasks and creative progress, you can’t always plan for every hiccup (or major crisis). But, by scheduling regular check ins for management and communication, and using that time wisely, you can save yourself a good deal of energy, worry, and potential trouble.
We’ve put together a short list of pro tips to help you run a successful production meeting without breaking a sweat. But before we get to those, let’s talk about who should be in attendance.
The Invite List
Whether you’re just starting rehearsals or deep in the throes of tech week, chances are you have more items on your to do list than you can keep track of without a reliable system. Ideally, you’re able to delegate work to a reliable and talented team. But even if you’re doing literally everything yourself, your weekly production meeting is an opportunity to look at all the tasks and goals in a methodical, department-by-department way.
Here’s who should be at each meeting:
- Assistant or Student Director
- Stage Manager
- Technical Director
- Musical Director (if applicable)
- Choreographer (if applicable)
- Marketing and/or House Manager
- Costume Chief
- Prop Chief
Additional attendees, as needed:
- Lighting Designer
- Sound Designer
- Box Office Manager
Pro Tip #1: Be Prepared
Provide all members of the production team with a clear and detailed understanding of their responsibilities during pre-production, so that there are no oversights or misunderstandings along the way.
If you haven't already created a complete production timeline to let everyone know exactly what's expected of them and when, do this important step right away. It's guaranteed to save you time and a good deal of potential stress as you get closer and closer to opening night.
Pro Tip #2: Stick to an Agenda
While the focus of each meeting will depend on where you are in the production process, it’s best to at least touch on every one of the following on a weekly basis:
1. Review your production timeline to keep track of deadlines;
2. Troubleshoot all aspects of production;
3. Review (and, if necessary, revise) your budget;
4. Monitor ticket sales and marketing with Marketing/House Mgr. and/or Student Producer;
5. Check in with each team member about progress, challenges, and victories.
Pro Tip #3: Foster a Collaborative Environment
A theatrical production is, by its very nature, a group effort. When people feel valued and trusted to own their piece of the whole, individual creativity thrives. Yet, without a strong container for communication and a clear set of goals, the overall creative vision may suffer from a lack of cohesion. That means that you, as the leader of this team, must be an artist, facilitator, and manager all at once.
The good news is that, if you’re a Director, you already know how to do this! Think about how you give notes to your actors. Most likely, you don’t act out each role and expect them to mimic your performance. Rather, you clarify intent and give them instruction for how they can go deeper or come into greater alignment with the driving vision.
In other words, provide both guidance and encouragement! Remember that collaborators will be looking for your approval and positive input, not just critique and problem-solving. When a problem arises, no matter how big, try to approach it from a solution mindset rather than anger and frustration.
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