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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: September 1

1898 Birthday of one of Broadway’s most endearing performers of the 1920s, Marilyn Miller, whose vehicles include Sally, Sunny, Rosalie, and As Thousands Cheer.

1924 John Colton and Clemence Randolph adapt the W. Somerset Maugham story “Miss Thompson” as the hit play Rain, about tough prostitute Sadie Thompson (Jeanne Eagels), who battles a bigoted missionary in the steamy jungle. It runs for 648 performances, and is adapted several times as a film.

1927 Barbara Stanwyck and Oscar Levant star in the musical Burlesque, which plays 372 performances at the Plymouth Theatre.

1997 The Actors Fund performance of A Doll’s House is the Tony-winning revival’s last. Janet McTeer won a Tony Award for her performance as Nora Helmer in Henrik Ibsen‘s late-19th century drama, as did Owen Teale for his as husband Torvald. The limited engagement was originally scheduled to close on July 26, but following its strong reception from both critics and audiences, that date was pushed back six weeks.

1998 The Broadway production of Art gets its second cast, as British actors Brian Cox, Henry Goodman, and David Haig take over from the recently departed Alan Alda, Victor Garber, and Alfred Molina. Yasmina Reza‘s play, which focuses on three men whose friendship is put on trial when one buys a “white” painting, has two more casts before it closes August 8, 1999. Judd Hirsch, George Wendt, and Joe Morton assume the roles in December 1998, while Buck Henry, George Segal, and Wayne Knight follow in April 1999.

1998 Closing out its summer season in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, Shakespeare & Company runs a solo adaptation of A Room of One’s Own. The play is adapted by Patrick Garland from Virginia Woolf’s famous 1929 essay, in which the writer informs a group of women’s college students that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

2002 The unorthodox but Tony-winning Best Musical Contact closes after a two-and-a-half-year Broadway run. The final performance is broadcast live on PBS.

2003 A rare (but not unprecedented) confluence of events leave Broadway with just one non-musical play on the boards, Tony winner Take Me Out.

2004 In the midst of the Republican national convention in New York, which nominated President George W. Bush for a second term, British playwright David Hare begins performances of his critique of Bush’s first term, Stuff Happens, at London’s National Theatre. Meanwhile, back in New York, former President George H.W. Bush attends a matinee performance of Hairspray with former First Lady Barbara Bush.

2012 The London production of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse‘s musical Chicago, the West End’s longest-ever running revival, closes after a 15-year run. The production, which won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production, opened at the Adelphi Theatre November 18, 1997, and transferred to the Cambridge Theatre in April 2006, and then to the Garrick Theatre in November 2011.

2015 Dean Jones, the comic actor who made his mark in a series of Disney films, but who earned a place in Broadway history for originating the role of the vacillating bachelor Bobby in Stephen Sondheim‘s Company, dies at age 84.

2019 The U.K. concert premiere of the 2015 Broadway musical Doctor Zhivago is presented at London’s Cadogan Hall with a cast headed by Tony nominee Ramin Karimloo (Les Misérables) as Yurii Andreyevich Zhivago and Celinde Schoenmaker (The Light in the Piazza, Barnum) as Lara Guishar. Based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago has a book by Michael Weller, music Lucy Simon, and lyrics by Michael Korie and Amy Powers.

More of Today’s Birthdays: Guy Standing (1873-1937); Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950); Yvonne De Carlo (1922-2007); Martin Pakledinaz (1953- 2012); Lily Tomlin (b. 1939); Carolee Carmello (b. 1962); Jay Armstrong Johnson (b. 1987).

Watch highlights from Carolee Carmello’s Tony-nominated performance in Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson:

5 Tips for Building Sustainable School Theatre Programs Using PLAYBILLder

Anyone who has put on a school show knows how much work is involved getting from auditions to opening night. Even more difficult can be the challenge of making sure that your production is not your department’s last, a problem only heightened by budget cuts and other challenging circumstances facing theatres worldwide in the wake of the current health crisis.

But to create and maintain sustainable school theatre, it’s vitally important to think beyond just funding. The key to protecting theatre—both in schools and out—is fostering a supportive, active, and collaborative connection with the community your theatre serves.

Playbill has been making one part of the production process—creating a professional, Broadway-quality program—easier for schools and community theatres since 2013 with PLAYBILLder, our online program-creation platform that allows you to create and share both printed and digital programs for theatrical productions and special events. More importantly, PLAYBILLder is an invaluable tool for building and showcasing community support, and by extension creating sustainable theatre.

You can select from a number of templates when adding Ad and Photo pages.
You can select from a number of templates when adding Ad and Photo pages.

The main way to work on community engagement with PLAYBILLder is through thoughtful and strategic use of our ad templates. PLAYBILLder makes it easy to include ads in a variety of sizes in your program, with templates for full-, 1/2-, 1/3-, and 1/4-page ads, as well as a back page ad. These five tips will show you how to effectively use these templates to put your school theatre program on the road to success and sustainability.

1. Think about price
If you haven’t sold ads before, you may feel lost when it comes to setting prices. Start by going to friends or family members with local businesses and ask what they think would be a fair price for ad space in your production’s Playbill program—get multiple opinions if possible. Make sure they know how many audience members you expect to attend the production so they’ll have a better idea of how many people will see their ad. This will help you set a general baseline for your prices.

Next, set a fundraising goal that incorporates both production costs you need to recover and general funds for the department as well. Don’t forget about the cost of your program itself. If you’re using PLAYBILLder’s professional printing services, you can consult our pricing guide to see how increasing the page count affects printing costs. (PLAYBILLder also offers a purchasable PDF license that allows you to print your program using the printing service of your choice, including home and office printers.)

Once you’ve got a good handle on what local businesses are comfortable paying and what your fundraising needs are, think about how many ads you can reasonably expect to sell and do the math. Remember that you should consider different ad sizes as “value” buys. A 1/2-page ad should be slightly less than the cost of two 1/4-page ads, while a full-page ad should be slightly less than two 1/2-page ads. Conversely, the back page of your program is a bigger value to an advertiser than a full interior page, so that should cost more than a regular full-page ad.

2. Be strategic
Though asking for money can seem like a chore, thinking strategically about which businesses you reach out to can make that process a lot easier. Think about your show’s themes. Are there local businesses or organizations for which those themes could be synergistic? If you’re doing Into the Woods, think about approaching local libraries or independent book sellers. Perhaps a local wedding cake maker or florist would be interested in advertising in your Mamma Mia! program.

Memorable PLAYBILLder 2019
Saint Ignatius Loyola School’s PLAYBILLder-created Seussical JR program

3. Think outside the box
Creating packages that include program ad space along with some more creative opportunities often have a greater appeal to potential advertisers. An auto body shop might be interested in sponsoring your Greased Lightnin’ prop in Grease. A flower shop could sponsor your Audrey II puppets in Little Shop of Horrors. Include ad space that advertises both the business and the fact that they’ve sponsored part of what the audience is seeing on stage. If you’re presenting productions online, proposing a sponsorship opportunity with a local electronics store or video company could also be a fantastic way to recover some of the costs of the technology and equipment necessary to stream your production, not to mention the many ways establishing that relationship could be beneficial to your company well after a return to some kind of normalcy.

And you don’t have to sell ads just to local businesses. Remember to offer ad space to your cast and crew’s family and friends to contribute notes of encouragement. Just as theatre fans hold on to Playbills as a memento of seeing a Broadway show, your production’s cast and crew will likely hold on to their programs as a memento of their experience. These personal notes make that even more special.

READ: How to Build Your Own Custom Playbill Program With PLAYBILLder

4. Remember that businesses are not just ad buyers
Raising money is great, but local businesses can be just as if not more useful to you as a community connection as well. Make sure any flyers or posters you make for your production get distributed to businesses that have purchased ad space. Find out if they do any email marketing, and if a call-out for tickets might fit into an upcoming campaign. Include tickets to see a performance with any ads sold and make sure they attend, something that becomes even easier if you are able to offer performances via online streaming! After the production has closed, let the businesses you worked with know the impact of their support by filming a thank you video with personal messages from your cast and crew.

5. Get school administration involved
District and building administrators often have jam-packed schedules, but there’s no better way for them to learn the importance of a theatre program than to witness it firsthand. Check in with your administration periodically and give them updates on the production, complete with any special moments or achievements that your students make during the process. Make sure every administrator knows when performances are being held and how they can attend. If they’re not able to see a performance, get them a copy of your PLAYBILLder-created program, either as a physical copy or as a digital link or file. A slick and Broadway-quality program with page after page of ads from local businesses and community members shows that you know what you’re doing, and that your theatre program is something the community wants and truly cares about.

Getting students from your production’s cast and crew to speak at a school board meeting about their experiences working on the productions can go a long way as well. Encourage your students to think about what they learned during the process, and what it meant to them getting to be involved, which is liable to be only more poignant and vital during this health crisis. And of course, provide school board members with physical or digital copies of your PLAYBILLder-created program as well.

To get started building your own custom Playbill program, visit PLAYBILLder.com.

Stars in the House Spotlights Dallas’ Uptown Players August 29

Stars in the House, the daily live streamed concert series created by Playbill correspondent and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky and producer James Wesley, spotlights Dallas’ Uptown Players August 29.

B. J. Cleveland hosts the afternoon with guests Walter Lee, Janelle Lutz, Linda Leonard, and Alex Ross. The mission of Uptown Players is to present professional theatre that meets a rising demand in the community for audiences to see their life experiences represented on stage. The company offers productions focusing on contemporary and alternative lifestyle themes.

The stream will be available above beginning at 2 PM.

Stars in the House launched March 16 to promote support for The Actors Fund and its services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It has also raised funds for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

New shows—typically streaming Monday–Saturday at 8 PM ET with afternoon shows Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM—feature performances by stars of stage and screen, in conversation and song with Rudetsky and Wesley. Peter Flynn serves as streaming director. Click here to watch previous episodes.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Actors Fund visit ActorsFund.org/Donate. To donate to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, visit NAACPLDF.org.

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In the News: Watch Sharon D. Clarke and Celia Imrie Perform From 2020 Popcorn Winner, Cast Announced for Sunnymead Court Premiere, More

Read on for some recent theatre headlines and videos you may have missed.

Sharon D. Clarke and Celia Imrie Perform From Jennifer Lunn’s Popcorn Writing Award-Winning Es and Flo
Jennifer Lunn has won the 2020 Popcorn Writing Award for her play Es and Flo, which was due to premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this year but was canceled due to the pandemic. The playwright receives a cash prize of £2,500. Finalists were Matilda Ibini, Chris Thompson, and Camilla Whitehill. Lunn and the finalists were selected by a committee including Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson, Olivier-nominated producer Francesca Moody, singer-songwriter Aurora, film scribe Gonzalo Maza (A Fantastic Woman), and BAFTA winner Wunmi Mosaku.

As a bonus, Olivier winners Sharon D. Clarke (Caroline, or Change) and Celia Imrie (Acorn Antiques: The Musical) performed a virtual excerpt from Lunn’s lesbian-themed drama—check it out below.

#ArtsHero Launches Town Hall Series August 27 With Jerry Mitchell
The #ArtsHero campaign to get the U.S. Senate to pass emergency arts relief launches a series of virtual town halls August 27 at 9 PM ET with Tony-winning director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell. The event is open to any theatre worker, including performers, box-office attendants, stagehands, and more. Click here to sign up for the free session, hosted on Zoom. Two additional talks will be presented next week. An August 31 at 2:30 PM ET session led by Actors Theatre of Louisville Executive Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming, Roundabout Theatre Artistic Director/CEO Todd Haimes, and Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith is open to all theatre leaders. Later that day at 8 PM, Jackie Cox will lead a session for nightlife entertainers.

Latino Theater Company Streams Reading of The Last Angry Brown Hat
The Latino Theater Company at The Los Angeles Theater Centre will offer a sneak peek reading of Alfredo Ramos’ The Last Angry Brown Hat, in which four former members of the Brown Berets (a 1960s militant Chicano civil rights organization) reunite after the funeral of a pal. Directed by José Luis Valenzuela, the September 4 at 10 PM ET reading will feature Robert Beltran, Mike Gomez, Sal Lopez, and Geoffrey Rivas. Originally announced for LTC’s 2020 season, the fully staged production has been postponed until 2021. The reading will be preceded by a live, online conversation with the artists September 3 at 10 PM ET; the reading and the conversation will each will remain available on demand for 10 days. Visit TheLATC.org.

Cast Set for World Premiere of Gemma Lawrence’s Sunnymead Court
Defibrillator, in association with The Actors Centre, will present the world premiere of Gemma Lawrence’s Sunnymead Court September 22-October 3 at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre at The Actors Centre. Playwright Lawrence will play Marie with Remmie Milner (Coriolanus, Chicken Soup) as Stella. James Hillier directs the queer romance. The theatre will have a maximum capacity of 28 seats for each performance, with tickets available in singles or pairs only. Attendees, unless they have a known medical condition, will be required to wear a mask at the venue, and for the duration of the 45-minute performance. Jack Holden produces. Visit DefibrillatorTheatre.

Click Here for Playbill’s Theatre Coverage,
Resources, and More During
the Coronavirus Shutdown