A year ago, I entered my one-act play for a competition. It didn’t win, but the sample scene I performed with two friends on the night got a really good response, so I decided to produce the show myself.
I found a small pub venue, crowdfunded the production (which sounds a lot easier than it was) and paid my fellow actors the best rate I could because that was important to me. We have just finished our run, and although the audiences were small, they loved the show. Sadly, we only had one reviewer in, but that was also a very positive notice.
Although I enjoyed the experience and all the good wishes that came via social media, as I sit here two days after our final night, I have to admit to feeling a strong sense of ‘was it all worth it?’ and having very little creative energy left. Is this a common outcome for first-time actor/producers?
When we talk about having great ‘creative energy’, we sometimes focus on the ‘creative’ part and forget that any kind of energy needs recharging. Most of us will have felt that sudden drain when we come off stage after an intense performance, and for someone who is both acting in and producing a show they are hugely passionate about, the comedown can be even more dramatic.
Depending on how much juice we have expended, the crash back to earth can also happen as a delayed reaction. My first thought would be to give yourself time to rest and to make sure you have worked your way through that energy dip before carrying out any detailed post-mortem on the project. After all, you spent long enough planning it, so it certainly deserves more than a knee-jerk assessment.
It’s important to mine the experience for all the lessons learned, from both an acting and a producer point of view. It often helps to cover each role in a separate reflection session. Make sure you celebrate getting the show up and running in the first place, as well as that one good review, rather than letting ‘what might have been’ demotivate you. While there have been joys on the journey so far (the audience reaction) and also disappointments (the scarcity of reviews) both are results that fall into the ‘short term’ category. What wider ripples may have been created is something you won’t know for sure until more time passes.
In my various roles of agent, producer and writer, I can think of examples where I have followed up with an actor or other creative whose work has impressed me, but for whom when I originally saw them I didn’t have a suitable role or space in my client roster.
Rest assured that if you impress people they will remember you. It is also not unusual for playwrights or film-makers to revisit earlier productions when they gain more experience and more clout in the industry – sometimes as completely refurbished productions, taking the seed or theme of the original and representing it in an entirely new format, sometimes sticking to the older script but redoing it with the benefit of lessons learned the first time round.
If this is a route you take later in your career, not only will the story of how this first production was birthed make excellent publicity for promoting the new version, but that small number of people who did see your first show are going to have really impressive bragging rights when the rest of the world finally catches up with how talented you are.
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne