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Membership required to audition/be cast?

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Theater Administration
Forum Name: Running Your Theater
Forum Discription: General questions about how to make it work
URL: http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5348
Printed Date: 6/23/24 at 12:55am
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Topic: Membership required to audition/be cast?
Posted By: imamember
Subject: Membership required to audition/be cast?
Date Posted: 8/04/12 at 12:20pm
How common is it for 501(c)3 community theatres to require membership to audition for or be cast in a show?

Our CT which has been around about 15 years or so will be instating a "pay to play" policy next season and they raised membership costs from $10 individual to $20.

I feel like that's not right. I'm familiar with the finances and they have a decent amount in the bank so it's not like they're going under or anything. Also it's not like hundreds of people show up to audition, it's actually very light and most shows just barely get cast.

What I was told by a board member that voted against it was that they want the theatre to be perceived as sort of prestigious (it's not, it's fairly average) and they think if it's expensive to be a member and that membership is required, the people will come rolling in.

Has anyone here heard of such a thing or done it? How did it work out?



Replies:
Posted By: Majicwrench
Date Posted: 8/04/12 at 4:04pm
I belong to a group in a nearby town, costs me $5 a year to be able to be in there plays. Pretty silly if you ask me. They didn't ask. They are a fun group, I pay the $5 a year to be a member.
  


Posted By: edh915
Date Posted: 8/04/12 at 10:18pm
There are half a dozen community theater groups within twenty minutes of my front door. Three of them are "pay to play" and three are not. I am regularly active in the three "free" groups - acting, directing, crew, board member, etc. I only go to the other three if - and only if - they are doing a play with a part I'd like to audition for. Then I'm willing to "pay for the privilege." The majority of my time and energy, however, goes to the groups who value my freely offered contributions and "appreciate" rather than "demand."


Posted By: dboris
Date Posted: 8/07/12 at 12:43pm
I know of at least one group in my area that requires cast members to buy a subscription, but the group I mainly work with doesn't. If your group is having a hard time making ends meet, then I don't have a big problem with this, but in no way do I feel that it makes a group look more prestigious. If you want to look more prestigious, then you should be paying the actors instead of charging them.


Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 8/08/12 at 2:51pm
In my limited experience I've never come across this. However, I did have a large role once with a group I had never worked with before where two weeks before opening it was announced that all actors had to sell $250 worth of ads for the program.


Posted By: TonyDi
Date Posted: 8/09/12 at 7:18am
Originally posted by jayzehr

In my limited experience I've never come across this. However, I did have a large role once with a group I had never worked with before where two weeks before opening it was announced that all actors had to sell $250 worth of ads for the program.
 
Uh.........SORRY NO!! THAT is ludicrous.  No way - what were they going to do....FIRE YOU if you didn't?  Ridiculous.  No way I'd do that or even accept it from the outset.  NOT an actor's job to sell advertising.  No way, no how.  What a foolish bunch that must have been. Now if they ASKED for help from the outset - different story - if they didn't have the help they really needed to make it happen - but then I'd question if I wanted to work with them or not if they don't have their administrative ducks in a row.  Again sorry - an actor's job is acting - not selling ads.  That is just ludicrous.

Just never had time for poorly run and maintained community theater groups who fly by the seats of their pants.  And honest to God I'm not being selective or a diva here either.  It's just not right to expect actors to do more than their appointed jobs - or anyone else in the mix who has a specific part to play in the production from techs, to directors, to stage managers, etc.  People just need to learn who does what and only when the NEEDS become greatest - do you ASK if anyone can help.  I mean community theater after all MEANS community effort so.....!!  THAT makes sense only then.   I HAVE worked for theater companies that were BUSINESSES that did it like was necessary to run an effective business - however with the theater as the venue that they ran.  THEY knew it HAD to be done properly - many community theaters don't have a clue...unfortunately.
 
As for asking a cast to pay to be members - all the groups I ever worked with never REQUIRED it - they encouraged it (I mean they WANTED you to be a part of their group) but it was never mandatory nor did they ever limit what roles you might want to audition for or keep you from having a part in a show just because of it.  Maybe I've been lucky to work with groups that had some decent backing financially and most of whom made good money overall - as much as possible in the scheme of community theater.  But it never was required.  I would personally NEVER EVER even WANT to be part of a group that put so many restrictions just to be a part of the group itself.  Granted, the company I worked with for nearly 20 years I WAS a paid member of - at a mere $10 bucks a year - minimal.  I was a board member, president, VP and had a host of a million and one jobs there in that 20 years I was there.  It was my home group.  But I worked with others in town too - and there were about 4 others with whom I worked over the years - NONE of which had any major requirements as to being a paid up member to be part of what they did.  Maybe it's just this community - don't know.  But I'd quit doing it altogether - which I now have anyway retiring from it - if I WAS required like that just to take part.  Too many creative and artistic outlets to allow that kind of foolishness to be part of what would be a requirement just to be involved.
 
My personal opinion - counts for nothing more or less than anyone else's.
Just relaying my experience from the last 50 years.
 
TonyDi


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"Almost famous"


Posted By: jayzehr
Date Posted: 8/09/12 at 5:43pm
Originally posted by TonyDi

Uh.........SORRY NO!! THAT is ludicrous.  No way - what were they going to do....FIRE YOU if you didn't?  Ridiculous.  No way I'd do that or even accept it from the outset.  NOT an actor's job to sell advertising.  No way, no how.  What a foolish bunch that must have been.


So, as it turned out what they were doing was staging a lot of musicals with lots of teenagers and having the kids all sell adverting. They seemed to be doing very well with this and I've often wondered if that's a viable plan.

However, this was a straight play with all adults and several of us from another town did not know about this policy and had not been told about it when cast or in any kind of timely fashion.   Long story short: I did not sell any ads and finished the show anyway.   In retrospect maybe I wasn't being a team player but I really, really hate fund raising. Especially in a different town.


Posted By: TonyDi
Date Posted: 8/10/12 at 7:01am
Originally posted by jayzehr

Originally posted by TonyDi

Uh.........SORRY NO!! THAT is ludicrous.  No way - what were they going to do....FIRE YOU if you didn't?  Ridiculous.  No way I'd do that or even accept it from the outset.  NOT an actor's job to sell advertising.  No way, no how.  What a foolish bunch that must have been.


So, as it turned out what they were doing was staging a lot of musicals with lots of teenagers and having the kids all sell adverting. They seemed to be doing very well with this and I've often wondered if that's a viable plan.

However, this was a straight play with all adults and several of us from another town did not know about this policy and had not been told about it when cast or in any kind of timely fashion.   Long story short: I did not sell any ads and finished the show anyway.   In retrospect maybe I wasn't being a team player but I really, really hate fund raising. Especially in a different town.
 
Well as I said, it is NOT the job you were hired to do.  And if they don't have board members or members who don't do plays to do it, then they need to find someone then or get the board members to do it.  This idea does and CAN work in HIGH SCHOOL where kids work extra hard to promote the shows they're in and get the businesses they patronize to see if they'd chip in on a small cost basis with "ads".  But again that's NOT the custom of normal situational community theater.  You were hired to act and that's your job.  NOT fundraising, not selling ads, not doing anything else UNLESS you're ASKED and decide that you want to and can afford the time and energy to helping in that regard.  Neither should you be penalized because you don't/didn't sell ads, the next time you choose to work with that company or get the opportunity.
 
I do apologize for that rant.  Trouble is that I've been in similar situations and I speak my mind about it....even at the time if I'm approached about it by the group.  And as for being a team player, I ALWAYS TRY to be - but I'm also a non-conformist in that I KNOW what my job is when I'm hired to do a role in a show and I give them everything I've got to make it work.  And I'm NOT a hard-sell.  I've just been at this far too long to take things on when THEY should have people in place to do that kind of thing.  And if they don't....ESPECIALLY if they wait until 2 weeks before to bring it up...well, sorry - their problem.
 
Now if they ASK and I feel I CAN help out in that regard - as with ANY facet of doing a show including helping design, build, paint, dress the set, help with costuming, makeup or ANY OTHER facet when the NEED IS THERE, I don't mind helping out.  But frankly I guess it stems from having had some professional jobs in shows where you were told NOT to do anything else (literally you weren't allowed) but that for which you were hired.....maybe I got spoiled.  But I'm always WILLING to help if ASKED - not TOLD however, and would do what I could IF I HAVE THE TIME and my role in the mix doesn't demand my constant focus and concentration because of its size or complexity....which if you think about it, should never be taken lightly no matter how big or how small.  So it's unlikely I'd do it much less have the time.  It's the function of the organization - NOT the people you hire to act in the shows - to sell advertising.  While it CAN work in some situations (High School) it generally is much more difficult in community situations.  Professional companies usually have their funding, advertising and production costs already in place before they do anything so community theaters such as this need to take a lesson from them.
 
Again sorry for the rant.  I've lived most of these things in "my life and times in the theater".  I just can't see it - yet I KNOW it happens much too frequently.  It's partly why I retired from doing it.  That, plus I have so many other artistic outlets that I didn't want to grow to hate theater overall.
 
TonyDi
 


-------------
"Almost famous"


Posted By: dboris
Date Posted: 8/13/12 at 12:19pm
Originally posted by TonyDi

Uh.........SORRY NO!! THAT is ludicrous.  No way - what were they going to do....FIRE YOU if you didn't?  Ridiculous.  No way I'd do that or even accept it from the outset.  NOT an actor's job to sell advertising.  No way, no how.  What a foolish bunch that must have been.

I have to disagree with this. I don't see anything wrong with requiring, as long as they know it upfront, someone in a community theatre to do something that would be outside of thier normal job description. This is part of what makes it community theater, everyone pitches in where they can. At my theatre at various points in time we have required cast memebers to sell ads, help build the set, and clean up the theatre after performances. Yes, in an ideal world it would be nice to have different people to perform each task required to run a theater, but I have never worked at a community theater where that was the case.


Posted By: TonyDi
Date Posted: 8/14/12 at 7:09am
Originally posted by dboris

Originally posted by TonyDi

Uh.........SORRY NO!! THAT is ludicrous.  No way - what were they going to do....FIRE YOU if you didn't?  Ridiculous.  No way I'd do that or even accept it from the outset.  NOT an actor's job to sell advertising.  No way, no how.  What a foolish bunch that must have been.

I have to disagree with this. I don't see anything wrong with requiring, as long as they know it upfront, someone in a community theatre to do something that would be outside of thier normal job description. This is part of what makes it community theater, everyone pitches in where they can. At my theatre at various points in time we have required cast memebers to sell ads, help build the set, and clean up the theatre after performances. Yes, in an ideal world it would be nice to have different people to perform each task required to run a theater, but I have never worked at a community theater where that was the case.
 
Well this is what these forums are about right?  I mean being able to bring differing points of view and experiences to the mix.  As I said I think more than once (didn't go back and re-read my responses) but CERTAINLY IF they ask you ahead of time and you go into it knowing that they're ASKING you to do it IF YOU CAN - IF YOU CAN AFFORD THE TIME - then certainly that's fine.  Even though I personally might not be involved if that were even the case, I don't see it as a real problem if someone CHOOSES to be involved on that basis.  But jayzehr's original point was that the group waited until like 2 weeks before the show was to go up and then TOLD the cast they HAD to sell $250 bucks worth of advertising?  NOT a very good way - professional or community amateur theater - to run things in my estimation.
 
I think I also said that I have NEVER EVER had a problem HELPING where I could but that as a HIRED ACTOR you cannot be EXPECTED to do other jobs - you have a big enough job to be IN the show.  I have ALWAYS helped - actually I've gone well beyond that many many times.  BUT I have also been spoiled to some degree I suppose as I said, by having worked in companies where they had all their "ducks in a row" so to speak and allowed actors to simply show up and do their jobs.  AND I also said I've been involved in situations wherein we were NOT supposed to do anything BUT the job we were hired to do.  But certainly I totally understand community theater.  As I've said before - I've been heavily involved for 50 years of it and have seen the variation that comes with all kinds of groups.  I have been set designer, set builder, painter, actor, director, music director, musician, assistant director, stage manager, lighting designer, lighting operator, sound designer and operator, makeup artist, costume designer and on and on and on - ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  WHY?  Because 1) I COULD and 2) if it wasn't me then there wasn't anyone else who would do it or could do it.  SO I'm well aware of the nature of "community" and building a following of theater helpers and patrons.  I'm just saying that I HAVE been in situations and believe that (maybe) in an ideal world, all the other jobs would be done by capable people who the organization would have installed into those positions such that ACTORS or DIRECTORS don't HAVE to do anything but the jobs they were hired to do....or anyone wouldn't have to do anything but the job they were hired or volunteered to do.
 
As well I KNOW that actors and others who have been hired to do specific jobs CAN still do their respective jobs well and not have their other involvements in helping with selling ads, or other technical jobs diminish their performance at all.  But some people simply aren't cut out for "asking for money" by trying to sell ads.  Even ACTORS who you'd THINK could sell sand to a camel, simply cannot approach a potential business who might place an ad in the program.  I'm just saying what I have based upon what jayzehr's response on this thread was about being TOLD 2 weeks BEFORE the show goes up that they HAD TO SELL ADS - rather than someone coming to them and ASKING if they as cast members could possibly help out.  I'm much more willing to TRY to do what I could if ASKED not TOLD I HAD to.  Much different approach in this case.  And if it means that some company requires me to do that and if I don't I never get to work with them again, so be it.  If they tell you UP FRONT then you go into it knowing and can prepare for it perhaps when the time comes to get out and try to help in that way.  I know I said I'd NOT do that even if told up front - my basic premise is being TOLD I HAD TO.  They can ASK upfront and then I'll do what I can but don't REQUIRE it.  Because even then if you DO try and can't sell any ads - if you get rejections from potential advertisers, what are ya gonna do anyway?  Can't FORCE somebody to shell out money for an ad in a program that has nothing whatsoever to do with potential income for THEIR business if it has no correlation. 
 
See - I've been at this far too long and seen a lot - not ALL mind you, but enough that I don't make the comments I do without having had enough experience and seen things like this sometimes work, sometimes not work.  But it's all good.  We do the best we can to make the best we can of every situation.  Just that some situations CAN be unreasonable and jayzehr's issue became a slight problem when they were TOLD they HAD to sell ads without any prior knowledge of that need and then not even given the time to do it anyway.  If they wanted the cast to sell ads, they should have said so from the outset.  YOU even say so yourself.....UP FRONT.  THAT was something this group apparently did NOT do...so whatever occurred was their own fault - not that of actors who had no idea they were going to HAVE to sell advertising with 2 weeks or less to try to.  And then their approach still should be one of ASKING not TELLING - that's basically all I'm saying.  Though I certainly did go on a lot to say didn't I?  Well anyone who has read any of my responses knows how long-freakin'-winded I am.  But it comes from having been there, done that and having had a wide enough variety of experiences to back that up.
 
But as I said, all good.  I DO appreciate what you're saying - but I've been there too and know the ropes so to speak.  And maybe I have been spoiled by working with groups for the most part, who had it together and didn't need me as an actor or director to do other people's jobs.  NOT that I wouldn't - because I HAVE.  MOST of the time, I've been lucky enough to not have to -and in most cases, have been told it's not my job to have to worry about it.  And so I didn't.  I DO appreciate your response and take on it though.....really.
 
 
TonyDi


-------------
"Almost famous"


Posted By: Majicwrench
Date Posted: 8/31/12 at 5:54pm
 I'm with Tony, methinks it is nuts and I would tell them so. I have never walked off a set (yet) but if they wanted to "fire" me that would be their decision.
  Keith



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