You’ve just produced a great show and would love more audiences to see it. Touring can be a great way to do that. It is also another way to continue the life of the work, and for the work to sustain the livelihood of everyone on your team for longer than one run.
Keep in mind, there are lots of questions specific to your production that need to be answered before it can go on tour. In general for any show however, you want to answer YES to all of the following questions before you decide to take it on tour.
- Are all the production elements that are unique to my show (set pieces, costumes, equipment, etc) easily transportable?
- Do I have touring/royalty agreements in place with all the creative team who worked on the production?
- Do I have a quality archival video, with good sound?
- Do I have great production and promotional photography for my production?
- Do I have a tech rider for my production (written by a technician who is familiar with the show)?
- Do I know the total minimum number of people (performers, stage manager(s), designer(s), etc) required for the show to travel?
- Do I have a budget for how much it would cost to take the show on the road, including shipping, travel, sleeping accommodations, and per diems?
Having a Presenter
Having a presenter usually means that a company and/or venue has booked you to perform your show in their space (or in a space they provide) and are paying you a guaranteed fee, and/or a split of the box office. You and your presenter will negotiate the agreeable terms to execute the performance successfully. Many presenters will have their own contract template. If you are asked to generate one, you can use the contracts section of this site, and/or access resources like Artist's Legal Outreach for templates and guidance. No detail is too small to be written in a contract. This will include, but are not limited to: how royalties and fees will be split, required production elements, technical considerations, travel requirements, sleeping accommodations, hospitality, and marketing. A simple and straightforward way to represent your production to potential presenters is by putting together a Presenter Package.
Self-presenting basically means you are producing your show again in another venue (or multiple other venues). You are responsible for securing all the resources to successfully execute your performance, including the venue and the audience. You are also assuming the box office risk.
A tour that is entirely self-presented can be a tremendous amount of work. Often, tours may have self-presented performances sprinkled in between performances with presenters because it is a calculated decision to fill out the tour schedule (e.g. to take advantage of days where the production and touring company are already being paid to be on the road).
There are many different types of Presenters and networks in Canada and around the world. Here are some examples:
Profile: produce a season; have Artistic Directors; often have longer runs; often have their own, purpose-built venues; subscribers
Regional Theatre Examples:
Arts Club Theatre, Persephone Theatre, Tarragon Theatre
Profile: PACs are also known as Road Houses. They usually have a combination of rentals and presentations and often present shows for 1-3 nights; they present a mix of genres; they are used to working with agents (although that isn't the rule); they are often (but not always) civic of university funded which means they often have a broader community mandate.
PAC Examples: Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Chrysler Theatre, Capitol Centre, Imperial Theatre
Profile: There are multiple networks that are both touring alliances (groups of presenters that will often work together to bring an act to more remote areas. Often there is a flat fee that is offered on behalf of a group of presenters, and each presenter pays a different amount, so larger houses are paying a bit more). Some of these networks host annual "booking conferences" where artists, agents and presenters gather together to network, attend professional development session and attend both juried (official and in program) showcases and independent (often self-funded, in hotel ballrooms or rented venues) showcases. Below is a mixture of networks and booking conferences (*not all booking conferences are directly tied to a network)
Provincial Networks: BC Touring Council, Alberta Touring Alliance, Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Council, Ontario Presents, Alberta Dance Alliance
National Networks: Canadian Association for the Performing Arts (CAPACOA), CanDance, Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT)
USA/North American Networks: Western Arts Alliance, California Presenters, Arts Midwest, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase (IPAY), Major University Presenters (MUPS)
International Networks: Visit our International Touring page for more information about international touring opportunities and logistics.
Profile: There are many different levels of Festivals, all of which are very useful for different stages of your production.
Canadian and American Fringe Festivals are lottery based and are not curated. Some of the larger ones have an industry component that brings folks in from out of town, but usually it is local presenters looking for new work.
International Fringe Festivals often have a combination of curated and lottery based work. Some of the curated work will have a full fee, some of it will be a box office split. Often there is an international presenter component. Some of the most well known ones are Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Dublin Fringe.
Emerging Work Festivals across Canada that are a great bridge between Fringe Festivals and a fully presented run. These Festivals also offer either fees or a combination of Fee and box office split. Some notable ones are Summerworks, Revolver Festival, Wildside, and Undercurrents (to name a few). They will sometimes have an industry series and will often have presenters attend.
Performing Arts Festivals exist around the world and usually last two - four weeks. They bring in remarkable work from all over the world and pay professional fees. Sometimes you can negotiate for travel, accommodation and per diem. They often have an industry series or have presenters attend. Some examples are the PuSh Festival, The Hong Kong Arts Festival, The Sydney Festival, Noordezon and Under the Radar.
It is not unusual for shows to have runs at each one of these types of festivals during its development and touring life. In fact, some shows return to international Fringe Festivals multiple years in a row. If you are hoping to producing in a festival, read about Producing in a Festival in Production Management.
There are many elements to life on tour that can be surprising. Here are some tips from folks who have been on tour before.
- Keep baggage tags - know what is in every case and which case has which tag.
- How are you taking care of your team’s wellbeing? What have you as a company set up to care for each other physically and emotionally?
- Do you know how to get a hold of the embassies? Your travel agent?
- Do you have everyone’s medical information?
- Touring is SUPER fun, but you are working, not being a tourist. Make peace with this. Identify one fun thing you want to do that week and be okay with that being the only thing that you get to do.
- Honour your body - sleep when you need to.
- SNACKS. Always have snacks.
- Learning to say hello and thank you and please in multiple languages will go a long way.
- Leave thank you cards. Be grateful.
- Keep in mind the cultural differences you will experience around the work. Research where you are going. What does your team need to know to be respectful of your hosts?