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 can also continue the life of the work, and sustain the livelihood of everyone on your team for longer than one run.
Keep in mind that there are lots of questions specific to your production that need to be answered before it can go on tour. Generally, however, for any show you want to answer YES to all of the following questions before deciding to take it on tour:
- Are all the production elements that are unique to my show (e.g. set pieces, costumes, equipment, etc.) easily transportable?
- Do I have touring/royalty agreements in place with all the creative team members 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 (the Presenter) has booked you to perform your show in their space (or in a space they provide), and they are paying you a guaranteed fee and/or a split of the box office to do so. 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 (BC) and Artists Legal Advice Service (ON) for templates and guidance. No detail is too small to be written in a contract. This will include but is 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 to put together a Presenter Package.
Self-presenting usually means that 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 performance space 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; this is usually a calculated decision to fill out the tour schedule (e.g. taking advantage of days when 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: Regional theatres usually produce a full season and most often have Artistic Directors, longer runs, purpose-built venues, and subscribers.
Regional Theatre Examples: Arts Club Theatre Company, Persephone Theatre, Tarragon Theatre
Profile: PACs are also known as Road Houses. They usually have a combination of rentals and presentations, featuring shows for one to three nights. Often, they present a mix of genres, they are used to working with agents (although that isn't a rule), and they are civic or university funded (but not always), which usually means they have a broad 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 and touring alliances, meaning groups of presenters who will often work together to bring shows 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 accordingly, so the larger houses pay a bit more). Some of these networks host annual "booking conferences" where artists, agents, and presenters gather together to network, and they attend professional development sessions, juried showcases (official and in program), and independent showcases (often self-funded, in hotel ballrooms or rented venues). Below is a mixture of networks and booking conference examples (note: not all booking conferences are tied directly to a network):
Provincial Network Exampless: BC Touring Council, Alberta Touring Alliance, Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Council, Ontario Presents, Alberta Dance Alliance
National Network Examples: Canadian Association for the Performing Arts (CAPACOA) , CanDance, Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT)
USA/North American Network Examples: Western Arts Alliance, California Presenters, Arts Midwest, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase (IPAY) , Major University Presenters (MUPS)
International Network Examples: Visit our International Touring page for more information about international touring opportunities and logistics.
Profile: There are many different kinds and levels of festivals, all of which are extremely useful for different stages of your production.
Canadian and American Fringe Festivals are lottery-based and not curated. Some of the larger Fringe Festivals have an industry component that brings folks in from out of town, but usually they attract 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 receive a full fee, and some of it will get a box office split. Often there is an international presenter component. Some of the most well-known International Fringe Festivals are The Edinburgh Fringe, The Adelaide Fringe, and The Dublin Fringe.
Emerging Work Festivals exist across Canada and they provide a great bridge between Fringe Festival presentations and a fully-presented run. Emerging Work Festivals usually offer fees, or a combination of fee and a box office split. Some notable festivals include Summerworks, Revolver Festival, Wildside Festival, 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 to four weeks. They bring in remarkable work from all over the world and pay professional fees. Sometimes you can negotiate for travel, accommodation, and a per diem. They often have an industry series and 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 produce 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 questions and tips for you 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 well-being? What have you as a company set up to care for each other physically and emotionally?
- If out of country, do you know how to get a hold of the embassies? Your travel agent?
- Do you have everyone’s medical information?
- Honour your body, and sleep when you need to.
- SNACKS. Always have snacks.
- 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 you get to do.
- 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 may experience around the work. Research where you are going. What does your team need to know to be respectful of your hosts?