When is the best time to produce your show? An important consideration when planning your event is what other cultural events are happening at the same time. Is it beneficial for you to schedule your production during the Fringe festival, or immediately before or after it?
Do research into other performances that may be opening or running at the same time as your production. Understand that if there is a higher density of productions, that might require more attention on your part to let audiences know about your show.
You may also want to consider culturally significant dates, religious holidays, and new years when planning your event. You can find a list of Culturally Significant Dates and New Years for 2023 here.
In Toronto, theatre critic Glenn Sumi has created a database for Toronto theatre listings on his blog. Now Playing Toronto also lists events. Visit the Toronto Theatre Zone Facebook group for more independent offerings. A volunteer created Toronto Theatre Spreadsheet is regularly updated every season and posted to this group.
Critical Paths for producing theatre
Producing theatre is a lot of work. The common reality is that it will require a superhuman effort to mount your production on minimal resources. In order to have the best experience possible, it is important to lay out a clear timeline. Using the CRITICAL PATH METHOD is a good way to manage your time and remain focused on essential tasks through the months leading up to opening night and the last moments of strike.
The Critical Path Method
Critical Path Method is an important concept in basic project management. It is essentially a sequenced timeline of activities in a given project that highlights the core tasks. It is used to map out important tasks within a project and estimate the duration of the entire endeavour.
Every project, regardless of the scale, has core tasks that are essential to the project’s completion. Completing these core tasks don’t necessarily make a successful project, but they are the bare requirements to consider a project accomplished. For example: hiring actors and rehearsing the play are core tasks, while designing a beautiful Front-Of-House display is not. The sequence of these core tasks and their duration will make up your Critical Path.
The method of building a Critical Path seems more complicated and technical than it really is. Doing this work at the beginning of the planning phase will save you time and resources down the road.
Step 1: List your activities
|Task ID||Task||Estimated Task Duration (Days)|
|B||Secure Rights to the play||5|
|F||Rehearse the Play||21|
|G||Create and Print Handbills||5|
Choose which activities apply to your project. This list of activities will form the basis for your Critical Path so make sure it is thorough. This will help you decide what scale of timeline you will be working with for your project (days/weeks/months).
Here is a list of Activities to get you started:
Download or view PDF of Critical Path: List of things to consider
Step 2: Identify all “Dependencies”
Any project has two types of tasks
- Dependent Task: Tasks that can only be started once other tasks have been completed
- Concurrent Task: Tasks that can be started independent of others and can be performed at the same time as other tasks
In producing theatre, tasks will likely be dependent on at least one other task being accomplished. In the example below, nothing else can happen until the rights to the play have been secured. Once that has happened you can start the process of hiring actors and building the set at the same time. Likewise, once the actors have been hired, you can rehearse the play, buy costumes, and create the playbills concurrently.
|Task ID||Task||Estimated Task Duration (Days)||What Needs to Happen First?|
|B||Secure Rights to the play||5||A (Start)|
|C||Hire Actors||5||B (Securing rights)|
|D||Build Set||10||B (Securing rights)|
|E||Buy costumes||10||C (Hiring actors)|
|F||Rehearse The Play||21||C (Hiring actors)|
|G||Create and Print Playbills||5||C (Hiring actors)|
|H||Technical Rehearsals||3||D,F (built set, rehearsals)|
|I||Dress Rehearsal||1||H, E (tech and costumes)|
|J||Opening Night||1||I, G (dress rehearsal and playbills)|
Step 3: Draw a diagram
Draw out a diagram that maps out each activity and the order that they need to be accomplished. This is a great way to visualize the Dependent Tasks and the Concurrent Tasks of your project.
In the diagram below, the letter represents the task and the number represents the amount of time (in days) it will take to complete that task. Time in this diagram works from left to right and the small black arrows indicate the task that needs to be completed before the one it leads to.
Step 4: Add up the time required for the critical path.
For each task in your diagram, write down the start and end time. The start time of the first task starts at “0". The end time is the task's duration (in days). The second task's start time is the end time of the first task. The end time adds on the duration of the second task.
For example, using the Tasks from Step 2:
(start time) TASK ID (end time)
(0) A (0)
(0) B (5)
(5) C (10)
(5) D (15) (because D can begin once B is completed D's start time is the end time of B.)
(10) E (20)
(10) F (21)
(31) H (34) (because H can only begin once D & F are completed, H's start time is the end time of whichever task would be completed last.)
Do this for all the activities in the sequence. The pathway that has the longest time frame is your Critical Path. Use this to build backwards from any fixed dates that apply to your project (ie. Move-in to venue, Opening night, Closing) This information can be used in conjunction with other project management tools such as the Gantt Chart.
- Watch the video below to see the Critical Path method explained in real time:
- The website Workamajig has put together a comprehensive explanation for the critical path method if you still have questions.