How to Host a Play in Your Garage
by Sheila Path McMahon
This weekend, Jay and I had the wonderful experience of hosting a play in our garage. If you have the chance to be a host, I would highly recommend it. I don’t know how many options there really are out there, but if you live in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, you are lucky enough to be close to a theatre company that has just started doing a “garage tour” this year.
It just so happens to be my absolutely favorite group, “Off Leash Area,” whose website you can check out at http://www.offleasharea.org. If you have read my blog before, you may have read my review of “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” a few years ago. Same people.
The show that they are performing for this year’s garage tour is “A Gift for Planet BX63,” which they developed a few years ago with playwright Max Sparber, who also wrote Ivan. It’s a cool show. It’s just under an hour, there are three actors who present a story which makes you think about the consequences of having ‘stuff,’ as well as our place in the universe and what makes people happy (or not so happy…). It is spacey and cool, the set and props are interesting, and it is very well acted.
Probably the most important step toward hosting the show was speaking up and volunteering, and then following through with emails to the group. I don’t think it’s too early to send out an email today if you seriously think you might want to host the show next year. If you’re like me, if you don’t send an email right away when you are thinking about it, you will find yourself remembering too late later. If you, however, aren’t a horrible, forgetful procrastinator, then you could probably email them in the spring. They are touring 8 garages this year, and are hoping to do 12 next year, so I’d say your chances are pretty good.
Once I talked with Jennifer Ilse from OLA and expressed an interest, we arranged a time for them to come out and see my garage. They measured the space, and we talked about how much area needed to be cleared out. I had a garage sale to get rid of some things just to be sure that I would have enough room. It was good motivation to have the sale – I’ve been talking about a garage sale for several years, but only did it the weekend before the show! That was nice, too, because I was able to hand out fliers to the people who came to the garage sale.
One thing I would recommend as a host is to try to see the show before the weekend that you host. OLA did have a reception for the last dress rehearsal, which I unfortunately had to miss, and I think it would have made a difference for me in telling people why they should come to my garage to see a play. (Beside the fact that it’s just a flipping cool idea…) I didn’t have a great grasp of what the play would be like before I saw it, although I was confident that people would like it.
Another thing that’s important is having a space for the actors to use as a ‘green room.’ That is, a room where they can change and warm up and put on makeup etc. It worked out well for us because I have an extra room with a vanity, but I didn’t even think about it until the day they were doing the first performance. I would have arranged it a little better for them, but I think it worked out.
Probably the most important task in hosting is to get the word out. I contacted the Sun-Post, who put the play into the calendar, which was very nice of them. There was also an article in the Star Tribune. I also invited people on Facebook and in person. OLA provided postcards for advertising, which I brought around to some local businesses. I wish I had dropped some off at the library, as I had planned, but I completely forgot. Maybe taking notes is a good idea. Yeah, I’ll do that next year! OLA also provided a cool sandwich board for my yard, with a sign saying which nights the show would be and where to call for reservations.
As far as other work, there wasn’t too much. OLA did all of the set up as far as putting together the set and the risers. I did set out some treats for people after the show and invited people to stay and meet the cast. Paul and Jennifer do this when they have a show in their garage, and it’s really nice. I think people enjoy meeting the cast after a show.
All in all, we had a great experience hosting. It was fun, the cast and crew couldn’t be nicer people, and it just feels good to provide a space for people to come together as a community and see some world class art! If you’re thinking about it for next year, I highly recommend it. If not, at least be sure to go see the show!
This year’s tour is ongoing at ‘press time’ for my blog – check out OLA’s website to see where you can go catch the show! Maybe Jay and I will see you there! (Yes, twice wasn’t enough for me, we are going to see it at someone else’s garage, too!)