Production Planning

Every production, no matter how large or small, needs to have some thought put into what needs to come together and when for the show to be successful.  Shows of different complexity might have actions happen at different times, but in general the same concepts need to be considered for each production.


Shows of different complexity will naturally work to different timescales, but in general it’s usual to have the core production team (stage manager, lighting, sound, set, costume designers) in place before rehearsals start. For a complex show this could be over 3 months before the performances; for a much smaller show this could be just a few weeks.  Almost all of the other technical sections will be impacted by the set design so this is one of the first things that needs to be agreed with the director, ideally before rehearsals start.

Production meetings are a good way to keep people updated on what each section is up to and to raise and discuss any issues.  It’s advantageous for the production team to have all met before the rehearsals start and to continue to meet regularly through production process.  For a large show, this could be 3 or 4 times, for a smaller show just once could be enough.   The key here is keeping everyone informed of progress and issues and that communication lines stay open.  As much as emails are good, sometimes there’s no substitute for all being in the same room together!

As the show approaches your attention will need to focus more on the activities that need to happen in the theatre.  More information can be found at production week, however the key thing to have is a plan of attack that everyone works to. This is especially important for the tech rehearsal when time and energy are often limited.

One way to do this is to hold a “paper tech” with the tech team in the week prior to the show.  This involves stepping through all the cues and set movements to make sure everyone has the cues in the same place in their script  (eg: does the LX cue go before, as or after the actor enters…) This makes it easier to make changes as you’re all starting from the same baseline.  The paper tech can also be a good opportunity to communicate and agree the plan for the get in and tech rehearsal, where the priority should be on working on safety critical movements first, technical aspects, and finally aesthetic aspects. The tech rehearsal should not become another rehearsal for the director!


While the companies we work with are generally amateur, putting on a show is still a financial undertaking and as such the production companies will likely want to agree a budget with each of the departments within the production team.

In the initial stages this is likely to be an estimate which will need to be firmed up as the show approaches.  Naturally budgets will vary from show to show and the approximate size of the budget available to you will restrict what you can achieve – though that’s not to say you shouldn’t try and convince the producing company to increase your budget to allow you to achieve a better result!

If you’re heading up a team that needs to hire or purchase items (material for costumes, wood for set building moving lights…) you’ll need to do some research as to what’s available from where and at what cost.  Information on some suppliers can be found on the Links page, and you can always ask around either in person or on the discussion list or Facebook for other suggestions.

Going significantly over budget is generally considered rude unless you have good reason and it’s agreed with the company.  It may mean the difference between the show making a profit or a loss.


Building and maintaining a good relationship with your venue can significantly ease your way through a show.  The producing company should have a contact at the venue and it can be advantageous to get in touch with them early on in the production process to understand what they offer you (equipment, staff, space, timing, practical help…) and what you need to provide for them and when (set/lighting plans, risk assessments…).

A venue that’s received what they need when they need it is much more likely to be happy to answer your questions and provide you with hard won nuggets of info about how best to use their space/equipment.

Producing Companies

It is important that you understand how the Penguin Club normally interacts with producing companies – what we expect of them is described here. In particular we expect the producing company to carry our programme advert. We encourage you to consider promoting the Penguin club as it helps us recruit more helpers.


Don’t forget that you’re never doing any role in isolation – theatre is based on teamwork.  If you have questions about what’s required or how to go about it there are loads of people who will be happy to help.

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