Performances in parks
A performance in the park gives artists exposure to new audiences and gives the community a chance to engage with the arts in the great outdoors. Audiences will cheer when you pull off creative performances in an unexpected place like the park. Here’s how you can make it happen.
Performances in parks bring the arts to communities. Before you mount your first production in the park, talk to local artists and residents to determine what kind of performance will satisfy your neighbourhood. Is it a modern dance show? Shakespeare? Opera? A Farce? There are plenty of arts organizations in city centres that may be able to help with funding, organization, and if you plan early enough, there are government grants you may be eligible for. Here’s how to make it happen:
All the world’s a stageGo for a walk through the park and consider the best place to hold a performance. Look for a place for the audience to sit (ideally on an incline so smaller audience members can see), a nearby bathroom, a place to welcome your audience and take tickets/accept donations, a green room for the actors when they aren’t on stage, an energy source to plug in your lights, a storage space for your lights and concessions after the performance, etc. Take note of the established space opportunities and be ready to get creative if something is missing. Some parks have existing stages and amphitheatres that exist just for this kind of purpose.
Be not afraid of greatnessAn outdoor performance in a public space needs special supplies that an indoor performance does not require. Although many parks have public restrooms, they may be closed by the time your audience needs to use them. Some park theatre companies have found success with port-a-potties or making arrangements with local businesses. Lighting is another important supply to consider. If your performance happens in the evening, the sun will go down and you will need to consider how to light your actors. The sound design is also important to think about. There will likely be city sounds interfering with your performance. Also, most park permits require you to note if your event includes amplified noise, so be sure to share this with your municipality’s parks department.
When shall we three meet againThe most successful productions involve the community as much as possible. In Shakespeare in the Ruff’s first season, they produced Two Gentlemen of Verona which, famously includes a dog. The company auditioned neighbourhood dogs to be a part of the show. Not only were the dogs excellent additions to the cast, this formed lasting relationships between Shakespeare in the Ruff and the local dog owners that still endures today. Depending on the creativity of your neighbourhood, you may be able to find appropriate opening acts for before the show starts. Acts like local bands will not only prepare your audience for the production but will also bring people who are fans of the band to your play.
The play’s the thingA park is a public space. Although you will have a permit, there will still be noise from the park, and bystander interruptions (although hopefully, few). It is also important that you don’t do anything that could be misinterpreted as a real danger in the park. Consider making tickets Pay-What-You-Can (PWYC) so as to not exclude any community members who want to watch. It’s also next to impossible to control who watches and who doesn’t as you’re in an open space, so embrace the openness. You may be surprised at the kinds of people who will come to your show and be prepared to have the sounds of dogs barking and babies crying during the production. Be sure to have a rain plan for your performance days as the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
Tips & Bonus Ideas
Find ways to include emerging artists from the community
Build-in an after school performance program for school kids in the community
Invite a local band to open the show