How to Start a Theater Company


Come Up with Your Mission

When starting a theater company always begin with understanding what your mission is and how you will be different than the competition. What is that special thing that you will do? Then choose the name. If possible the name itself should instantly convey what your mission is.

Develop Your Organization as a Promotional Package

Now create a plan. How will your theater company do what you want it to do? Do you have financing? Do you have sponsors? Do you have performers and related artists? All questions you need to answer. And the good news is that once you have all your elements in place in an attractive package, this can be your doorway into getting you sponsorship. You can get promotional ideas from websites like How to Get New Customers. Additionally, look at what other theater companies are doing such as those for kids.

Work with Those Connected to Your Mission

If your mission helps an underserved demographic, the more likely it is that you will find a sponsor to work with. Pick someone to ask for money (in exchange for sponsorship advertising) who is somehow connected to your mission. Maybe they know people such as family and friends who needs what your theater company does.

Consider Fiscal Sponsorship

You have the option of becoming a nonprofit. Or, if you don’t want to deal with the long process it takes to become one, your can get fiscal sponsorship from another nonprofit. This is much faster. It means that they will be your umbrella organization and will process donations for you. It will allow you to receive donations.

Look Ahead at Tax Time

Needless to say you should have a bank account in the name of your organization. All donations coming in for your fiscally sponsored organization, should go into this bank account. And you will need to keep very organized, knowing what money went where. This is especially important in conjunction with doing your taxes.

Strategies to Get Donations

Sometimes people will donate to you if you have a special subset program from your organization that is will be attractive to a certain group of possible sponsors.

Be Passionate

Have Passion

And the most important thing of all is that you have passion for what your theater company’s mission is. Break a leg.

Magic Neighbors: Where Have all the Grownups Gone?


The Politicians Governing our Neighborhoods

New York City is my neighborhood. This website, Magic Neighbors at MagicNeighbors.com, was established to have a forum to talk about neighbors and neighborhoods and whether they were “magic” or not. I have to admit that I watched the most recent democratic debate and none of the participants seemed very “magic” to me. In some ways I watched the debate hoping to see stability in the candidates. I have to admit that Manhattan Magician’s consideration of adding a persona, had me feeling a bit out of whack.

Magic Debaters?

In many ways the debaters were trying to define their own ideas of “neighborhood” and “community” and what version they would it promote if elected. And sadly, I have  to say, I wasn’t much impressed with any of the candidates. They weren’t magic to me and each one appeared to have a major achiles heal.

Is Democracy Alive and Well?

In short, I wasn’t proud to be a Democrat. There wasn’t an adult present in the debate and it just seemed like a bunch of 7th graders (or maybe worse) who were saying whatever they thought would play right with the crowd. Seeming to make it up as they went along.

Where Have All the Grownups Gone?

And unfortunately I see this same kind of thing playing out with local politicians in our neighborhood here in Upper Manhattan. Now there’s nothing new with politicians saying what they think you want to hear (especially before an election), but the problem of there not being an adult in the room is pervasive. Advertising to me used to feel as if it had a certain maturity. I think the promotional organization Market Your Journey is in a way making promotion more accountable. They literally leverage your story, your truth.

Are You an Adult?

When I was a kid in a neighborhood in California, it seemed as if there were some actual grown ups around. There appeared to be people who had values and outlooks who were stable and responsible. I believe we need more of this in this day and age. There is the need for people who actually have the maturity to be called an adult.

Events We Do

Of course I strive to be this myself but am not always successful. In our current neighborhood, my partner and I have the goal to give back to the community. This comes with a price though because in the act of giving back, such as literally handing out free things, there seems to be an entitlement on the end of those receiving the free things.

A Crazed Mob

At some events we’ve done, both the young attendees and their parents have manically and in a frenzy come at us as we’re giving away free stuff. It’s like a crazed mob. The parents as manic as the kids. Is this being magic neighbors? Where have all the grownups gone?

The Magic of Magic


A Wide Reach

A big motivator throughout my life has been conjuring. I am enamored with the idea that a magician is a producer, director and actor all in one. That in fact magic is one of the oldest art forms and still is strong today in terms of its wide reach as entertainment. Magic along with wanting to create something fun and educational for our daughter lead to developing Lights Camera Read.

Mentalism

Kids love magic because it affirms their belief in magic, and grownups can love it too, often in more cerebral magic in the form of what is called mentalism. My most recent performance experience as a magician occurred especially in the early days of Inwood Manhattan, ultimately leading to an interest in mentalism.

The Houdini Connection

Although I no longer perform magic professionally, I am putting together a mentalism act, working very little at a time. Part of what keeps me connected to prestidigitation is my involvement with an organization and an assembly (chapter) that Houdini himself ran in the early part of the 20th century for around 10 years.

Houdini as Marketer

Houdni has remained my idol for even the years that I was less focused on magic. This is because not only was he an amazing producer/writer/director/actor (playing the role of “magician”) but he was also an inspirational marketer. This is why he continues to be a household name to this day and eventually was a part of the inspiration for Lights Camera Read years later.

Potter Shows Up Again

People ask me why, if I am still pursuing magic, do I not do the Magic Neighbors library shows as much anymore, and the honest answer is that my daughter has gotten older and her interests have changed. Now that she’s a tween her passions include Minecraft, Dungeons and Dragons and a great respect for Disney as a highly successful business, including their cruises. Oh, and she’s a big fan of Harry Potter.

Magically Speaking

Since my wife and I have been taking our cues off of our daughter’s interests, Harry Potter has been a fun one for me. Although I’ve only seen a few of the movies and have not read a book all the way through, I enjoy my daughter enthusiasm for the topic. Especially of course, “magicially speaking.” And speaking of magic, as of this writing we still live in magical Inwood Manhattan.

Being a Parent

That’s the neat thing about parenting. Although you provide guidance and guidelines, you also allow your child to in a sense reveal who she is. You are driven to help her to become a good person, but you also foster this happening on her own terms.

Magic Neighbors Theater Company in August


Working with Manhattan Kids Guide and Market Your Journey

August for us in terms of running a theater company is pretty slow. So we often look for other activities that are theater oriented to fill the time. What we’ve been working on this year is a marketing plan. Two other websites that we’ve partnered with are “Manhattan Kids Guide” and “Market You Journey.”

Putting Magic into Theater

Both of our partner sites have different reasons to want to help us develop promotions when things kick in again for us in September. Manhattan Kids Guide has long been a suporter of ours because our primary audience is children. Children, especially younger ones, still believe in magic. And magic is one of our primary components because our founder is a magician.

New Website “How to Get New Customers”

One of the marketing ideas we’ve been working on is expanding what we do to a national level. A source of information that has been helpful to us is the website and team at How to Get New Customers. A lot of the same techniques they use we are finding that we are able to use as well.

Input Always Helps

Even during this time off members still communicate with each other and lots of good ideas are brought to the table as has happened in past years. Additionally, we love the input that we get from Manhattan Kids Guide and Market Your Journey.

Budget Challenges

As is often the case for community organizations, having a budget is an ongoing issue. For the most part these days we do not have anything coming in as we did during the Lights Camera Read days.

Making a Difference in the Community

As a theater our mission is to make a difference in the community using a format that is part magic show and part storyline. The format we generally use is that Manhattan Magician reads from his magic book as the storyteller and the rest of the cast act out these stories.

Looking Forward to 2020

We believe that 2020 is going to be our best year ever because our expectations are in check and we realize that what it’s all about is impacting kids and maybe even have some of them develop a love of theater from seeing our performance. With the support of “Manhattan Kids Guide” there’s nothing we can’t do!

You are Always Welcome

We also open this process up to you. If you have anything you would like to share with us we would love to hear from you.

Happy Summer Everyone!

More on Harry Houdini as a Marketer

Learn more about how Houdini put a spin on being a Ghost Buster.

Hello Fellow ArtisticPreneur!

When performing with the Magic Neighbors Troop I sometimes get asked “How did the group start?” And aside from my desire for making a difference in the community through entertainment I was also heavily influenced by my idol Harry Houdini. One of the most important aspects of what Houdini achieved in his short lifetime (he died at age 52) was his ability to market himself.

Houdini is Back

About a year ago we did a newsletter on magician/escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) regarding his uncanny ability with advertising/publicity and ultimately as an ArtisticPreneur. As we described in a past edition he was a master at getting publicity by doing publicity stunts like hanging upside down in a straight jacket in the middle of a town square (possibly his best known stunt).

Ghost Busters

We are revisiting that topic, this time to look at the approach to promotion that Houdini used later in his life after shedding his more physically challenging routines. Instead we going to look at Harry Houdini the Ghost Buster. The difference between Houdini and the Ghost Busters of cinema fame is that he busted not the ghosts by the fraudulent mediums/psychics who falsely claimed they could cause spirits to rise from the dead.

It All Started with an Idea

Houdini made the claim that he could imitate with trickery any effect that those with so called sixth sense could do. This was a brilliant move on his part because he was able to join up with scientific organizations and even offer a reward for any medium or psychic who could do with her or his “powers” something Houdini couldn’t replicate using magic tricks from his conjurer’s toolbox.

Publicity Generating

This approach won for him being constantly in the papers, as well as intrigued the general public. Plus, as a tie-in he was able to offer demonstrations of ghostly effects for his audiences of his live shows. Why do I bring this up? Because the topic is still relevant today. As I type this on my mini laptop I am currently sitting on the floor outside of my hotel room at a family resort while our room is being cleaned..

Reality?

Earlier today along with my wife and our 10 year old daughter I was watching  television in our hotel room and discovered that much of the content as we flipped through the channels was about people trying to catch apparitions on camera. These so called “reality shows” consisted of bad acting and the no light camera setting that makes everything look greenish and strange.

What is the Point I am Making?

Nobody ever seemed to catch the ghost on camera unless it was really hard to see or was through testimonials of supposed witnesses. But incredibly these shows are successful because there is interest in them.
So am I saying that magicians should try to make a name for themselves through revealing mediums’ tricks of the psychic’s trade? Not at all.

S.A.M. Meeting

In fact, recently at a meeting of the Society of American Magician’s PA1 (the chapter that Houdini was once the president of) I overheard a conversation between two magicians discussing the downside of revealing the secrets of fake psychics, both because it broke the conjurer’s code but also because there have been lawsuits by mediums/psychics against magicians for taking away their bread and butter.

The Challenge

No, I do not mean one should “out” psychics and other paranormal fakers. Rather, I am challenging all of us (myself included) to think of compelling stories that we can tell that will excite audiences and build visibility. This is an important concept that my brother Mark and I have been utilizing for years.  Think of it this way, Harry Houdini told stories decades ago that still have a tremendous impact and he didn’t even have social media!

The Magic Neighbors Theater Company Presents 7 Blog Posts About ArtisticPreneurs

ArtisticPreneurs
In this special edition of the Magic Neighbors we explore 7 blog posts about ArtisticPreneurs.

Magic Neighbors Presents

Although we’ve never said it in print, as a theater company that performs magic stories for kids, we consider ourselves to be ArtisticPreneurs. Hence this week we are presenting 7 blogs posts about ArtisticPreneurs from all over the web. Enjoy!

The Push by DigiComArts to Develop a Source of eBooks for ArtisticPreneurs

DigiComArts is probably best known as having co-produced (along with Video Film Web and the Platinum PIAs) the New York Public Library Digital Media Workshop Series. DigiComArts has been helping considerably with the push to get Art Gush going as an instant digital download provider of eBooks made especially for ArtisticPreneurs. An example of an ArtisticPreneur eBook (and among the topics of the latest DigiComArts post) is a work in progress publication entitled “Exclusively for ArtisticPreneurs: How to Get More New Customers, Clients and Fans in 5 Easy Steps.”

DigiRefer Seeks More ArtisticPreneurs

Also in ArtisticPreneur news is that the new freelance website called DigiRefer (as in “Digitally Refering”) is actively searching for more ArtisticPreneurs who have Digital Marketing skills to help other ArtisticPreneurs with their promotional efforts.

DocuMystery Offers up for ArtisticPreneur Filmmakers a No Budget Method

Maybe you’re an ArtisticPreneur who is interested in making feature length movies on no budget? DocuMystery covers some basics to help you with that journey.

The Entertainment Entrepreneurship Website has a Post About Celebrities

Ever wondered how some celebrities make extra money? Why they become ArtisticPreneurs of course! In this brief article, Entertainment Entrepreneurship explores how some famous folks have an ArtisticPreneurial approach!

Harry Potter Fan Club NYC Talks About Harry Potter on Broadway!

If you’re an ArtisticPreneur who lives in or visits New York City, then you’ve got to see the new two night play on Broadway entitled “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” In some ways the success of the Harry Potter franchise is a lesson, especially for introverted ArtisticPreneurs, that you can be shy (as it is reported that author Ms. Rowling is) and still make your mark.

Inwood Manhattan, a Place for NY Up and Coming ArtisticPreneurs to Live

Those of you who live in and around New York City have probably noticed that rents in Manhattan are quite high. But thankfully there is still one area in NY, NY that is affordable. It’s called Inwood Manhattan.

Lights Camera Read and its ArtisticPreneur Introverted Blogger

J. K. Rowling isn’t the only introverted (possibly) writer around. So is, it seems, the main blogger at Lights Camera Read. This young woman, whose identity is withheld, opens up about being a shy ArtisticPreneur and blogger.

As We Close

So that’s the latest ArtisticPreneur news and blogs we have to offer. If you have an idea for a blog post that is about ArtisticPreneurs, feel free to reach out to us!

Magic Neighbors Theater for Kids and Other Theater Companies Across the Boroughs

Pied Piper Children's Theatre
Pied Piper Children’s Theatre is a beloved staple of the Inwood Washington Heights neighborhoods of Manhattan.Theater in Unexpected Places

We got a great response from the post we did last time, so we’re going to do something similar. The former blog entry here at the Magic Neighbors Theater Company for kids, was a look at theater companies – both for grownups and kids – that are in our neighborhood which is Inwood Manhattan. These companies, like ours, would often be performing their work in environments that are usually not associated with theater. For example most of our shows have been in various branches of the New York Public Library. This same idea can be found in another Inwood Manhattan kids theater company. And this company’s unusual place to perform is in Inwood’s Holy Trinity Church. Here’s an excerpt from our coverage from last time as seen on their FaceBook page:

“The Pied Piper Children’s Theatre is committed to creating a non-threatening environment where children and adolescents explore their creativity, learn new theatrical and musical skills, and develop artistic values such as self-discipline, teamwork, commitment and leadership; helping them excel in all aspects of daily life and in their future professions.”

New York City Children’s Theater

Stepping outside of our neighborhood in Inwood Manhattan there are many other theater companies for kids. One of these is New York City Children’s Theater:

“New York Children’s Theater is a nonprofit organization (formerly Making Books Sing) that creates original, entertaining and enriching theater for young audiences and adults to enjoy together. We believe a city as culturally rich as New York needs a children’s theater that produces high-quality original productions and develops robust arts-in-education programs, serving children in all communities across the five boroughs.”

Brooklyn Children’s Theatre

Stepping further out from our Northern Manhattan location and going clear to the other side, and even to a different borough, we find ourselves at Brooklyn Children’s Theater. They are very mission driven as can be seen here:

“We especially seek the participation of students who have a gift to give the art of theatre who would not otherwise have theater or performance opportunities, due to economic or cultural barriers or lack of resources in their schools and communities. BCT fulfills an underfunded need in which all students are welcome, regardless of their economic situation. No child has ever been refused for an inability to pay.”

Why Kids Theater?

Great character building and literacy skills come from kids performing theater. It can be quite an adventure for a child to grapple with all the phases that a production requires. And it’s an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Inwood Manhattan Based Theater Companies

Moose Hall Theatre Company
From the Moose Hall Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, left to right: Zack Gafin (Page), J.B. Alexander (Bardolph), Kathryn Fray (Hostess Quickly), Richard Henry Scofield (Falstaff).

Magic Neighbors Theater for Kids

In addition to the Magic Neighbors Theater for Kids (established 2009), Inwood Manhattan based theater companies include Moose Hall Theatre Company, Pied Piper Children’s Theater and Up Theater Company. Of these companies, Magic Neighbors is the only one that exclusively performs at New York Public Libraries all around the city and boroughs in branches that include Inwood, Morrisania, Grand Central and Columbus. In fact, because M.N.’s headquarters is located in Inwood, whenever they go on a performing arts library tour they always make certain to launch it at the Inwood Manhattan Library Branch. Magic Neighbors is run by a dad, a mom and their young daughter.

Moose Hall Theatre Company

Moose Hall Theatre Company is headed by Ted Minos and is known for providing performance opportunities since the year 2000 for professional performing artists of various cultures and origins, particularly for those who would not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in contemporary or classical productions. The Inwood Shakespeare Festival (ISF) was conceived and developed by Ted Minos as a way to bring theatre to the greater Inwood community.

The Pied Piper Children’s Theatre

The Pied Piper Children’s Theatre is described as the community theater ministry of Holy Trinity Church Inwood. The program is offered to children and adolescents ages 5 to 18, regardless of race, color, religious belief, or gender. The Pied Piper Children’s Theatre is committed to creating a non-threatening environment where children and adolescents explore their creativity, learn new theatrical and musical skills, and develop artistic values such as self-discipline, teamwork, commitment and leadership; helping them excel in all aspects of daily life and in their future professions.

Up Theater Company

UP Theater Company offers fully produced professional theater to its community in Northern Manhattan, and develops new plays – employing many theater artists who live in Inwood. Despite their parochial concerns, UP is no “community theater.” They eschew crowd-pleasing chestnuts in favor of daring new work that challenges its audience’s preconceived notions about what they think they think.

Manhattan Magician Joins the Society of American Magicians

Manhattan Magician Joins the Society of American Magicians
Manhattan Magician Joins the Society of American Magicians

Magic Neighbors was founded in 2009 by Lights Camera Read. And from the very beginning, the theater projects Magic Neighbors took on had to do with, what else, magic. So in keeping with the tradition of celebrating magic, Magic Neighbors’ founder, who is known by his stage name Manhattan Magician, recently joined the Society of American Magicians. Manhattan Magician was a professional conjurer in his early years which ultimately lead to him becoming a web designer, digital marketer and blogger. He was deeply impacted by Harry Houdini who he not only considers to be the greatest prestidigitator who ever lived, but also a brilliant marketer. The evidence of Houdini’s ability to promote himself can be found by the fact that we are still talking about him today even though he has been dead since Halloween, 1926. One of the reasons that Manhattan Magician joined S.A.M. is because after the summer break is over he will be auditioning to become a member of the New York City chapter that was once presided over by Houdini himself. This NYC based enclave is known as being Parent Assembly 001, the first of many all across the world.