#318 – Sarah Marchand

Launched in 2016, alma matters productions began with a single goal: To amplify underrepresented stories through the power of theatre. Fast forward five years later, and we have now supported thirteen new works that focus on intersectional feminism, cultural identity, and mental health. We proudly label ourselves as a grassroots company, which has built a community of artists eager to be the future voices of Canada’s performing arts industry. Together, we have showcased award-winning plays, built networks, and provided paid training opportunities for emerging talent.
To support Fly Away Home, our inaugural 2022 season, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-alma-matters-productions-first-season

SELECT CREDITS: Winter of ’88, co-producer (Nowadays Theatre, NNNNN); Love at 752, producer (ft. on CBC); Swim Team, producer (Nowadays Theatre, NNNN); Drink of Choice, Producer (Toronto Fringe 2019 Patron’s Pick), Cooking for Grief, Producer (Vancouver Fringe Festival)

The Artistic Director, Sarah Marchand, is secretly quite shy, despite friendly exteriors. As she continues to learn, Sarah is passionate about making indie theatre producing more accessible: if someone as bad with numbers like her can become a producer, you can too.

www.sarahmarchand.com
Twitter: @sarahamarchand
Instagram: @sarahamarchand

www.almamattersproductions.com
Twitter: @almattersprod
Instagram: @almattersprod

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TRANSCRIPT

Phil Rickaby 

Welcome to Stageworthy, I’m Phil Rickaby, the host of this podcast. This is episode 318. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider supporting it. There are a few ways you can do that. First, you can rate the show on Apple podcasts or Spotify. And doing that really does help zoo people to find the show and bumps that show up in the algorithm. And if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review. If you want to keep up with what’s going on stage where the end my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to philrickaby.com/subscribe. If you want to leave a tip for the show, you can drop some change in the virtual tip jar, I will put a link to that in the show notes. I also have a Patreon in support of this show. Stageworthy is a one person operation. So not only do I arrange the guests, I edit the show I promote the show and create the music and I also shoulder all of the financial responsibilities of keeping the show going. So your support would mean the world for a monthly subscription of just $5. I’ll take you behind the scenes on the podcast, do regular q&a sessions and even present regular exclusive interactive conversations for subscribers. You can find the Patreon at patreon.com/stage or the pod but one of the most important things that you can do even more important than reviews or ratings or or even financial support is to share it on social media. Even a retweet helps. You can find Stageworthy on Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with the archive of all 318 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com and if you want to find me you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @PhilRickaby. And as I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is actor and producer Sarah Marchand. She is also the artistic director of alma maters productions who launched their first full season this year. Sarah is one of those powerhouse people who just get shit done. And definitely someone that you should know. As an actor, producer, Sarah has gotten a lot of questions about producing theatre. And so we’re answering questions in this episode. There’s a lot here for anyone interested in getting started in producing but also a look behind the curtain for those who might want to see a little bit about how the salad gets made. Last time we talked producing was a new thing for you.

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah,

Phil Rickaby 

you’ve been producing for a little while now. Yeah. How do you feel about being a producer?

Sarah Marchand 

It’s a great question. It’s funny, the more I do it, the less I know about it. What is that Socrates quote, the more I know, the less I know. It’s funny when I started, I think there’s this kind of beginner ignorance, you just think, Oh, I’ve done this once and it was successful. So I know exactly what I’m doing. And then you realise the nuances that come with every different project that you produce the different personalities that come into play. And there’s so much to learn about producing. So on the one hand, I feel more confident just because I’ve certainly build up my resume since we last spoke, but at the same time, I’ve realised there’s so much more to learn and it’s it’s exciting actually, rather than feeling intimidated by that I’m excited to learn more.

Phil Rickaby 

I’ve got kind of a really healthy way to look at it though like to think like to always be learning rather than think that you’ve you now know it all or you know enough because believe I feeling like you still have something to learn every day is a way to both keep yourself interested. But also keep you a person without getting too insufferable.

Sarah Marchand 

Totally, totally, I think it comes it stems from insecurity when you think you know everything, because if someone offers you a suggestion, or if you are in fact wrong with something, you aren’t confident enough in your role to say I made a mistake. And so you go in, I’ve done this before I know what I’m doing when surprised, you might not actually know what you’re doing. Whereas now I have done it enough where I can own up to my mistakes, or at least take constructive feedback a little better now. So I can say thank you for that suggestion. I want to work on that as you be better for my next project.

Phil Rickaby 

You know, I find something similar about I find something similar about writing in that. I, every time I sit down to write a new play or something it’s different There is no one way that I that I have ever approached. And anytime I try to repeat what I did the last time it doesn’t work. So it’s like you just have to, I have to stay open to what does this play want?

Sarah Marchand 

Oh, such a good question. And, you know, that’s, that’s so great because I think the biggest misconception that artists have with producers or producing is that it’s not creative. It is so creative producing, it’s just a different type of art form that a lot of actors specifically aren’t used to. And so there isn’t just a tried and true approach. I’ve found some things that have worked for me for each project. But there is always something new that I learned there’s always something different ways we can tackle certain challenges. And it’s true, I should start asking that what does this project need? How can I lift this project? Yeah, it’s great.

Phil Rickaby 

It’s such a it’s such a an important question, because no project needs to needs the exact same as the last one. And again, that’s that’s like, for me, sometimes I have to go through when I’m creating something, like three or four different ways of writing. Right, before I figure it out, probably I should plan better, maybe because that doesn’t work. So when you’re producing, you have to like have sort of an idea. So you can ask the question of like, what is his play mean? Need, but writing is is a little bit more haphazard for me?

Sarah Marchand 

Sure. I mean, yeah, you can only plan so much. But there is I’ve learned now to just accept it doesn’t matter how much I plan, there’s always like shits gonna hit the fan your show type always. Ready?

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah. And you know, it’s funny because the this time of, of the pandemic has really sort of reinforced the fact that that, as theatre creators, and producers, and everybody else, we all have to be ready to change. We don’t know what’s coming.

Sarah Marchand 

Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s something we’ve all kind of grown accustomed to. I mean, the last time we spoke, we were trying to get a project off the ground since before COVID, it was even a thing. And we just had to keep re adapting and changing. So I am grateful now because I can have a bit more of a flexible attitude. Before I even get kind of stuck like, well, this is what we planned. This was the contract. This was what we wanted to do. I can’t handle I can’t handle obstacles, whereas now I’m like, Well, okay, how do we reshift and refocus?

Phil Rickaby 

I think that’s, like, that’s the skill that I think a lot of times in the theatre world, we’ve kind of missed up until now, because we had no choice now. But it wasn’t that many years ago, where some people would just the answer to the question was, well, this is the way we do it. Yes. Yeah. That’s not a good answer.

Sarah Marchand 

Which is also weird, because theatre is always theatre should be about bending the rules. So why are we so why were we so stuck in these rigid ways of doing theatre? Let’s be more open minded, and I think we are now. So that’s encouraging. And it’s exciting, actually,

Phil Rickaby 

I really like to hope so. But I do feel like there are some people who are like, Oh, thank goodness, this. We’re opening theatres again, we can stop trying new things. And it feels like, like, like, some people just can’t wait to go back to the way it was. And we can forget all of this stuff we’ve learned.

Sarah Marchand 

Right? I feel bad for those people. Yeah, but it’s true. You’re right. Not everyone has that same kind of open mindedness. But you know, at least for me, and the people I’ve kept in touch with. We’re excited about these new opportunities and these new ideas, and there’s always going to be that regardless, there’s always going to be the more conservative theatre practitioners and sure, they hold a certain place in the community. And then there’s people who are more forward thinking. Hmm,

Phil Rickaby 

yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Couple of things I wanted to ask you about. First off, I know that the name of your production company, Alma Mater, Alma matters Productions is really important to you. Could you tell me about where the name comes from? And tell me a little bit about the origin story of the company?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, um, so I moved to Toronto in 2014 for my master’s degree, which was fun, but was not very useful in obtaining employment. But that’s another story. And one thing I remember learning in class was our professors always said don’t ever start a theatre company. It’ll be financial suicide, and it’s just not a good idea. There are so many companies don’t do it. So I kind of had this mentality drilled into my head, okay, Sarah will not do a theatre company. But the more theatre I was seeing, and the more work I was doing, I thought, Yes, I am an actor and I want to do my own work. But I want to work with people too. And it just felt too, felt too loose. It felt too. There wasn’t enough stability. When I kept just doing these random projects, I thought I need a way to bring people together and have a kind of a solidified name to do this. So at the time that this was happening, my grandmother Her name was is Alma. And she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000. So when she first got the diagnosis, doctors told her she had Max Max five years to live, so she would pass away by the year 2005. My grandmother ended up living until 2017. And I truly, truly believe that she lived that much longer because of the supportive community that she had. She was so well loved by my mom, by her husband, my grandfather. And I think when we take care of people, it really helps helps to create a safer, more thriving community. And so I was so inspired by this. I also liked the idea that alma mater translates to nourishing mother, it’s the Latin translation of translation for that. So I was really interested in exploring female works, works by women, for women. So it just seemed to kind of tie together nicely for me. And another inspiration was in Portuguese, the word Alma means soul. So it just felt right that my grandmother at this time, you know, she was in her decline at this point. But all of these themes and ideas were coming together. And I love that my work as an artist was translating outside of just my creative world and into my daily life. And so I thought, I want to foster a community that does something similar to the way that my grandmother spent her final days. And so I’m all about support and creating a positive environment so that we can all thrive I’m really about process rather than product. I think process is everything to production.

Phil Rickaby 

One of the other things isn’t, Alma Mater, how people refer to their former school.

Sarah Marchand 

That’s right, yeah. Um, another little side note is I realised early on I’m I was dyslexic. And so I wasn’t the best in certain subjects. You know, I was good in drama and English, but science and math and all these more technical courses I really, really struggled with. And because I, I just had this this hunger for knowledge. Even though I did have this learning disability, I was so eager to keep learning. And so I really applied myself and I had a really great network of people who helped me to learn and it’s because of that I was able to even get a master’s degree, you know, sometimes it’s easy to say, this person has dyslexia, like, there’s no way she can pursue academic studies. And I was able to do that, because I was passionate about it, and people were able to believe in me and support me. So that’s also tied into it.

Phil Rickaby 

Can I ask were you were you diagnosed early with dyslexia?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, um, my mom was diagnosed much later in her adult years. And she was noticing patterns with both myself and my younger brother. And I was really struggling with school. So she was like, I think you might have what I have. And sure enough, when I got tested, they were like, oh, yeah, this kid’s super dyslexic. So yeah, yeah.

Phil Rickaby 

I was I was, it took me a long time. They didn’t give me a name. I only recently found out that it has a name dyscalculia. Where I, I’m bad at math. But that’s because numbers don’t make sense to me. And the way that numbers interact with each other, don’t don’t work with me. But I it took a long time for a diagnosis of that I think I was a might have been 11. But even then, it was like, Oh, well, I guess we just put them in the same math classes and let them struggle that would seem to be the attitude at the time. And it was it was not a happy time, until they finally said you can use a calculator and I said, Awesome.

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, it’s hard. It feels it can feel so isolating when you you can especially when you’re, you’re in that adolescent period, and you can just you can tell there’s something different. You’re not processing information. In the way you feel like your peers are, and it is so easy to believe, well, maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe I am stupid. And it I know I could have so easily fallen down that path if I didn’t have the support I did. And so that’s why again, I so believe in a in a fostering a supportive community because everyone is smart, everyone is creative. Everyone is an artist, they just need to be given that opportunity and an environment where they can thrive rather than things that might be more of a difficulty for them.

Phil Rickaby 

I used to have classmates that were told to help me with math, I frustrated one so much that she broke a pencil. Oh my god, she snapped a pencil. I add and it was like, it was only after the diagnosis. I was like, I’m not math stupid. It’s just, I don’t understand the numbers. They don’t work for me. But when when a classmate gets so frustrated that you’re not getting something that they break something like that it was really quite a little bit traumatising In the moment.

Sarah Marchand 

It’s good for your self esteem, right?

Phil Rickaby 

Like, for me, it was the math thing that was like the stumbling block. I was fine in so many other other classes. But it was like, math actually comes into a lot of Surprisingly, a lot of things involve math.

Sarah Marchand 

Oh, my God. Yeah. Don’t get me started. Especially with producing for sure.

Phil Rickaby 

I was about to ask what’s your what’s your Do you have any tips and tricks for doing things like creating a budget and and tracking a budget when you are bad at math?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I think that’s also a big reason why a lot of artists tend to fear the idea of producing because numbers aren’t can be tricky. I’m, I’ve noticed with some research, there’s, there’s a lot of Excel spreadsheets that just do the calculations for you, which is awesome. And I’ve also just realised like, I can just get an outside I, when I’m struggling to there is so much more to producing than just numbers. Like of course, numbers are important. But for me, I just try to, you know, simplify things as best as I can. I don’t need to calculate everything in my head, I can use a programme that calculates it for me. And then I just get someone who is good at math, just to look it over just to make sure my numbers are correct. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I also like to use pretty colours like, yeah, I don’t know, I make your Excel spreadsheets, I just think of the most daunting, boring technical spreadsheets. And early on I realised like this doesn’t have to be this way. So I make my fonts and fonts that I find aesthetically pleasing. I use nice colours, and it just makes the whole process less intimidating for me.

Phil Rickaby 

Why make it something that’s boring, and just grid? Why not add fonts, your liking colours that just makes totally, you’re gonna spend enough time staring at the thing anyway?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, I think we’ve been programmed to believe that things that are fun can’t mean work. Right? So oh, well, numbers. That’s a big, serious, important thing. So it must be boring. But if as long as the information is being acquired and understood, like who cares? How, how it looks?

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah. Now, you mentioned how afraid a lot of performers are about producing? Yeah, I’m curious, could you for those that, you know, they haven’t really looked into it because they’re too afraid of what producing might be? What, what how do you describe producing and the quote unquote, duties of a producer?

Sarah Marchand 

I have this joke answer. I always say the producer is the one who does all the stuff nobody wants to do, but are the tasks that are necessary to make the production happen. But I’ve learned now there are some fun things involved with producing. I honestly think more than numbers and budgeting, the biggest thing a producer can do is just be good at communication. It is so vital, even if you feel like you’re just repeating things or if it’s being, I don’t know, too clear. You can never be too clear. And it’s just a matter of making sure everyone’s in the loop. Everyone knows what’s going on and making sure you have language that is accessible. Sometimes people might not know the terminology that you’re using, or they might not be quite as up to date or as involved with the project as you are so it’s really just about communication and making sure everyone’s kind of up to date with everything and being fun to work with like having a good time being an MP People person is helpful for sure.

Phil Rickaby 

Anytime you get you have to deal with people that gets your help. Yeah. Is there aside from the math part? Is there a part of producing that you don’t enjoy so much?

Sarah Marchand 

Oh, fundraising. I hate fundraising. So

Phil Rickaby 

I think I think most people would agree with that. Yeah,

Sarah Marchand 

it’s very humbling. The experience, just feel like, yeah, I don’t know if you’ve ever done like door to door sort of things. I have this traumatic memory of being in Girl Guides and having to sell cookies. And just

Phil Rickaby 

my, I never had to do that. But I never had to do that. But as an introvert, it just Yeah. terrifies me. It’s bad enough being trying to promote a show in a fringe line.

Sarah Marchand 

Oh, my God. I’m getting anxiety just hearing that. Yeah, yeah, it’s terrifying. And you know, what I should clarify, I said, You need to be a people person. And I, I’m totally an introvert myself, too. And when I say people person, it’s not that person who’s, who can yell the loudest in the fringe lineup, who’s, you know, always there in the biggest energy in the room. It’s just being accommodating to different personalities, and being very perceptive and aware to different energies that you’re working with. That’s, that’s what I mean by people person. I think a lot of people have

Phil Rickaby 

have strange ideas of what what people person means? Yeah, I think so. Because as an introvert, I can enjoy people when I want that can make me a people person, and I can enjoy being in front of an audience. But, you know, I can not enjoy networking events or going to parties.

Sarah Marchand 

Oh, my God, no, literally my nightmare.

Phil Rickaby 

As far as, I mean, whenever we’re producing, there’s a lot of things that sort of fall to the producers responsibility, like fundraising, and we’ll get into fundraising a little bit later on. Publicity might not be something that producer does, but they sort of have to make sure that word gets out about it so and so it’s up to the producer to engage publicity person, PR person media contact, that sort of thing. What have you learned about that process?

Sarah Marchand 

A lot. I mean, unfortunately, more often than not, with indie theatre, you just don’t have the budget to hire a PR person. If you do, absolutely. It’s just one task that you can alleviate off your shoulders. But unfortunately, more often than not, you’re going to be doing some PR if you’re producing a show. So two things I’ve learned about that is sharing and re sharing Instagram Stories can only go so far, you know, it doesn’t. Just because you’re you’re constantly reshaping things in your stories doesn’t necessarily mean that the word is getting out. You have to kind of think about it with how you, yourself consume social media. Like as much as I want to believe every time I post something, people are looking at it and thinking, I’m going to engage with this and pause and read the entire description. That’s, that’s not how we spend our time on Instagram, right? It’s scroll, scroll, scroll. So for me, it is imperative to connect with people on a one on one basis. Now I understand that can be very exhausting. But I feel like you kind of have to look at it. If it’s more productive, I would rather privately message 10 people and really take my time crafting, you know, a personalised message, and almost guaranteed that they will come versus just constantly spamming people online. Yeah, and it goes the same with fundraising, when you take the time to actually reach out to people. More often than not, they will support you in some kind of way. And again, I think about how I want to receive that if someone’s constantly on their story sharing stuff, I kind of tune out. But if someone takes the time to say, How am I doing, and they’ve actually done some research to know what work I’m up to, and they’re like, hey, great show, then. Yeah, I totally want to support so that’s huge. Um, I had another one and now I forgotten what

Phil Rickaby 

that’s okay. For me, like the whole thing with with Instagram Stories, is it you know, people already have to be following you to see it right? Totally can reshare it. But again, like for your immediate use, people have to be following you. The algorithm is not always friendly to everyone. And so, when you’re putting stuff out there, you’re you’re combating essentially a robot that will only wants to show other people stuff that other people have already liked.

Sarah Marchand 

Yes, totally. Oh, I did remember what my other point was, I also make it a rule. In my letter of agreements, it’s always good to have some kind of letter of agreement with every show you’re doing. But I always ask everyone involved to agree to at least, you know, doing, doing their part with social media content. If it is an indie project, more often than not, we’re probably not getting paid a lot. And so it’s not entirely the producers responsibility for PR, like, we want everyone to shine, right? And sure, an actor might think it’s not their job to help out with PR, but it helps them to to have bums and seats, right. So I really try to make it transparent from the get go with the team, if we’ve got an online meeting or group email just to say, Hey, everyone, like, help me help you. And let’s all work on word of mouth and publicity together just to help alleviate that burden off our backs a bit.

Phil Rickaby 

Well, also, I mean, as a as a as a performer in an indie show, like, you’re only going to get paid if people come to this show. So it does, it is in your best interest to help out in that way.

Sarah Marchand 

I couldn’t agree more. And yet, I am always surprised with every project I do. There’s always somebody who’s like, well, I don’t really do that sort of thing. I’m like, don’t you want people to come? Like, I can’t make up an audience like it comes through work, you gotta help spread?

Phil Rickaby 

Like, do they do they not have have social media? Or they just don’t post about the shows they’re doing? Which seems counterproductive?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, they don’t. You know, this is the odd exception. You know, most people are really great. But you I’ll sometimes get that one person will say like, I don’t really do the social media thing, or I don’t really share stuff on my platform. I’m like, Well, okay.

Phil Rickaby 

I often wonder what like, if you’re, if you have the social media, but you don’t share stuff, especially about projects that you’re working on? What is the purpose of having social media at that? Like, yeah, we are trying to build every one of us who is a performer, whether we’re playing with, however, whatever we do in the arts, we want to build some kind of following. And we can’t do that. If we don’t talk about the work we’re doing.

Sarah Marchand 

Yes. And I get it not everyone loves social media the way that some other artists do, I really do get that it can be exhausting and not be the best for your mental health. If you get too hooked on it. I really do respect that. I think the struggle I have more is just when people don’t want to bother with it. Or they just Yeah, they’d have they don’t have the right attitude. That’s been everyone else. That’s that’s the thing that bothers me.

Phil Rickaby 

I think that would what would bother me is if I were trying to get somebody to to, you know, talk about the show on their platform. And they don’t want to do it, but they’re still posting their daily tech talks and their daily. Yeah, other like their vlog or whatever. Like, if you’re posting on the regular. Yeah, you can post about the show to

Sarah Marchand 

totally, totally just, and I can’t tell you because even though I know, whenever I make a social media post, the engagement might do well, or it might not. I try to put time and effort into it. And it really means a lot when I see people sharing content that I’ve worked hard on to help, you know, help make them shine. So yeah, just helps the whole team thrive when we’re all pitching in.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely can help. I think I think one of the things that I’ve done when I’ve tried to do shows, I mean, if I do a solo show, it’s a lot easier. But if I do other shows, if I’m creating artwork that I want to share on social media, I try to make sure that each person at least has one thing that they’re in. Yes, and that features them, then they’re more likely to share it and I think that’s a really good thing to do if you if you’re creating the posts yourself, for people to share, like make sure that everybody has a spot where they shine.

Sarah Marchand 

Absolutely. I love doing artists spotlights and it’s also you know, it’s an easy way for you as a PR person to just create content without having to think so creatively like no just feature everyone on your team. You know, if we’re not getting paid a lot, we might as well try to make ourselves feel like the superstars we are and just have a little artists spotlight moment. It’s nice. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby 

yeah. Now, in advance of this, you asked a few people because you you know, people, once you start producing something, people think that you’re some kind of wizard and they want to know, they want to climb the mountain and talk to the guru they want to. They want to visit the wizard. They want to get some answers. And so you ask people, some questions about the kinds of things that they might want to know about producing So I’m going to ask you some of those questions. And you can answer we

Sarah Marchand 

can discuss. Let’s do it. I’m ready.

Phil Rickaby 

One of the first questions is how do you go about determining appropriate ticket prices? And I think before we get into the answer, I think that is a super important question. Because sometimes I’ve encountered people who worry that, that, Oh, if we price it, you know, I want to make sure that everybody can come and see it. So let’s make sure that we don’t we don’t charge more than $5 or something ridiculous like that. Yeah. And you can price yourself out of consideration because your price is too low. Yes, you can overcharge. But you can also weigh under charge. And if you’re charging, too little, people will kind of subconsciously feel like, well, if that’s how much they’re charging, it can’t be that good.

Sarah Marchand 

That I think is one of the hardest lessons, especially when you’re starting out because it is so easy to fall into that imposter syndrome spiral and say, Well, my art is not worth that much or I don’t know what I’m doing. So I don’t want to make people pay but my gosh, with the economy now a night owl with food and drinks, it cost like three times the price of a theatre ticket might. But yes, that’s that’s so important rule of thumb is usually people undervalue their ticket prices, you can always go for a few dollars more. I am personally a huge fan of tiered ticketing prices. I know people have mixed reviews with this. But for me, that’s been a method I’ve used for a couple of shows now. And what I like about it is that I try my best even have the lowest price, not under what I think the show is worth. But I’m always always surprised, someone will always get the highest ticketing tier. And that option just wouldn’t have gotten that that high of a donation if I just didn’t have that option available. So that for me has been my preferred method. But one thing I really will say is, I mean, I don’t have you know, a wizard solution to the magical numbers. But it is so important not to base, your your your budget off ticket sales, I really try my best to get all of the fundraising beforehand. And then the ticket sales is kind of like your tip money, or just bonus money. What I have found is when I try my best to budget, my my production based off ticket sales is that it makes you kind of loopy and it makes your fellow co producers or maybe other artists kind of loopy too. Because suddenly, it’s not about promoting this project you love it’s we need this many people to come to this many shows otherwise, we’re going to lose money. So yeah, just try your best if possible to get the funds you need beforehand, and then you can enjoy. Maybe getting giving everyone a little extra honorarium with the ticket sales. But yeah, sometimes it can make you loopy.

Phil Rickaby 

Can I ask, Can I ask about the tiered system that you’re using? One of the one of the questions that I like thinking about tiered is sort of, if somebody buys like a higher tier, is there an additional experience that they can be given?

Sarah Marchand 

I mean, you can do that, certainly, and I’ve been asked that before, but so far for me, no, it’s just it’s kind of, you have to put your ego aside because for me as a, as an, an emerging, lower class artist, you know, still struggling to pay rent, whatever, I forget that there are people who aren’t in the same financial situation that I’m in, and to really want to support the arts, they really do. And so I need to put my own anxieties aside and just say, look like, this is you’re getting the same, same product, but if you want to support us, and you know, our mandate, and this is this is an option that you can pay and people will

Phil Rickaby 

I’ve seen, you know, the theatre company eldritch theatre, I feel like I just talked about them yesterday, and they probably did. They have done productions where they do the show, and then they they have a second after show that would happen down in the basement of the theatre and, and a group of a group of people would would would join and if you bought a certain ticket price you could go but I could also see on the other side of that is that you could do that but then also have a certain number of those tickets. Have that sort of that that the tickets to the after show or the second show that were just a draw at the show like before the show This is an

Sarah Marchand 

additional thing. It’s the exact same show, they just

Phil Rickaby 

know, it’s, it’s a separate show. It’s a second show, it’s like, it’s like you’ve seen the main show, and we’re gonna go downstairs. And so in their case, they would do like, we’re doing like, like, it’s, I think that was like card tricks and cons. And they would sort of like do this little like 15 minute thing where they would do like, some card tricks and show you how people get like, like that. That’s or like con artists and, and card tricks kind of thing. And they would do an extra little thing down there. So it’s like an extra experience really happened after the show?

Sarah Marchand 

It’s like, certainly, people like to feel, you know, people love little perks when they get it. I guess my only hesitation with that is I don’t want people of a certain financial background to feel like because they’re giving more money, suddenly, they should be entitled to a better experience than people who maybe just can’t afford because maybe $15 might not seem like a lot. But for that one person, it’s, it’s it’s a lot of money for them. So yeah, I think that’s that’s, that would be my only hesitation is I want everyone to feel they can get the same experience. And then if people want to support more, they certainly can.

Phil Rickaby 

I think that the balancing act of that, and it is I definitely like I agree. You want everybody in the audience to have the same experience? I think, to me, the trick is that the show like say the extra experience can’t be bigger than the show. Totally, yeah, it would have to be something that is a nice to have. And it might be fun. But if I didn’t have that I would not feel leave feeling like I missed out.

Sarah Marchand 

Right, right. And you know, what’s so cool about that is, that is such a perfect example of how producing is creative because these are ways you can try and figure out okay, well, if we’re going to have a ticketing tiered system, what are some other aspects we can we can add to it? And then you get to brainstorm and think about these ideas. Like I love this idea of a basement show. Like it’s so cool.

Phil Rickaby 

I had an idea for a while I was planning out another show of doing like, you know, there’s it’s a show about a mall Santa. And I had an idea that that after this show for like $5 More, you could get your picture taken with bad Santa that kind of

Sarah Marchand 

Oh my god. Yeah. I would love that.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, is there in terms of the if you were generally is there an like? Do you have a price? In your mind that you feel like is this is if I could only charge one ticket price? This is the spot that I would choose?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, I think it depends on the project that you’re doing. Um, if it’s a digital piece, I, I would be hesitant to go, I would do the 15 to $20 range. And for live theatre. I, I think it’s becoming more and more acceptable to do 20 to 25. You know, if you asked me this, maybe five, six years ago, I would have said 15 to 20. But 20 is starting to become the base rate. And then 25 is what General Admission will be and usually you can do like an arts worker, but yeah, 2025 for live 15 to 20 for digital.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, I feel like I for me, I feel like 20 is like the sweet spot there for 20 to 25. But like 20 is like that average spot that most people can get to and you can offer like a an artwork a ticket as well for totally on the other side as well. Yeah. Here’s a question I have I you know, I being in the media, I’ve experienced the opposites, the sort of the wrong way for this to happen. So the second question is, how early should you start advertising? And I would add on to that just like getting How early should you be getting, like reaching out to the media at all?

Sarah Marchand 

Um, you can do, I would say as early as six months, just an announcement to say, this is the project we’re working on. Stay tuned for details that can happen six months, you don’t want to start with the incessant posting and media outreach by that point. From my experience, I would say four to six weeks is a pretty good estimate. I have sometimes started three weeks in advance and you can get away with three weeks but that’s pushing it. I think four to six is a good number. What I will say to that is if your numbers if your ticket sales still aren’t increase increasing, don’t worry, like more often than not, they’re always going to jump the week of opening. I myself don’t buy tickets always at the last minute and I always get annoyed or stressed out I’m like Why is no one Bye and tickets to my show. I’m like Sarah, because everyone’s like you just buy at the last minute. Don’t stress you people are seeing your stuff. Don’t panic post because that just looks a little desperate.

Phil Rickaby 

You want to avoid desperation. It’s not attractive. People don’t particularly like to spend money for desperation.

Sarah Marchand 

I’ve had to learn that the hard way. Yeah, I sometimes will get panicked. And I’ll start posting. I’m like, nobody wants to see that. Yeah, you’re right. We all

Phil Rickaby 

have been there. We’ve all been there. Is the length of time for advertising? Different? If it’s a digital production?

Sarah Marchand 

I would say yes. Because there’s only so much you can do with digital advertising. And it’s you watch it at home, right? Whereas with theatre, you kind of have to, it’s a certain time, you’ve got to get to the venue, there’s a bit more information required. So I’m for digital, three to four weeks is a pretty good estimate. I mean, I’ve done I’ve done three digital shows now. So I could be off, but I found three to four weeks is a pretty good sweet spot.

Phil Rickaby 

Adding on for like, if anybody is like wondering like when they should reach out to the media. I am usually just as an example. I’m scheduling my this this podcast, usually about six weeks ahead. At the very least. So I need to be contacted before that. Noted. I think in general, like if you’re going to reach out to the media, especially if it’s like internet media is one thing, like if it’s if it’s a blog or something like that, but if it is print or TV, they need more lead time to be able to get that stuff in there.

Sarah Marchand 

Totally, totally. And then that gives them more time. Sometimes you won’t even hear from them until a week before showtime, which is great. But also, yeah, you don’t want to wait on it too much.

Phil Rickaby 

And sometimes you’ll hear from them. They’ll be like, hey, we want to talk to you about the show tomorrow.

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah, yeah. That’s happened to me too. And you just plan accordingly?

Phil Rickaby 

He This is an interesting question, because this is like this is of the questions. I think this is the question. Oh, gosh, how do you market to those outside the theatre community?

Sarah Marchand 

The question? Um, yeah, so I’m gonna give my answer based off the fact that I’m still learning myself. And maybe it could change, maybe not. But yes, this is something I think all of us is, aspiring producers want to learn more about. Something that has helped me is much in the same way with people who donate higher higher ticketing tiers is you kind of have to get out of your own mindset and go through what people who don’t necessarily work in the arts might think or how they might feel towards theatre. And more often than not, people who work in a nine to five office job, they want to have fun, they want to go out, they want something to do. And if you can put your own insecurities aside about what you feel about the show, they’re very happy just to go out. And so what I’ve started to do is, you know, I have a couple of friends who aren’t artists, and they’ll say, Hey, do your coworkers feel like an outing? If so, I’ve got a show going on. And if you get at least 10 people, I can guarantee 25% off your tickets. You can do 10 or 15. But that just builds incentive. And I think providing a little group discount makes them feel special. So it’s like this outing, and they save a few bucks, and then you’ve got more bums and seats. So I like doing this group discount. And honestly, it’s really just about knowing that people are hungry to see shows, you just need to reach out to them.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, yeah, I would say one of the things that we all also need to do is to think like, we need to be thinking about what the what our potential audience wants to see. Totally. And if we are an I have, I have an uncomfortable relationship with the phrase that still gets like, tossed around quite a bit, which is art for artists. Because I understand what they think they mean. But I like to think about I, to me, the audience is more important than the artists. Yes, it’s great for the artists to make great art. But if if we don’t aren’t considering the audience than like, why are we even doing it?

Sarah Marchand 

Absolutely. And also, you don’t know these people’s stories. Sure, they might work an office job, but maybe they have a specialty or maybe they did have drama in high school and, you know, due to life circumstances had to take a different direction. But I had one time someone who works in tech, like tech of all things, I would assume, like, mistakenly like, they’re not interested in seeing theatre when I actually found out they were like a musician on the side. And it’s just neat to know that not to box people because people want to see art, they crave it.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah. Another shout out to eldritch theatre, because I think it’s important that people know that it is possible to do eldritch theatre sells out almost every show they do, and, and the majority of their audience are not theatre people. Amazing. And that is something that they have cultivated over time through through mailing lists and Facebook groups and things like that, that they’ve managed to, to build a relationship with their audience, that it’s something that you can only build over time, but it is something that it speaks to keeping the communication with your potential audience open even when there is not a show going on.

Sarah Marchand 

Absolutely, absolutely. Oh, that’s good for them. That’s awesome.

Phil Rickaby 

Here’s another question. And I’m not. I think we might have to we might have to suss out what this question means. But it’s what are your best tips for saving money on shows?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah. I will. Okay. I saving money. Well, what I will say is, please try your best to avoid cutting artists pay down as a way to save money if possible. Oh, my goodness, we probably need to probably make so little already and one of my biggest mandates is actors are not props. I don’t know why there’s this stereotype that everyone else can get paid. But actors are doing it as a volunteer position. Yeah, listen, as an actor myself. I know we love acting, of course, but they should still be paid for their work. So don’t try to save money on that, please. I feel like this answers too basic. But thrifting and posting online just asking for things. I love getting secondhand stuff. And you would not believe the crazy shit that people own when you just ask for it. I’m part of one of these Buy Nothing groups here in Vancouver. And it’s essentially, it’s kind of like buttons. But the idea is that you give things without expecting anything in return. And so you just write a post and you start it with ask, does anyone have this? And the show I’m currently working on we’ve been able to pretty much source all of our set materials through this Buy Nothing group. So our set costs virtually nothing, which is astonishing. And it’s nice. It’s it’s all secondhand. It’s economical and environmentally friendly.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, I think one of the things like just for me, when I’ve when I’ve done production on stuff is, is it’s always important to remember that in theatre, the audience is more likely to be able to suspend their disbelief. Yes, yeah. Brad Fraser, I was talking to him and he was like, you can like say that suddenly you’re underwater, change the lights and everybody wave their arms slowly, the audience will buy the you’re underwater without anything else. Yeah, I did a show in which we had a like a chase across the top of a, of a train. And the way that we did we had a rectangle of light, and that was the, the the top of the train. And we just sort of like pretended to run and we would jump in unison and occasionally somebody would run by with a branch. And it was super effective, actually, that, you know, occasionally somebody get hit with a branch and the end of the villain got hit with a branch and carried away and the audience applauded. And it was like, all we did was a light and somebody running by with a with a branch. Wow.

Sarah Marchand 

Wow. That’s incredible. Um, I recently saw at the push festival, as you like it, Cliff Cardinals production. I don’t know if you caught it when it was that close.

Phil Rickaby 

I did not get the chance to know. Yeah,

Sarah Marchand 

I don’t want to give too much away. But the set is minimal at best. And I was blown away. It’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in a very long time. So yes, suspension of disbelief. 100%.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, and I think it’s important that we do remember that because I think a lot of times, if we see productions on TV, we see the big, elaborate and expensive set that they’ve built for the show. But in a lot of cases, you don’t need that.

Sarah Marchand 

You know, know if you’re going to try to save money down to it. On people do it on set pieces. Yeah 100%

Phil Rickaby 

I’m reminded of the the early productions of Billy Bishop goes to war which was, you know, just a guy sitting in a chair with a toy plane. And when it when it later on on Broadway, he was actually like climbing into a life size plane on the stage. And it’s like, it was more effective. Everybody I heard when it was a guy in a chair with a toy plane.

Sarah Marchand 

Wow. Wow. Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Phil Rickaby 

Like it really is. Yeah. And the final question is one that I know you’re not going to like. Because we’ve talked about we’ve talked about how this is like, your least favourite thing. But it’s, the question is, what are some good ways to fundraise?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah. Let’s get into it. Um, I don’t know if there’s like, a surefire way to fundraise. It really, really depends on the project that you’re doing. But I can rapid fire a few things that have worked for me just if anyone’s listening gets inspired. For me, crowdfunding, time and time again has always been my main method. It is really a time to aid specify the project that you’re doing, because you’re writing about it, you’re pitching it, but also reach out to the community, let them know what you’re up to. So I am a huge fan of crowdfunding. Another one is silent auctions. I recently just did one with 32 auctions. And it can all be online, it doesn’t have to be in person. What I like about silent auctions is that you can bid on things that people might actually be interested in and still make some money. Add space in your programmes, you know, just still ups, you can charge by how large you want the image to be and email reach out to restaurants or local businesses. That’s a great way to make a few extra bucks. And another one, I have to give a shout out to friend of mine, Victoria Bausch. She suggested this one to me, and it blew me away. Twitch, I don’t know a lot about twitch. But she recently did a fundraiser, it was a 24 hour fundraiser, where they got a DJ to play for 24 hours straight. And they managed to raise $8,000 for their organisation. So I have a cousin who’s a DJ. And in back in December, we did the same thing. We didn’t quite reach a grant. But we definitely did really well with that. So if you know any DJs on Twitch, like give that a shot, because I was shocked how much money we made.

Phil Rickaby 

I have a question about crowdfunding. And it’s because I think some people when they think about crowdfunding, they, they essentially think if I put it on crowdfunding, people will buy it. People will will will like give me the money. Yeah. But it takes a little bit more than that. I know that when I find things and not just theatre things when I find when I like, want something that’s crowdfunded? Yes, I might, if it is for the product, I want that product, right. So if I’m backing a film, give me a copy of the film. Theatre is not like that. And so I need perks that I want. And that that can often be the sticking point, like what can we give as perks? Have you found anything in your crowdfunding that has really worked for you as far as like the perks? Go?

Sarah Marchand 

Yeah. And I’m glad you brought that up. Because my god, crowdfunding is a whole other podcast in itself. And also, I should preface by saying, if you do need to crowdfund two months in advance, like too many people I know, do it around a month before showtime, and they realise, oh, shit, we need all of this extra money. We don’t have it. Let’s do a crowdfunding campaign. Get that in as soon as possible. I’m talking months, months, months in

Phil Rickaby 

advance, we aren’t even gonna get the money fast enough if you do it. Yeah, that’s totally,

Sarah Marchand 

totally. In terms of perks. Again, you kind of have to look at it from what do I actually want, like don’t don’t just throw together perks because you think you need to add something. Something really cool that I recently did for a campaign is for a certain donation people get their name featured on the set. It’s like a kind of Where’s Waldo thing and so if they either see the show, they can kind of look for their name on it or if They don’t we’ll send them a photo and just say, Here’s your name on the set, people seem to be really excited about that. Other perks, I would say, people always like digital signed copies of the script or printed, but I prefer digital. It’s more paper friendly. And honest, I’m trying to think of what we offered. Oh, yeah. Um, when this campaign, I did it with a few other people. So my co producers who helped launch this most recent campaign, they’re also acting coaches. So they said, Hey, if you donate a certain tier, you get a free hour long coaching session. So for a lot of actors, that’s really helpful. Look into your skill sets. What other skills can you provide that are really helpful to people? I myself am not as big of a fan of like physical items, like I don’t really want you to like, hand make me can make me something unless you’re like an actual artist. Like, I don’t want that. But if you have a skill set to offer me like, yeah, I would love love, love to donate to get that. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby 

I think it’s so important that people do consider what they are offering for perks, because like I said, like, for a perk I want, I will spend $50. Like not like, I’m not going to just quit. Oh, you know? Sure. I want to back this project. I’ll give you $5. Like, if I My base is if the if the perk is good. I’m $50 I’m in. Yeah, and if you offer good perks that people are wanting to pay for you can make like, how much better is it for you to get on average? $50 from people than it is to get five?

Absolutely, yeah. But people have to avoid

Phil Rickaby 

like, I’ve seen this so many times. For $10. We will thank you on the internet $15 We will thank you on our in our programme, like just like, Oh my God, these are not perks. These are things you should do. Anyway.

Sarah Marchand 

Yes, yeah. I could not agree with you more. Yeah, to be be creative and make it things that you’re excited about that you think other people are excited about. Like, if you work at a restaurant, and you have a good relationship with them. Try and see if you can get gift cards or say, Hey, we’ve got two of these perks available. $50 off this like, I don’t know, liquor store or whatever. Make them enticing totally.

Phil Rickaby 

Yeah, absolutely. So that is the questions. But I do want to make sure that we have a second to talk about fly away home. Oh, yes. Tell me about because I know that you have you currently have a GoFundMe going for that. But I want I want to know about about about fly way home.

Sarah Marchand 

Fly away home is our first ever cedar season. On the matters production started in 2016. And I think I mentioned this on the last podcast, but I tend to just do things and then realise afterwards how much work is involved. But last year, I thought I’ve never done a season and there’s always like little things I want to do. And I just want to I want to make art. So let’s try a season. And so I found three projects that I was really passionate about. And I really liked the title fly away home. A because it the saying goes Ladybug Ladybug fly away home and our logo is a ladybug. But I think for me having moved across the country and just having this time with the pandemic, I’ve been really asking myself where is home? And I think these three pieces really try and investigate that question. Where is home for you? And has it changed since COVID started? So not all of these pieces have answers but they explore it. And that’s something I’m really I’m really excited about.

Phil Rickaby 

I was muted. Sometimes I think that, you know, exploration and questions are often so much more interesting than the answers.

Sarah Marchand 

Does anyone have them? I don’t know.

Phil Rickaby 

No,I think I think if the pandemic has taught us anything, nobody has any answers. Yeah, really interesting. People have good questions.

Sarah Marchand 

Exactly.

Phil Rickaby 

Sarah, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this has been super, super fun and informative.

Sarah Marchand 

Thank you so much. My pleasure.

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- 4 days ago

Host @philrickaby is a huge fan of Eldritch Theatre, and is super excited to see this. In fact, watch our Instagram on Tuesday for something exciting! https://t.co/BadEkTAFji
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