Why we are not having a Christmas Play performance

the kids in dance Choreographed by Joana Mbabazi in the Dynamo theatre Production of a Christmas Carol
Kids from the Acting Class in 2019

Back in 2019, we put on a performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ an adaptation of Charles Dicken’s novel by the same name. We performed the play for about 4 weekends and even had a version by kids of the same with the Kids performing every role.

For a long time, the actors at Dynamo had wanted to put up a general public show, where their friends and family would come and see their work. I on the other hand have always been skeptical about general public shows. One of the reasons for my skepticism was, that much more popular theatre artists with extensive marketing resources and budgets have been failing at breaking even since 2010.
Some of these artists were my friends and I knew what was happening which led me to be skeptical.

However, in 2019, we had a kids acting program and about 15 children were enrolled by their parents. These kids were trained for about 8 weekends and to crown their training, production was done. However, because they are kids, we realized they may not be able to do more than 2 shows and this is how I got my actors at Dynamo to rehearse the same play. We booked extra dates at the National Theatre and started marketing.

Watch a scene from the play

The marketing Process -Very hard

The marketing process was very stressful for our budget was limited. I know that nothing beats word of mouth so I encouraged everyone in the production to tell everyone else and we created a money-sharing system, commission for selling tickets. I can tell you that word of mouth worked but, for the kids’ shows.

Do you remember how my actors were always asking for general public shows for friends and family to watch them? I can assure you that friendships started breaking and this is one thing I don’t like. The kids’ shows were both full house while the adult shows were always half full(trying to sound positive).

Marketing would have been easier if we got some support from the National Theatre where I hear, a full-time Marketing Manager is employed. However, this manager is never at the Theatre, probably out in the field talking to potential sponsors, or doing her own business. We have shows and the entire time, we never met the Marketing Manager or got support from her office. I share this bit of the story as a heads-up that the National Theatre has no systems in place to assist you in getting an audience if you plan to work from there.

We were on our own. Armed with Social media, google, and good old word of mouth, we got half-full auditoriums every show. All the actors marketed in their networks and I can report with authority that some friends became enemies for even with free ticket offers, they never showed. This has nothing to do with the latter, it has everything to do with their expectations vs what they see in the news. Broadway productions like Hamilton have set the bar too high for us yet we neither have the budget nor the support to even imitate. For someone that has watched Hamilton, watching our best stage productions can give you a headache and it is not because we have bad actors or directors, but because we don’t have or can’t find the needed budgets. This is why we are not having a Christmas show, better to not work than to seem to work while not working.

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