Angels Network

The Angels Network is an initiative to develop a sustainable platform for my work as an independent theatre-maker. It comprises of both companies and individuals who provide material and other forms of support that enable me to create and produce contemporary theatre rooted in, and speaking, to current South African themes. “Angels” has become the fashionable term to refer to arts patrons who, because of their love of the arts, help to bring artists' creative work to fruition. The Angels Network is also similar in aims and functions to a “Friends of…” association.

Why is the Angels Network necessary?

For a writer, the costs of producing a play after it is written are prohibitive. A one-person show costs in the region of R100 000 (8000-9000 Euros or US$12000) while a 3-4 four-person play will have production costs of at least R250 000 (19000-20000 Euros or US$30 000). Most of the costs are incurred prior to the play opening, before it starts to generate box office income. These costs include rehearsal fees for 3-4 weeks, fees for the director, stage manager and designers (lighting, set, costumes, etc), building of sets, making of props and costumes, initial marketing and publicity, venue hire, etc. This makes writers very dependent on theatres and festivals to produce their works.

In this context, having a network to support one’s work as an independent theatre maker is extremely helpful for at least four reasons:

  1. Theatres have limited budgets to support the production of new work (in terms of current government policy, publicly-subsidised theatres receive funding for their infrastructure, but not to produce artistic products). Having an independent support base helps me to put my plays on stage.
  2. Producing my work independently gives me greater control over the work and its income-generating potential than would be the case if I had to sign the rights over to a theatre in order for them to produce the play (normally this would entail giving them the rights to the play for at least a year).
  3. It makes me less dependent on bodies such as the National Arts Council and the National Lottery, whose bureaucratic natures can often compromise the work and livelihoods of professional arts practitioners.
  4. It gives me the freedom to explore what I want and to say things as I see them, without being concerned about whether the works will alienate my primary funders i.e. it frees me to practice democracy and my constitutional right to freedom of creative expression.


Why support my work as a playwright/producer?

  1. By supporting the creation and production of a play, you will generate work and income for actors, directors, designers, technicians, stage managers, publicists, etc. During 2006, my three plays – Mixed Metaphors, Some Mothers’ Sons and Two to Tango - created direct income for at least seventeen individuals. In 2007, Bafana Republic and Die Generaal provided direct income for 15 people while in 2008, Mirror, Mirror, Bafana Republic: Extra Time and Die Generaal generated paid work for 22 individuals.
  2. An association with my work as a writer would also mean an association with a degree of critical success. Most of the plays that I have written have been honoured in some way, starting with the satirical pieces in the early nineties The Dogs Must be Crazy and Some of my Best Friends are Cultural Workers (both selected as one of six “Best of the Fringe” productions at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival), Dinner Talk (winner of the Fleur du Cape Award for Best New Script in 1998), Green Man Flashing (nominated for Best Script in the Naledi and Fleur du Cap Awards, 2005), Two to Tango (Jury Runner Up, PANSA Festival of Reading of New Writing – Comedy, 2005) and Some Mothers’ Sons (Jury Runner Up and Audience Award winner, PANSA Festival of Reading of New Writing – Drama, 2005). Mixed Metaphors has also just been nominated (January 2007) in the best new script categories in both the 2006 Naledi Theatre Awards (Gauteng) and the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards (Western Cape). Die Generaal won the Anglogold Ashanti Prize for Best New Afrikaans Script and two editions of Bafana Republic won the Best One-Person Show categories at the annual South African Comedy Awards.
  3. My particular brand of theatre seeks to “speak truth to power” i.e. to pose challenging questions, to highlight contradictions and to present alternatives to the prevailing dogmas about our society in transition, as well as to put into the public domain the kinds of issues that those in authority would rather keep below the public radar.
  4. Over the last four years, my plays have been produced in the country’s main theatres including the State Theatre, Market Theatre, Theatre on the Square, Artscape and Baxter Theatre, at smaller theatres like On Broadway and Klein Libertas Theatre, as well as at major festivals like the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, ABSA Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudsthoorn, Aardklop Festival in Potchefstroom, and the Hilton Arts Festival in KwaZulu Natal, making my work amongst the most widely performed in the country. For companies interested in accessing theatre’s relatively moneyed markets, an association with my work may be mutually beneficial.


What do or can “Angels” do?

Critical success, winning awards and undertaking national tours do not necessarily translate into financial success or commercial viability, hence the need to seek support.

There is a range of ways in which support can be provided. These include:

Marketing

Getting people to buy tickets to see the plays is a key challenge. Angels can help by

  • serving as “ambassadors” and getting a group of 10 (friends, colleagues, book club members, family, etc) to buy tickets for the play.
  • getting their company to use the play for client entertainment purposes or to reward staff for their work.
  • organising a fundraiser for the school their kids go to, the charity they’re involved with, a sports club they belong to, using the play. (i.e. they buy the house at reduced prices, then sell all the tickets at an increased price, and earn the difference).
  • donating prizes that could be used to incentivize attendance in the first 6-10 days of the play’s season, or on nights that are particularly slow.
  • sponsoring the printing and distribution costs of flyers, posters, postcards, etc (the sponsor’s logo could be included).

Provision of services and equipment that help to reduce costs of production and marketing or help to generate income, particularly if the company is directly involved in such services

  • sponsoring updated computer equipment and software.
  • sponsoring data projector/s and screens for flighting advertisements before each show that could generate income.
  • bookkeeping and accounting services.
  • marketing and publicity services e.g. developing and maintaining databases, researching potential donors.
  • event organization to complement the production e.g. celebrity dinners.

Advice

  • legal, financial and other business related advice and services
  • advice on fundraising, local and international touring, etc.

Sponsorship

  • sponsorship by a company of a particular play that reaches their market
  • R5000 donation by companies towards the general costs of creating, producing and touring plays
  • R1000 donation by individuals for the same purpose
  • assisting with raising sponsorship for particular projects i.e. no donations given directly, but providing leads, introductions and references where possible

These amounts are guidelines and can vary depending on the project and the means of the sponsor e.g. one company provided the costumes for two recent plays; another printed and distributed the primary publicity material for a play; still others donated R5 000 and one individual provided sponsorship of R30 000 to commission a new play by the Market Theatre.

 

What are the funds used for?

Where cash sponsorship is provided, the funds will be used

  • to cover living expenses while writing, producing and marketing the plays
  • to test works in rehearsals with staged readings and inviting audience feedback to improve the work prior to full-scale production
  • to develop marketing tools and implement effective strategies
  • to produce and tour work, locally and abroad
  • to contract administrative assistance as necessary
  • to undergo ongoing training and
  • to mentor others within the industry, passing on skills to others.

 

How do “Angels” benefit?

Angels will

  • receive invitations to opening nights
  • be invited to staged readings of plays in their early form, and to provide feedback
  • have opportunities to meet the director and cast during a run
  • be provided with information to give them preferential opportunities for cheap or free tickets
  • receive regular newsletters and updates about the plays
  • be acknowledged in the programmes of plays during a particular calendar year in which they have made their contributions
  • be listed in a publication of the works that they might have supported

Angels with proposals for other benefits are most welcome to offer these.

 

Who belongs to the Network?

There is no formal membership as such. But those who qualify as Angels include companies that have donated at least R5000 or more in cash or in kind, and individuals who have contributed at least R1000 in cash, as well as those who have helped in various ways to make the plays happen and/or to generate audiences and box office income.

Contact details

If you would like to know more, provide feedback or simply get in touch, send your details to info@mikevangraan.co.za.

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