The season runs from January to December, with two shows per month. Typically August is "dark", meaning no productions take place in either space, although this is not always the case (see the 2007 and 2008 seasons, for example). In some cases, a single show slot may be occupied by two or more one-act productions, often as part of a showcase for new writing or for new directors to try their hand at a shorter piece before working on a full-scale production.
In a conventional season, there are around 22 shows, with a Bell Theatre show beginning on the first Tuesday of the month, running for 5 nights until the Saturday of the same week; a Prompt Corner show follows the same format two weeks after that. The season has not always been scheduled in this way - until recently, the Prompt show took place in the week immediately following the Bell show, and ran for fewer performances.
Although a five-performance run is standard for SLT productions, large-cast Christmas shows typically have 10 or more performances over a two-week period, including Saturday matinées.
The theatre committee calls for submissions in June, via the SLT discussion board<ref>SLT discussion board</ref> and in Backstage. The deadline for submissions is in July, by which time prospective directors will have filled in an online submission or the equivalent form and have provided a copy of the script. The committee members read all plays submitted and meet in early August to select the season from amongst them.
Submitting plays for performance is explained in more detail on the Submissions Process page.
Factors for consideration
The Theatre Committee works hard to select as varied and exciting a season of productions as possible - this is always a matter for debate amongst the membership<ref>'AGM hot topic' thread on the SLT discussion board</ref>. From Shakespeare to gritty modern drama, from classic 19th Century naturalistic drama to all-singing, all-dancing musicals, from expressionist German theatre to French farce - every imaginable type of dramatic production has probably been staged at SLT in our 40-year history. The committee is heavily influenced by the following factors in choosing the season, which are more influential than subjective personal taste:
All plays in copyright (including modern translations of non-English language plays) are scheduled subject to our ability to obtain the performance rights. Please note that, as a London Theatre, we are sometimes denied rights that are available elsewhere. Rights which have previously been available may sometimes be withdrawn. Conversely, rights which are not available now may be released.
Currently Carole Coyne is the SLT Rights Officer, handling all negotiations with the main British amateur rightsholders (Samuel French <ref>Samuel French Limited website</ref>, Josef Weinberger <ref>Josef Weinberger Ltd website</ref> and Nick Hern Books <ref>Plays section of Nick Hern Books website</ref>) and occasionally with agents and playwrights.
Before a play is approved for the season, it must be considered in terms of how it can be accommodated within the theatre from a technical perspective. Both Bell Theatre and Prompt Corner have limitations - for example, in Bell Theatre, the fly loft is only half-height, meaning that it is not possible to fly in full-sized staging.
In the past, directors have used some ingenious methods to overcome logistical problems. Recently, the theatre has accommodated a live band on stage (The Hot Mikado and A Slice of Saturday Night) and even flooded part of the stage to create the edge of a lake (Neville's Island)
Any play which is accepted for the annual season should be cast-able from the available actors at the theatre. With a large active membership, there are usually plenty of actors available to audition. However, whilst directors can use external tools such as StarNow <ref>StarNow website</ref> to recruit cast (and club) members, Theatre Committee is keen to open up opportunities for all current would-be actors too. For this reason, the numbers of male and female parts are carefully considered, and the committee tries not to schedule too many large-cast shows in succession.
Genre, Style and Variation
Working to the maxim that 'variety is the spice of life', Theatre Committee tries to choose as inclusive and wide-ranging a set of plays as possible from all the submitted plays. In some years, there may be many submissions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, at other times there may be a glut of uproarious modern comedies. Although there is scope for themed "mini-seasons", the aim is usually to create contrast throughout the year.
No play performed at the theatre in the previous 10 years will be considered for production. This policy is designed to ensure that as wide a repertoire is performed as possible.
No director is allocated more than one show slot in the annual season, excluding youth shows. These are co-directed by the relevant teachers, who may separately submit a play for performance by the general membership.
SLT is lucky as an institution in having a large established membership and loyal audiences. This means we are under less pressure than some groups to turn a large profit on every production. However, it is important that the theatre continues to operate as a going concern. Theatre committee therefore chooses shows in the season which will be popular with the theatre-going public - comedies, pantomimes, well-known classics and large-cast shows in general often generate large audience numbers.
The Theatre Committee may also decide to mount an "Out-production", such as Gosforth's Fête, at a location (or locations) outside the theatre building.
Changes to the Season
In exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to change a show after the season has been announced for one of the following reasons:
- The rights for a particular play are not available or have been withdrawn.
- The director has found it impossible to cast his/her show from the available auditionees (and at subsequent call-backs).
- A director becomes unavailable to direct his/her show.
In this scenario, the committee will endeavour to find an alternative production for the performance slot. If s/he is still available to direct, the director has first refusal on an alternative production. This must be read and approved by the committee before any announcements are made regarding new auditions. In the event that the director is unable to find a satisfactory replacement play, the committee will approach other directors who already submitted (unsuccessfully) for the season.