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My school's theatre department is thinking about doing a cabaret style fundraiser to promote and raise money for our production of Footloose. We want to sing music from the show, do some dances, and have our improv team act. However, with a cabaret style, we need to set up tables and serve food :( . This comes the problem do we serve food in our theatre where it is difficult to clean, set up backstage where it is easy to clean, have it in the school's cafeteria where I would have to come up with ways to run lighting without a proper dimmer pack, or do we try off-site and pray that they give us a good deal on a rental. We are stuck on what to do. And when we figure out were we do this, what is the best way to advertise this and what should we charge for admission?
Cabaret style shows have a certain element that can be lost in a theater especially when trying to balance pizza or something on your lap after it’s been run down a long hallway to the theater than passed down some form of say continental style audience pattern. In attempting to do this alone, you might loose the focus much less the spirit of the play.

Same with a show backstage in unless the stage is huge, having trouble keeping the audience safe. Though if the stage is large enough, it could form a really unique production in this style of show. This said however ask yourself is it because of the style of doing a show backstage you would be doing this or because of the ease in the technical aspects of the show?

The school cafeteria I would think the more normal place for it to be done, than again, it’s hard to get the ambience of a cabaret in a happy industrial lunch room - technical problems aside. One might look into some German beer halls in how in some ways the long instead of little round cables can be appropriate, but Formica and colored plastic/easily folding up tend to make the suspension of disbelief a little harsh. Much less a large room with windows etc makes it hard to narrow the focus short of scaling it down some. This and the disruption to the school’s lunch room people would cause endless trauma for them.

My old school had an over flow lunch room with a simple gymatorum type of stage in it we could take over for the yearly dinner theater production of bad pizza and soda in doing more of a cabaret style of show. By it’s nature it was also fairly close to the kitchen but not close enough that it was disrupted by it. This type of setting also allowed the large cast of actors - a cash cow in itself to both act in the show and learn their alternate professional trade. I remember Cabaret, Egad the Woman in White and some western show with Wild Bill in it done in this way.

Lighting wise, I remember an ancient dimmer system in the hall with only a few circuits, a small scaffolding set up for the lighting and sound booth, some booms and a few permanently mounted pipes hung from the ceiling.

Were I considering this production for your school having not seen the place, I might look for a small hall of a room that can be closed down to student traffic for a week or two. Perhaps a small gymn, or large classroom either of which near the lunch room hopefully for the utility of re-warming the pizza. Short of this, might it be possible to close off part of your lunch room with some flats and or portable walls? Than just erect the pre-built scenery and some form of stage.

For tech stuff, I assume the sound system in a more simple form should be fairly easy to move, just a question of some speakers. Given it’s cabaret, you could possibly go without mics. For lights, transport a follow spot or two and put them on the scaffold with the control gear. Light board should be easy enough to transport along with some booms. If you don’t have enough booms, borrowing from other schools might be an easy option. Assuming you have a fairly simple light plot, fixtures from the stage could than be mounted on the booms with some shoe box dimmers either the production buys during it’s second or third year of production or for now, something you rent so you are not stuck with them given something goes wrong. The shoe box dimmer than plugged into wall sockets becomes a simple way of control along with perhaps some switch assembly for larger loads the maintenance people set up for you. They might also be able to hang some simple pipes from the ceiling in making it easy.

Really, beyond the rental of the dimmer packs in using them for things a simple switch or two won’t control nicely, that should beyond the food, costumes and advertising be the only real expenses. They often are good money makers especially when the cast is large. It’s also fun to get out of the theater once in a while.

Depending how big your stage is and how many nights you would want this to run.
if you have a big stage, put a big black drop down and have set up tables on the stage. you could even run the entire thing back there by closing the curtain and have the audience face the curtain. you would have to run it for longer but at the same time, it would be more intimate and you could even have students almost serve dinner.
thats just in my crazy little head though!
good luck!
We'll probably end up doing it in our large cafeteria for a one night show, but that means I have to lug all the choir sound equipment down there which is half way down the school. Plus I would have to set up our two lighting trees which are hell to do and find lights to put on them since the ones in the theatre will be in use. However, I don't have a dimmer pack that I can use for it. Anyone know a place in the British Columbian lower mainland that will rent a dimmer pack for cheap?

What would be a good way to advertise besides putting an ad in newspapers and putting up posters around school?
were planning a dinner theatre in may. were going to build a stage on our stage and have tables set up around. we are goigng to preform "A Mid Summer's Night Dream" with a guest director form new york.
if you have not finalized the location yet you may want to look into other schools, many elementary schools around here have a multi purpose room that serves as an auditorium, gym and cafeteria. the nature of the room makes it easy to clean and gives u a small but decent looking stage and already has sound/lighting.
All the elementary schools in the area don't have anything that meats our needs, we are one of two schools that has a lighting system and we are still allowed access to our gallery (our rival school's gallery got condememd by the school board). Anyway, multipurpose rooms at the elementary schools are just a large carpeted room, that carpet is hard to clean if we need to do that. So we don't have any means of stage area, lighting or sound. I think our TD has settled upon our cafeteria. Now all I have to do is figure out where to get a dimmer pack from around here that isn't too expensive. and of course, the problem of advertiseing and still turning a good profit.
Re: backstage?

The best funraiser that our school does is our Vaudeville show. We hold auditions for anyone with any style act, pick the best ones, and the run a couple rehersals. We also go around town and see if we can get donations or prizes to give aways and have a local radio personality come by as a "staller" during changes. The prizes and meeting someone like that tend to draw people to as well as give them more than a dark stage to look at. Sell tickets at 5$ each, go insane with having too much fun on the set and lights, etc. and you have a **** good show. It may not be the best thing at first, but we do it yearly and every year it only gets bigger and better. Also, this year we started doing a "stage crew dance". We took ALL of our lighting and sound equipment down to the Cafe. and DJd ourselves and ran our own consecians. Didnt do that well this year, but again were going to try again next year hopefully (personally i feel that it would have done much better if it was marketted in a different way without it giving off the steryotypical stage crew impression of geeks and freaks that seems to follow in our school)
Re: backstage?

just to attest to the amazing wonderfulness of shoe box dimmers. a million and one uses. you can light the silliest of fundraisers. might be a nice long term investmenst. our school used them in a fundraiser that raised enought money to by a genie lift. i'd say the paid for themselves there.
Re: backstage?

kingfisher1 said:
just to attest to the amazing wonderfulness of shoe box dimmers. a million and one uses. you can light the silliest of fundraisers. might be a nice long term investmenst. our school used them in a fundraiser that raised enought money to by a genie lift. i'd say the paid for themselves there.

Haha, i do believe Ian is under-stating it, they were used to light a show that raised $90,000. The theater department got $16,000 out of the deal.

See for my thread about this gala.

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