“Why did you pick that?”

Our Artistic Director breaks down how a season is chosen

Theaters across the country have very different ways they choose a season.  Some specialize in particular types of theater, like Shakespeare & Co in Lenox, MA, who produce purely Shakespeare and classical pieces, or 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, CA, which produces only musicals that premiered between 1920 and 1970!  When it comes to community theaters, most choose a variety of genres to fill out their season – from comedies to dramas to musicals to special events.  I figured I would give you some insight on how The Sherman Players choose our season.

It all starts mid-way through the year with a public call for plays & directors for the upcoming season.  Some theaters pick their plays first and find directors from there.  I am a firm believer in not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I want theater pieces on our stage that have passion behind them: Directors that are passionate for a certain play and actors who are passionate about being in that play.  Not that this can’t happen when you choose the plays first, but I find casting a wide net to see what Directors might be interested in directing helps put a season together much more quickly.

From there the list of the submissions is combed over by the Artistic Director (me!) and whittled down to a shortlist of shows that feel appropriate for our theater.  What does “appropriate” mean?  To figure that out the following questions are considered:

  • Would this piece work on the Sherman Playhouse stage? Logistically, can it fit in our space?
  • Can we afford to produce this piece given sets/costumes/props involved?
  • What is the casting breakdown? Can we realistically cast the show with the talent pool in this area?
  • And, importantly, Is this a show people want to see?


The Artistic Director then meets with the Artistic Committee for a discussion on possible show combinations.  While we may like every show on the shortlist, our task is to figure out which ones can fit together to make a cohesive season?  It’s very much a puzzle.  We want to balance the season – ideally, we’d like a season that has something to appeal to everyone, not a year full of ONLY dramas or ONLY comedies or ONLY Shakespeare or ONLY Neil Simon.

The committee assembles the list of 4 (or 5 depending on the year) shows to be our proposed season.  From there the Artistic Director applies for the “rights” to the shows.  For each show we must get permission from the authors and the publishing houses, and pay them a fee for each performance.  That is what is known as “rights” or “the license.”  Hopefully, the authors and publishing house grant that permission.  If not, then we are simply not allowed to produce that show in our season and the artistic committee goes back to the list of submissions to find a replacement.  This can happen when a particular show is possibly returning to the professional stage, or another theater in the region has already secured the rights.

Once we are granted the rights to all the shows the season is presented to our Board of Directors and voted on, the show Directors are reconfirmed and specific performance dates are agreed upon.  When all this is finalized, typically in the Fall, the new season can be announced!

This year’s selection process resulted in the following varied season – Whodunnit, Stepping Out, Carrie and Pride & Prejudice.  So, a comedy thriller, a dramedy (dramatic comedy), a musical & a wry take on a classical piece.  A nice balance.  We look forward to welcoming you to the Sherman Playhouse in 2022!

Matt Austin Artistic Director

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