Produce Yourself: 30 Ideas, 30 Minutes

Producing a show is a pain in the ass.  Let’s get that out of the way right now.  You’re going to be putting yourself on the line creatively, financially, socially and professionally.  You’re going to devote hours and days and months of your life to something that could turn out to be crap, or might only be seen by 20 people.  If you’re doing it right, it will be stressful as all hell…and wildly satisfying because of it.


If you’re still reading and haven’t yet clicked away, then maybe you’ll be just fine.  While everything I just said is very much true (and anyone who tells you it’s not, I’d love to see the quality of the work they’re doing), producing an original piece of theatre can also be an invaluable learning experience in all of the aforementioned fields: creatively, financially, socially and professionally.

So while I’ve done my due diligence and warned you of all the necessary stress to come, I also want to help take a little bit of unnecessary stress out of the process so you can focus on the stuff that matters.  Over the course of this series, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through the process of writing, rewriting, finding a space, finding a cast, rewriting, finding money, promoting, rewriting, finding an audience and everything in between.  This is not meant to be a perfect system; it’s meant to be a practical one.  I’m going to give you as many tangible places I can within the Chicago theatre community that can help you along your journey.  And if you’re not in Chicago, I’ll show you easy ways to find the resources you need in your own community.  We’re going to develop a show together.  It’s going to be fun.  I promise.  Having said that, are you ready to get to work?

Your Assignment

Obviously, the first step to producing any show is to actually have some material that you can produce.  If you already have a script or a concept in mind…congratulations.  It will change dramatically, so don’t hold too tight to what you have right now.  In fact, even if you have a script you’ve been writing for 20 years, I’d still try this exercise.  Give it a chance, see what happens.

For those who have absolutely nothing in mind (we’ll call you “the majority”), I’m giving out a piece of homework before we really dig into the full-on writing process.  I want you to sit down with a pad and paper for half an hour and jot down the first thirty ideas that pop into your brain.  The mathematically inclined will notice that averages out to one idea a minute.  These don’t have to be good ideas.  In fact, I’d prefer that they aren’t.  But you should start writing a new idea every minute.  Thinking, pondering, questioning…all that will come later.

We’ll explore why we’re wasting so many potential ideas in Part Two.  Stay tuned.

Shawn Bowers is an independent writer, producer and performer in Chicago, IL.  His latest play, Time Traveling Mom-Dad, has its final performance on Tuesday, December 15th at the Gorilla Tango Theatre.  Visit for more information.

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