Forming a Shadow Cast
Securing a Venue
Rights and Legalities
Putting Together a Show
Leadership and Cast Dynamics
The Necromerchant's Payment of Ottawa, ON
Forming a Shadow Cast
How do I rally up cast members?
Finding enough people to put together a cast can be tricky, but it's just a matter of knowing where to look. The Repo Cast Network is usually a good place to start. Be sure to check if there is already one forming in your town (you can also do this by checking the In the Works section of this website). Other places you might want to hit up: schools/ theatre groups / film geeks/ people from the counter culture/ social media sites or even friends of friends!
How do I determine who is suitable for my cast?
Always remember this: it is one thing for someone to say that they want to be part of a shadow cast. It is a completely different ball game when you are actually working full swing to bring this hypothetical idea to life. There is a lot of work, time, and money that is involved with shadow casting and everyone must be able to give 110% in order for it to work. Usually those who stick around for the majority of rehearsals, play nice with others and are willing to help out in whatever capacity to get the show off the ground is potentially a dedicated cast member that you definitely should keep around.
Do I need to have a theatre background in order to be part of a cast?
While theatre experience may be an asset, you certainly do not have to be a theatre butterfly in order to join a shadow cast. Before doing Repo!, several of our cast members have never even stepped foot on-stage. We know many other shadow casters who were in the same boat. If you've got the enthusiasm for it, you're willing to learn new things, and you're not afraid to be up there under the spotlight, you can be a shadow caster.
Do I have to audition people?
It is really up to you and how you want to run your cast. There are some casts who do them, and others who don't. Holding auditions definitely has its many benefits. It will give you an excellent first impression of potential cast members, how flexible they are as performers and whether or not they would be a good fit for your cast.
When the Shadow Cats first started we didn't hold any auditions, but oddly enough things just fell into place for us. These days when we get new "kittens" (aka. new people who want to join our cast), we usually do a warm-up audition to determine where their strengths lie so we can put them in the best suited role. This warm-up audition consists of playing a scene from the film and throwing the kittens into the scene in various roles to see how they work with their role. We find that "Mark it Up" is usually a good place to start because the blocking is clear but there is always room for improvisation.
How many people is a good number to have in a cast?
Again, this totally depends on the cast. How many characters and extras do you want represented at any given time. For example ask yourself would you actually want to simulate a small crowd in Sanitarium Square, or If you have a frequently run cast, do you want understudies? It is really up to you.
In our cast, we find that usually the good average number to run a comfortably smooth show is around 14-16 cast members. Some casts are smaller, while others are larger. The trick is to accommodate your lineup based on the amount of people you have.
Remember that a lot of roles can be doubled up. For instance whoever plays a Gentern can also play a victim in another scene, provided that they can make the costume change. Also remember that you don't necessarily have to have an accurate number of people in every scene, we've had shows before where we only had one Henchgirl (heck, for the first four shows we didn't even HAVE Henchgirls). Likewise, we've seen other casts who play scenes without having the right number of Genterns who have put their own spin on it, and it still translates just as well.
Also, remember to take into account the size of your performance space. Some casts have larger stages than others, and this might also determine how many people you can accommodate. The last thing you want is to have everyone tripping over each other.
How do I deal with minors?
Dealing with minors is something that differs from cast to cast depending on legality, comfort levels, and the content of your show. Something you should keep in mind is that Repo! is an R-Rated film and that other parties might have issues with minors participating. Depending on where you are your venue could be subject to repercussions for allowing minors in.
You may also encounter parents of your cast members that might not be too thrilled with the idea of their offspring prancing around in a skimpy outfit on a public stage. The last thing you want is a really angry parent threatening to yank their child out of the production three days before show time (We have seen this happen before to a different shadow cast for another racy film. It wasn't pretty).
Don't forget to keep in mind the comfort and maturity level of your cast members. There are some casts out there who don't mind at all performing with minors (hell, there are even casts where the minors are the majority!) while others insist on an 18+ cast because of the mature content. There are also casts who have minors only do the less sexually explicit roles so that they are not subject to being ogled at by questionable characters.
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Securing a Venue
What kind of venue should I approach?
Typically, repertoire theatres make the best venue. A repertoire theatre is usually a single screen theatre that is independently owned. The benefit of dealing with an independently owned theatre as opposed to a mainstream multiplex is that you won't have to deal with a whole corporation which could slow down the process. You might be fortunate enough to find a repertoire theatre that already has a stage and lighting set up in it as well.
Try to approach venues that have hosted a Repo! screening, or even a Rocky Horror screening so that they at least have an idea of what to expect from your show.
What kinds of things would a potential venue be looking for when booking our cast?
Professionalism, organization and the opportunity to make them money. Before you approach your theatre be sure that you have your act together, and do your research. Show that you and your cast know your stuff and are responsible enough to pull off a successful show. The most important thing to note is that when you are approaching a theatre you are essentially selling them a product. Show them that you can make them money. A good way of doing this is to present them with facts: is there a demand in your city for a Repo! Shadow cast? How successful have other shadow casts in surrounding areas been? How much of their own money do they have to invest in making something like this work? It is always good to have answers to these questions handy.
What sort of details should we keep in mind when selecting a venue?
When looking for a venue for your cast there are three main factors to keep in mind:
You need to make sure that there is enough open space in front of the screen for you and your cast to perform the show. While a stage would be ideal, it is not always necessary. If you've got sufficient floor space, you should be able to work with it.
Make sure that there is also space close to the stage to set up a private backstage area for cast members who will need to make quick costume changes during the show. Our cast uses the wings on each side of the screen (they are little hallways leading to the fire exits) to change in. Ask your theatre what area you can use. If you are really stuck you can always set up a wall of sheets or fabric.
Be sure to check what kind of equipment the venue has. Does your venue have a 35mm projector or a DVD player? Does it have a screen? (Believe it or not some venues that Repo! has been performed in didn't have one) Good lighting equipment is also an asset. Repo! is aesthetically a dark film, you want to make sure that you at least have a spotlight to light your cast when they act in front of the screen so that people can see your performance. Don't be discouraged if they don't have a lighting system in place already. You can always rent lights from a theatre supply company, or get creative with your lighting options (flash light party anyone?)
I have this, this, and this crazy idea for our show... should I tell my venue?
Always tell your theatre what ever crazy shenanigans you are planning to pull during your show. The last thing you want is to make them mad, or worse yet, get them in trouble because of something you've done during your show. Some theatres have rules about certain things (ie. the use of liquid indoors, food, nudity, etc.) so make sure that every little thing is clarified with them before you finalize ideas for your show.
To give you an example from our experience, we used to use confetti as fake blood, water or snow in our show. While we thought that this was an excellent alternative to liquids, our theatre frowned upon confetti because it was a bitch to clean up and it was also a fire hazard when thrown dangerously close to the stage ligts. The awkward lecture with the manager that occurred after one of our shows where we made the biggest mess with confetti could definitely have been prevented had we ran this idea by the manager from the very beginning.
How do I keep a good relationship with my venue?
Just like any relationship, communication and respect are definitely key in keeping close ties with your theatre. Remember that you are a guest in their venue, and you have to play by their rules. We also find that going above and beyond when it comes to helping your theatre out is also a good way to keep good relations with them. Do things like thoroughly clean up the stage after your show, help them with promotion, and stay active within your theatre's community. The more successful you help your venue become, the more willing they might be to book you again.
We can't find a movie theatre! Where else can we perform?
If you can't find a cinema that will host your cast, think outside the box. There are other venues out there that might be willing to host your show. Conventions, small art theatres (that aren't necessarily cinemas), or bars are good places to start. San Antonio's Vanity and Vein's first shadow cast happened in an outdoor BBQ restaurant which was pretty freaking awesome. Ottawa's Necromerchant's Payment perform in a small concert venue in the city. Also don't forget that the first stage play for Repo! was originally performed in small bars and coffee houses. So long as the venue has enough space you can pull it off!
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Amber's Sweets of Sacramento, CA
Rights and Legalities
Who do I speak to to get the rights to show the film and perform a shadow cast for Repo!?
Before screening Repo! with a live shadow cast, you absolutely need to make sure that you have the proper rights to screening the film, especially if you are charging your audience members a fee to see your show. To attain the rights to playing the film, you have to find out who the main distributor of Repo! is in your home country.
If you are a cast forming in the US, your main contact will be Spooky Dan. He is the one who organizes Repo! screenings in the states for Lions Gate. His email is email@example.com. Any general inquiries about getting your cast the rights to performing the film may also be directed to him as he is the one who probably has the most information on how it works.
If you are in Canada, the distributor for Repo! is Maple Pictures. You can shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to inquire about attaining rights to showing Repo! in your home town.
What is the process like for getting the rights for our shadow cast?
No matter where you are, the process is more or less the same: abide by their rules, pay them a fee and they will give you the rights to play the film. When you contact your local distributor representative, they should be able to provide you with the proper detailed information on how to get the rights to perform Repo! in your area.
For shadow casts performing in the USA: Spooky Dan will help you with the process. You have two options on how to go about this:
- Agree to doing a 50/50 split based on ticket sales between you and Lionsgate. For instance, if you have 500 audience members show up to your show at $10 each (total profit of $5,000), the shadow cast/venue and Lions Gate will each get $2,500. The 50/50 split will have a set minimum amount though, so be sure to ask Spooky Dan about this when you email him.
- Pay a flat fee of $350 to Lionsgate for a "special screening" (shadow cast, non-theatre, convention or fundraiser type screening of Repo!)
Look at your potential audience count and weigh the options: what will give you or your venue the most profits at the end of the day?
For shadow casts performing in CANADA:
When you contact Maple Pictures, indicate whether you want to rent the 35mm print, or if you want to play the DVD. We believe the rights to playing the DVD is around $150 (just ask them to make sure of the correct price) and the fee for the print is a little bit higher. If you want to have the 35mm print for your show, discuss this with your theatre first since they should be more familiar with the rental process.
Who pays the fees to attain the rights, my venue or my shadow cast?
This is a decision that needs to be made between you and your venue. Depending on the venue you choose, the circumstances involved in securing that venue, and who goes home with the profits, the financial responsibility can vary.
For our cast, as well as several frequently performing casts, the theatre usually deals with the legality of securing the print. Our theatre books us regularly and our cast do not see any profit of the ticket sales, so the theatre is financially responsible for getting us the proper rights. In this case, our theatre is also the one who deals with Maple Pictures while all our cast would have to do is take care of preparing the show itself.
If you are not renting your venue, have an open discussion with them about this and make sure that everyone is in agreement on who is financially responsible for the fees involved. You could always negotiate so that your cast pays a portion and the venue pays the other portion and you can split the profits of your show... there are always options.
For casts who rents their venue such as the Necromerchant's Payment in Ottawa, the cast forks up the bill for every single show. Renting the venue means that their particular Repo! screening is a considered private event and the cast is solely responsible for any expenses involving their show.
While venue rental fees and legal rights fees may be pricey to pay up front for your cast, it also has its advantages. If your cast rents a venue and become solely responsible for putting together your event, you are also entitled to ALL profits from your show (provided that you take the "flat fee" route and not the 50/50 split). If you rent out a theatre with 500 seats and sold every single seat at $10 a pop ($5,000) and your initial cost of renting the venue is $500 + $350 for the rights to the film, that equals to a profit of $4,150 for your cast. Wow!
We do not have a 35mm projector to play the proper print of the movie... can we show the DVD or Blu-Ray instead?
While the picture quality can be different between a 35mm print and a DVD, you can still certainly screen the Repo! DVD or Blu-Ray if your venue does not have the proper fascilities for a print. Just pay the proper fees involved with getting the rights to play the DVD in your venue and you are good to go.
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Putting Together a Show
What is blocking?
Blocking is the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance. It is very important to work out your blocking before the show so that your cast members know where they need to be at any given time.
When you are blocking your show remember this: you are essentially making a stage play version of the film. If you want to be screen accurate that is completely fine, but you also have to accommodate the environment that you are working with. Remember you're on a stage with a live audience watching you. Make sure to block your scenes in a way that they will be able to see your movements and emotions.
Avoid turning your back to the audience unless it's necessary. You might have a nice bum but it can't emote. You can get away with this when you're setting up a for a big reveal, if you want the audience to not pay attention a character that's on stage, or if you're interacting with the screen.
If the screen shows two characters facing each other it's best to tweak your blocking. If you have to characters facing each other on stage it makes it difficult for most of the audience to see them. To prevent this you always want your cast members to remember the rule of "the 45". The rule of "the 45" is that unless you are facing the audience directly you should always be on a 45 degree angle towards the audience. This will allow the audience to get a clearer view of your performers and their expressions.
Remember that the audience is there to see you, so make sure you can be seen by blocking your show accordingly!
How do we tackle shadow casting a scene for the first time?
There is really no best way to tackle shadow casting a scene for the first time except for just really diving into it and doing some trial and error as you go along. Watch the scene a few times with your cast members share ideas of where you want to go with the scene, and then perhaps even go through the movements a couple of times with the scene playing in front of you. From there, start translating the scene to fit your stage. Figure out your space relation: where will the action take place on stage? Will there be enough room for everyone in this scene? Does your blocking flow smoothly in a stage setting while still maintaining the integrity of what is happening in the film? Blocking a scene for the first time is no easy feat, so take your time with it and make sure that everyone is working together to make the scene work.
What will keep cast members from looking at the screen during the show?
The best way to prevent cast members from looking at the screen during the show is to practice without the screen in plain sight. Once you have your scene blocked, there is really no reason to have the visuals present because you will not need it on stage. Have the film minimized if you're playing it on a computer, put a blanket over the screen or just simply have the screen face the opposite direction from where the cast is practicing. Discipline yourself early on to use ONLY audio cues as a guideline to your blocking. If you can put the audio cues to memory and perform your show with only the audio to guide you, then you're golden! Remember above all else that in shadow casting it is the BIGGEST cardinal sin to look at the screen when it's not appropriate.
Is there ever a time where it's appropriate to look at the screen?
Sure there is if the action calls for it. There are ways to actually incorporate the screen into your blocking. An example of this could be your Shilo could look at the screen if the character is looking at something on a screen (ie. Mag's commercial, or the part where Rotti notifies her that a car awaits her to go to the Opera). The bottom line is that the screen is there, you can totally use it as part of your show! Interact with it!
How do I know when to get on and off stage?
As with on-stage blocking, going on and off the stage should be blocked ahead of time using audio cues as a guideline. It is really important that you figure out who gets on and off stage, and from which side of the stage you are entering and exiting before your show. You don't want someone to miss their cue because the stairs to the stage are crowded with other cast members who are trying to enter and exit at the same time.
How accurate do we have to be to the action going on on screen? Can we add our own gags?
Obviously you can never be 100% screen accurate to the film unless you have the ability to jump cut yourself from set to set and mutilate people constantly without killing them! How screen accurate your cast wants to be is completely your choice. There are casts out there who try to mimic the film in the closest way possible, and there are others (our cast for example) that choose to use parody in many of the scenes. There is no rule on how screen accurate you have to be. Just make the show your own, work with what you've got, make sure your audience is well entertained, and have fun with it!
How do I incorporate the audience into my show?
There are several ways to encourage audience participation. For instance you could get them to sing along, or egg them on to create their own callbacks, or create a game that gets them to interact with the show. An example of this is before every show, our cast introduces a "secret word" and whenever that secret word is mentioned or seen in the film, we get the audience to scream or say a callback.
Another way to incorporate the audience to the show is to simply break the forth wall of your performance and actually put some of your blocking WITHIN the audience. You could have your Jessica Adams tear down the aisles and climb on audience member's laps while begging for them to hide her. You can bring your Genterns to the aisles during Op'ra Sh*t and encourage the audience to dance the Gentern dance with them. Maybe you'd even like to ask for volunteers from the audience to play a small part in the film such as testifiers or various victims. The more you get your audience involved, the more fun your show will be, and the more likely your audience will come back to see you again. The possibilities are limitless!
My stage set-up is like this. How do I best tackle the show given the space I have to work with?
Be realistic and respect your limitations. If you have a small stage then it's probably best to minimize the amount of props and people on the stage at any given time. Also always take safety into consideration: if you have a stage set-up where the stairs are too steep to move objects around safely then it's probably a good idea not to involve heavy furniture or cumbersome props that have to be moved on and off stage quickly. Any stage size can be worked with, you just have to think outside the box and find ways to use it to your advantage.
How often do we have to rehearse?
Rehearse as often as your cast feels you need to rehearse. On average, our cast (who does a monthly show) usually gets together to rehearse once a week just to keep the show fresh in our minds. There have been times where we've rehearsed more than that (ie. if we have a themed show or a cast role switch coming up), and there are times where we've limited the rehearsals down to only one every two to three weeks. Your rehearsal time is something that you definitely need to discuss as a cast. Rehearse as many times as you feel until every single cast member feels 100% confident with what they are doing for the show.
Do we have to rehearse together all the time?
While understandably not everyone's schedule will always align and a few cast members might not always be present to every rehearsal it is very highly recommended that you rehearse together as a cast. It's important to rehearse together as a cast especially when it comes to making sure your blocking in clean. It's rather difficult to rehearse complex scenes when one or more cast members are missing. For example consider how difficult it would be for your Shilo to practice the three-way argument between her, Nathan, and Mag if your Mag was missing. Another example would be if you were missing your Rotti from the final opera sequence rehearsal. These are factors that should be considered, and when it comes down to it it's really not fair to other cast members who are present for rehearsal.
Rehearsing together is also the only way for your cast to build chemistry with one another. Chemistry can really make or break your performance. If performers lack chemistry, then you will have a lacklustre performance. Your rehearsal time is the perfect opportunity to get to know your cast members, see how they interpret their characters and play off of their energy. Rehearsing together also ensures that everyone is on the same page with the direction of the show, which will help it run a lot smoother. That being said it's important that you take the time to practice on your own so that you get better acquainted with the character you're playing.
Props: What is feasible and how do we put them together?
Props really depends on three things: how much money you are willing to spend, who in your cast has the resources to put something together, and what can you accommodate on stage. There are plenty of simple ways to make screen-accurate props on a budget (just go on the Repo Cast Network and discuss with other shadow casters for inspiration), and if you are unable to achieve the screen-accurate route, there are also plenty of alternatives to using the real deal (ie. If you can't use fake blood because the theatre won't allow it ask if you can use red tinsel, confetti or felt!). Work together as a cast to figure out how to collect your props, gather your creative DIY friends, discuss realistic options, and above all be creative.
Costumes: How do we put them together?
Luckily, most costumes from Repo! can easily be put together with some imagination and a trip to your local goth shop or second-hand store. While there are many accurate outfits out there that can be found and purchased for a price, fairly accurate Repo! costumes can also be easily made on a budget. The best resource is The Anal Retentive Repo! The Genetic Opera Costume List. Do some research and you will be amazed by what you can find.
Do you always have to be screen accurate with your Repo! costumes? The answer to that is do whatever you see fit to make it work for your character and how you want to interpret them. Is there a character trait that you want to elaborate on through costume? In our cast, Rotti is often the character that cast members love to improvise with the most. Our Rottis so far have been played by petite people, and every single one of them find a unique way to emphasize Rotti's larger-than-life persona despite their physique. We've had pillow suits, Renaissance makeup, red velvet jackets and other insane costumes that, while they are nowhere near screen accurate, still effectively captures Rotti as the ultimate man of power. If you don't have the means to get that accurate look, there are always different ways to portray your character. Just be creative!
Oh, and if there is one other big piece of advice we can dish out about putting your costumes together, particularly for those with multiple costume changes: velcro will be your best friend!
When it comes to costumes and props, how should a cast decide on what is the property of the cast and what is the property of the individual cast member?
It ultimately depends on your cast and what you define as your personal property vs. the cast property. A good guideline is if someone already personally owns something that they've decided to use or let someone borrow for the show it is their personal property. If someone volunteers to buy/make something FOR the cast with the intention of donating it to the cast, then it is cast property. Whatever each cast member brings into the cast, they must be clear on whether or not this is part of their own property or if it is a donation to the cast itself.
This is a very important thing to note and must be discussed well in advance before you get started preparing for your show. The reason for this is because shit happens. Cast members move on, cast switches happen, something could break, go missing, etc. You need to make sure that everyone is clear on what is cast property and what isn't so that conflict can be avoided should an unfortunate occurrence arise regarding one of your items.
To give you an example, our cast's prop and costume system goes like this: all staple props (ie. guts, knives, Pavi masks, etc.) are cast property. We made them/collected them together as a team for the cast and therefore it will always stay with the cast. With the exception of costumes that were collected/made specifically for the show (ie. Repo Man coat/helmet, graverobber jacket, gentern dresses and band leader jacket), all other costume pieces are property of each cast member since we usually put together our own individual costumes for the show.
How do we organize our props and costumes so it's not chaotic during the show and when striking afterwards?
It is very important to set up a system in advance that everyone must follow religiously to keep your props and costumes organized during the show. What really works for our cast is the bin system: make sure that each cast member provides their own personal bin (a rubbermaid tote with a lid is usually ideal) in which they can store all their props and costumes neatly in the way that makes the most sense to them. That way, no ones stuff gets mixed up with others and everyone can keep track of their own belongings. For cast-property props, we keep a big prop bin in each wing to dump the props in AFTER the prop has been used on stage. Once the show is finished, we collect all the props in the drop-off bins and store them neatly in big labeled tote boxes to make sure they are all accounted for and organized.Make sure that you figure out a system that works for your cast and that everyone is up to speed with it. The last thing you want is for an essential prop to go missing when you need it on stage in 20 seconds!
How do we set a reasonable budget for our show?
Your budget really depends on your cast and how much you want to spend on your show. The more screen accurate you want to become tends to increase that budget. Ultimately, your cast needs to sit down together and set a realistic budget that you can all agree on. However, like we've said in the costume and prop discussion: there is always a way to get around things and make things work no matter what budget you have. There are shadow casts out there that have spent thousands and thousands of dollars collectively, while many others have only spent a few hundreds and still made it work quite successfully. If your audience has been entertained regardless of your budget that's all that really matters. A Repo! shadow cast is always open to interpretation; if you don't have the means, just improvise!
How do I shuffle the cast to accommodate the show? What sort of things do I have to keep in mind, especially when people are playing multiple roles?
If you have a smaller cast to accommodate the whole show, pay extra attention when you are duplicating the roles. With careful shuffling, role duplication is indeed possible, especially with minor roles such as victims and genterns. The biggest factor that you need to look at is your timing between scenes for roles A and B. Do you have enough time to change your costume from Marni in "Chase the Morning" to Bandleader in "Op'ra Sh*t?" Can you make the change from a skimpy Gentern dress in "Sanitarium Square" to yet another skimpy Zydrate Addict outfit for "Zydrate Anatomy?" If you are stuck with performing two different roles in a relatively short period of time, consider your outfits and find ways to keep your costume changes smooth and fast. Choose clothing that is easier to take on and off (this is where velcro comes in handy!), or perhaps find an article of clothing that can be easily manipulated to fit two different outfits. Also consider wearing layers if that makes the transition easier.
Where can I get good resources for any advice regarding our show?
The most wonderful asset we shadow casters have going for us is that we are all connected by the internet. Other Repo! shadow casters from all over the world are just a click away and we're all available to help you out!
The Repo Cast Network group on Facebook is the best place to get advice regarding your show, it's a place where you can discuss and share ideas with other shadow casters.
If you have other friends who have done other shadow casts other than Repo!, they are also an excellent resource for shadow casting advice. Whenever we're stuck, we know we can always turn to our friends in the Toronto Rocky Horror cast for aid.
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Leadership and Cast Dynamics
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In this day and age social media is extremely important for any performing group. Having things like a Facebook fan page and a cast Twitter account can greatly improve your turnout at shows and help with recruitment. Making a Facebook event on your fan page and sharing it on there, as well as having cast members share it on their personal pages is also a good way to get the word out. You can also share the Facebook events for your shows in the Repo Cast Network Facebook group and I will tweet and post them on the Repo Cast Network Facebook fan page.
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