The Festival Experience

' Fun, engrossing, fabulous'
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Festivals are amazing

by Gil Savage (after attending his first national AACTFest)

The curtain goes up and there are up to three 10 by 10 foot squares on an otherwise bare stage. In each square is everything that can used for a show - set, props, and costumes. The signal is given, and the first show is off and running. The actors and production crew hustle to set up their show in 10 minutes - because that’s when they must start. And they must end their piece no later than 60 minutes later. Then they have 10 minutes to put it all back in their box and leave the stage bare again.

Adjudicators present their opinions, offering insight and constructive ideas - it is always fascinating and stimulates great dialog. Then show number two is off and running.... And so it goes, until all the entrants have given it their best.

It is truly an inspiring and exciting experience. Not to mention the incredible celebrations and parties. Plus lots of time to network with other theatre people, and chat with play publisher and companies specializing in lighting, costumes, box office, member & donor software, and much more.

Festivals happen at the area, state, regional and national levels. They each function in pretty much the same way. AACT is the body that sanctions festivals for following the common rules.

What does it take to enter?

Basically, you need a show that runs no longer than 60 minutes, with a set that can be erected in ten minutes or less, and resources to get your company to the festival site. You need a team to organize the production, travel, and entry requirements. You need an AACTFest Handbook (see menu upper right). You need a company excited about sharing their work, meeting other theatre people, and willing to learn. If your group does not belong of AACT, you will need to join by the time your show reaches the regional level.

Of course, there are a lot of details, but isn’t that true with any theatre production? You need to start  months before your state festival. You need to schedule, select a play, budget, obtain rights to perform (not difficult), select a cast that is available for the state festival (and the regional and national festivals – (dream big!), rehearse, build a traveling set, perform for the fans at home, and pack your bags for a wonderful adventure.

You’ll want to schedule a performances of your show at home and be sure all your people aren’t busy with another show or theatre event the weekend of the state festival. It’s not easy to squeeze in a festival show – but those who have experienced a community theatre festival go to the trouble.

If you are new to Festivals and you are interested in talking to people who have gone through the experience before, please contact your State Representative. They're here to help.

Lots of great reasons to enter

Publicity and Excitement

  • Theaters that go to festivals typically get enthusiastic support from their community. Promote to your community that you are representing them in a state / regional level event. They love it!
  • It can be a terrific fund-raising and profile raising opportunity.
  • Fire up the imagination and interest of your group - get everyone thinking in new directions.

Great Ideas and Contacts

  • See some of the best theater around. Get great ideas for next season.
  • Meet terrific people who are doing excellent theater
  • Inspire yourself and your group that gets everyone reaching for the next level.
  • Meet and chat with play publishers, and providers of theatre-related products and services

Bring Home the Bacon and Reap Rewards

  • It brings prestige, publicity, excitement. The media loves to cover a winner!
  • Awards from festivals can help with grants and donations.
  • Theaters that take honors at festivals get support from their communities and audiences.

Festivals are an exciting experience for everyone who attends

  • The great shows, terrific people and great parties make festivals a habit forming experience. There are a hundred good reasons why 40 years of festivals have spread to 43 states, with thousands of productions.
  • Be a part of history. Join the theaters and many theater folks who are making our own unique traditions.

Visit our AACTFest page for more information and insights.

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