Once upon a time, many years ago, my home-town recreation department decided to start a community theatre program. They asked me and another gentleman to be the founding directors. We were young, and so we agreed.
The first thing we discovered was that, though there had been money budgeted for our (meager) salaries, there had been no money budgeted for nonessential items like costumes, sets, advertising or royalties. When I went to my boss in city hall and asked that this be rectified, she looked at me blankly and said, "You mean that stuff costs money?"
Fortunately, we had connections with several other theatres in the area, and so we could borrow costumes and props. We were given discarded flats and lumber. The newspapers and television stations gave us free publicity with a minimum of begging.
Our most unanticipated problem came when we couldn't make city hall understand the concept of "royalties." It amazed them that they were expected to pay for the rights to scripts. "We're giving their play exposure," they complained. Why should we give them money, too?" Gosh, how do you answer that?
Since we had no money for royalties that first season, I wrote several plays myself--customized for the set pieces and costume elements we had at hand. (Mercifully, none of these scripts have survived.) We dug out plays that had fallen into the public domain and rewrote them for our own purposes.
We saved everything we built. For one production we had managed to build a front-porch facade, two trees, a park bench, and a street lamp. We were so pleased with ourselves! Imagine how these could be combined and recombined for other plays! We had a Friday night opening and a Saturday matinee at a local school, with big audiences.
When we returned on Monday, our set pieces were gone. We looked everywhere and finally went to the janitor. "Oh," he said with a happy grin. "I knew you were done with that stuff, so I burned it all for ya." So much for stock pieces.
We believed that there was a need for good children's theatre in the community, and so we badgered the recreation department until they promised to pay royalties for our first show of the second season. If we had respectable houses, they said, they would consider bankrolling the rest of the season. It would be a good idea, we decided, to choose the first show wisely. We selected Winnie-the-Pooh, the Sergel script [adapted by Kristen Sergel]. The recreation department bought a tiny two-inch by two-inch newspaper ad to let the community know that we were doing a weekend production in a local church recreation hall.
That weekend 1,200 children and their parents converged on our little theatre. We extended the run for a second weekend with the same result, and never heard another complaint from city hall about paying royalties.
I have been a Winnie-the-Pooh fan ever since.