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The Minimalist Masters: Community Theater Organizations Can Learn from the Bicycle Opera Project

As a follow up to our previous post on Three Innovative, Money-Saving Tips for Community Theaters, we are taking a closer look at a group of young opera singers that might just be the masters of minimalism.The Bicycle Opera Project brings Canadian contemporary opera to communities across Ontario, Canada by bicycle. Yes…you read that right. They also tow everything that they need to showcase a variety of repertoire while on the road. The project was launched in 2012, when the troupe cycled to Peterborough, Port Hope, Belleville, Prince Edward County and Gananoque. The Bicycle Opera Project has continued to thrive and grow during each following summer.

Photo by Alice Irene of the 2014 Bicycle Opera Project Team
Photo by Alice Irene of the 2014 Bicycle Opera Project Team


Now in their third season, they have included a few more young emerging opera stars and instrumentalists, as well as expanded the amount of ground that they will travel. Their tour now includes stops in Kingston, Prince Edward County, Belleville, Campbellford, Warkworth, Hamilton, Bayfield, London, Stratford, Brantford, Guelph, Waterloo and Toronto (with multiple shows in many of these locations). Tickets for their productions – entirely dependent on location – range from a Pay What You Can (PWYC) donation at the door to $35 each.

Besides the fact that this project is a huge undertaking and that these musicians travel almost superhero-like distances between each tour stop, there are so many wonderful things that community theatre organizations can learn from this and help get the wheels turning for more out-of-the-box production ideas. Here are just a few of the “take-aways” from the Bicycle Opera Project:

  • If you don’t have a summer season, maybe you should! (Added bonus: your audience members might have more free time to attend events.)
  • Remember that imitation is the best form of flattery. Why not consider taking a public domain work (Shakespeare, anyone?) on the road to your surrounding communities.
  • Spread the net wide to reach more fans. The further you get away from your organization’s home-base, the more likely you are to reach fans that might not have heard of you before!
  • If you are able to, consider putting together a PWYC production during the summer season. This would work especially well if you can obtain a (free) public location for the performance. Not only is this a great way to give back to your loyal audience members, but it also provides a great opportunity to attract new audience members and fans!

Even if you don’t take a show on the road, maybe your next production could be a “bare minimum” production. Imagine that you only have a couple of bike trailers to bring all your props and costumes with you and see if you can scale down your sets. You might just surprise yourself with what you manage to leave behind in the dust!

Photo by Alice Irene of the 2014 Bicycle Opera Project Team
Photo by Alice Irene of the 2014 Bicycle Opera Project Team And check popular weekly ads:
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