Laura Hall (She/Her/Hers) (Wonderland, Pippin) first fell in love with theatre because of the special sense of community she felt in every production she did. “I was so addicted to that intense bond we had in a show,” Laura remembers. “When a show ends and you’re 12, it’s heartbreaking and traumatic because you lack basic emotional regulation. Hordes of pre-teens crying uncontrollably like it’s The Crucible, but in real life.” Since then, having performed on Broadway in Wonderland, toured with Diane Paulus’ revival of Pippin, and worked regionally across the country, theatre has taken on a different meaning for Laura. Now it’s about that moment when the lights first go down and people have gathered, sitting quietly, to experience a show together. “It’s a sacred space showing up to watch people on stage and not know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s such a beautiful way to create community and develop empathy and compassion for stories outside of your own existence. It feels like humaning in its highest form.”
So where does licensing fit into all of this? After attending the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music and over 15 years in the profession, Laura had developed a holistic understanding about how things worked in the theatre industry from an actor’s perspective. However, she was intrigued by and had much to learn about licensing. “From a very basic perspective, licensors are the connective tissue: people who are responsible for connecting folks who want to produce theatre with plays and musicals that should be produced. Licensing companies provide the materials, handle payments, and answer questions so the creatives can spend their time writing the next cool thing instead of answering the same question about a line alteration.”
Laura explained that the current licensing model for how people who want to put on shows get access to the materials, from regional theaters to high-school drama programs, is based on a time before the internet. Back then the only way to learn about pieces to perform were through cast recordings and reviews in newspapers. Licensing companies would print and physically store scripts and other material in a warehouse. Given that, they were not eager to throw money into printing materials for a piece that was not popular as there was a significant physical cost with printing and storing. “But it’s different now. Shows are going viral before getting a commercial production. Shows are getting on the Billboard cast album weekly charts before they even get to a first class production. The whole model of how we make and consume theatre is shifting.”
And so, because of the internet, shows don’t have to go to Broadway first and then trickle down to regional theaters, universities, and schools. There is so much great work out there ready to be performed – it just has to find its way to people’s hands. “It’s a shame that theatre has been so myopically limited with the pinnacle being Broadway. Theatre is much larger than that as an entity and art form, and Uproar Theatrics is obsessed with helping open things up a bit.”
Uproar Theatrics only sends digital files, so no more erasing penciled-in blocking in librettos and shipping them back. “In the past, licensing and publishing have been linked when they are really two separate things. Uproar has unlinked them and we are just licensing. That means we are not making money on actually selling copies of the script. So people interested in licensing a piece can go on the Uproar website and immediately receive a free, watermarked copy of every script and they don’t have to spend $15 and wait three weeks to see if a script might be a right fit. The barrier to entry is so much lower.”
Not only does Uproar give immediate access to scripts on their website, but they also give access to some cast recordings and demos of music so you can take a listen as well. This new way of access means whether you are a high-school student looking for new shows to recommend to your drama teacher, an artistic director at a theatre, or just a theatre fan, you have the same access to scripts and can peruse them online for free whenever you’d like.
How does Uproar find pieces to license? “It’s a magical combination of connecting with personal relationships and allowing it to snowball into a network of other recommendations. That being said, we recognize relationships won’t provide a holistic picture of all of the incredible work out there. Lots of cold emails and late night scouring of the internet has led and will continue to lead to more voices telling different stories.”
Uproar has been a huge part of the work Laura has been involved with during the pandemic. But what else has been on Laura’s mind the past several months? “I think the industry has had so many valuable conversations about what theatre is, what it can be, and what feels like it’s no longer serving us. Ultimately, the way to make lasting change is to create new avenues instead of merely calling out what’s wrong. That feels permanent to me. Create new solutions and then find others who believe in those solutions. You’d be surprised who shows up ready to jump in.”