Directing Production

3 Tips: How to Stage a Show on a Small Budget

Written by Lindsay Price

For many drama teachers, a dwindling production budget is an ongoing struggle. How do you put up a full production with limited funds? Beth Goodwin portrays the double whammy she works in a small school with a small budget. And how she still ends up with consistently stunning visuals. Here are 3 tips from her successful productions.

Tip #1: Don’t rely on a set.

Even something as simple as changing your curtain colour and then using it as a backdrop can make a big difference, as seen in Beth’s production of Alice.

Beth says:

“With Alice, I was tired of the black curtains on the stage in our gym. I went through a prom book and found red polyvinyl for $50.00, hooked it up over the black curtains, and then we had red curtains. It was awesome. We do a lot of reduce, reuse, and recycle.”


Tip #2: You can costume on a budget.

Beth has a few tricks up her sleeve (pun intended!) that involve planning ahead and being on the lookout for deals:

  • Shop a fabric store like Jo-Ann’s and look for Red Tag Sale clearance fabric
  • Yard sale in the summertime and stockpile for the coming year
  • Look on eBay for fabric lots (with free shipping!)

Here’s an example of how Beth used festival t-shirts and transformed them into costumes for a production of The Absolutely Insidious and Utterly Terrifying Truth About Cat Hair:

“We buy t-shirts for the festival competition that we participate in, so I got long-sleeved ones and the students turned them inside out. We made hoods to coordinate with the t-shirt colours, added makeup, and they all had black pants, leggings, and shoes. So, they were 24 cat hairs for the price of a t-shirt and some makeup.”

2011 State Class B Drama Finals

Tip #3: Don’t rely on the bells and whistles.

Often the best productions are those that don’t rely on the extras, the fancy sets, or lighting. It’s all about the actors and their characters.

Beth says,

“Without the bells and whistles, the actors have to be strong. The characters have to be strong. I drill it into their head, you know? If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, the audience isn’t going to believe it.”


This is a practice (not dress) rehearsal of Oddball by Lindsay Price. You can see it required a lot of concentration on the beginning dance entrance.

Want to hear more about Beth’s success staging productions on a budget?
Click here to listen to the podcast.

Click here for an additional tip sheet for Costuming on a Budget!

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About the author

Lindsay Price