Women of Shakespeare calendar cover

One of the newer companies in town, Arcana Theatre, has just launched a fundraiser for its next production: a calendar featuring a dozen of London’s female actors in Shakespearean roles from Juliet to Lady Macbeth. (I’ve purchased two extra copies, which I’ll give away at random to two people who comment on this post. See below for details.)

It’s surprising that having show- or company-related merchandise is a relatively rare occurrence in the city. LCP had a clever idea to sell Three Musketeers chocolate bars at performances of The Three Musketeers earlier this year, but I’m hard-pressed to think of anything else from local companies along those lines in 2010.

On the flip side, it’s more often than not that visitors will have something available to complement their performances. T-shirts and buttons are common, and there’s an occasional CD or DVD. I’ve even seen merchandise worked into a show: throughout Chris Gibbs’ and TJ Dawe’s mock seminar The Power of Ignorance the Vaguen character pushes his book, which is, naturally, available after the performance.

Fringe artists are probably the most consistent when it comes to having some sort of extra available. With more than 40 other shows to compete with for attention, having something to set themselves apart can make a big difference. The Fringe example can’t be set aside as a yearly anomaly, either: one local event site lists 40 music events in the city on an average Friday night, and with sports and other events there’s a lot more than that going on.

To be sure, there’s an up-front cost involved, which can eat into many shows’ already low budgets, and it’s not guaranteed that people will want to buy what you’re selling. There are a lot of creative ways to approach the problem for less, though: on-demand houses make it easy and relatively inexpensive to do small runs of a variety of products; artists are often willing to exchange goods and services; I even know of a band that sells homemade preserves at their shows. Something that doesn’t sell out isn’t necessarily a failure, either: look at the popular totes that a few enterprising and craft-y Fringe troupers put together from unsold T-shirts from previous years.

While products aren’t appropriate in every situation—it’s hard to imagine the producers of The Producers selling swastika armbands, no matter how funny they’d be in context—they’re often a good way to get advance word out about what a group has going on, and a recurring reminder after a show is over of a (presumably) enjoyable experience. If nothing else, merchandise for a show makes it a little bit different, and that might be enough to get someone to come see what’s unique the next time.

Draw Rules: Each comment on this post which names any woman who has played a role in a London, Ontario production of a Shakespeare play in 2009 or 2010 will be entered in the draw. Comments that also contain the actor’s role will get two chances. Winners will be chosen at random at 11:59pm Eastern on December 22, 2010. If a winner cannot be contacted via the email address provided another winner will be chosen.

15 thoughts on “Merch”

  1. Peter J. says:

    As I was writing this I realized that I buy quite a bit of show merchandise. I’ve got no fewer than 10 play/company/festival T-shirts in my closet, lots of buttons, books and scripts, a couple of CDs, a DVD, the entire Boneyard Man collection (which is now a few episodes out of date; wouldn’t mind re-completing it), and even an apron.

    And yes, I bought a jar of the band’s homemade mustard and a couple of LCP’s Three Musketeers bars. Enjoyed the former more than the latter.

  2. Chance to win one of our Women in Shakespeare calendars on @theatreinlondon!

  3. Harry Edison says:

    I think that this is a great idea for promoting the company as well as some remarkably talented ladies from the theatre scene. Kudos.

  4. Daniel Chick says:

    Preview photos are stunning, great looking calendar!

  5. John McKenzie says:

    Julia Webb as Prospero. For the win, and the Calendar

  6. Actually got my hands on Arcana’s Women of Shakespeare calendars today; very *very* well done. Want one? /cc @stratfest

  7. A calendar featuring a dozen #LdnOnt women as characters from Shakespeare? That’s, like, *so* 2011…

  8. Only 22½ hours left until I draw for the two Arcana Theatre Women of Shakespeare calendars. Easy to enter: #LdnOnt

  9. Adam Corrigan-Holowitz says:

    Great photos, can’t wait to see all of them!

  10. Matt Smart says:

    Carolyn Camman was in Taming of the Shrew! BAM!

  11. L.S. says:

    Carolyn Camman

  12. Amy Lee says:

    Carolyn Camman’s performance as Lucentio in UWO’s rather charming 2009 production of The Taming of the Shrew demonstrated two very important lessons: 1) A female actor can effectively play a male character, particularly in comedy, without disruption of the audience’s suspension of disbelief; and 2) A fake goatee looks far better on a woman than a man. (For related evidence, see Aimee O’Brein’s Viola in December of Women in Shakespeare. Tell me she doesn’t rock that moustache!)

  13. Kathy Quayle says:

    Eva Blahut’s hilarious portrayal of Stephano; Martha Zimmerman as the passionate Sebastian in The Temptest. Too bad you weren’t including 2008 as well.. I could have also said John MacKenzie as a cross-dressing Guildenstern in Hamlet A.D.D. (hoping I got the characters right…and even moreso hoping that I win a copy of that beautiful and inspiring calendar! Thanks for doing this Peter!!! ) – KQ.


    And the winners are… Kathy Quayle and John McKenzie.

    My draw procedure:
    – Comments that named actors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) were listed in order of submission. A second item was added to the list in order of submission for each comment that also named a role (6, 7, 8).
    Asked for 4 random numbers on Twitter. (Received only one response, so those 4 were used.)
    – The four numbers submitted (11, 8, 24, 35) were taken in pairs, with the first number representing the number of items to shift from the end of the list to the front and the second the item to select. The list was reset after the first draw, excluding any occurrences of the first winner’s entries.


    Thanks to everyone who commented and entered. This was a bit of an experiment, and it’s gone well enough that I’m hoping to do more.

    Thanks also to Val Cotic, Echo Gardiner, Damon Muma and all of the models. Hope to see more, onstage and off!

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