This is a multi-part series to provide insight on the Performing Arts industry and what I've learned in two years as the Executive Director for SAPAC.
Non-profit performing arts management is a challenging profession that I have likened to being in the armed forces. It is a dynamic environment that requires near term coordination and execution, long term planning, risk mitigation, operational assessments, and area analysis.
Every event is similar to a military training exercise. Planning usually begins 6-8 months out, and sometimes 1-2 years depending on the size of a show. During this planning and coordination phase, we finalize contracts and do initial coordination; this includes developing a marketing plan. Everything has to be in place either at the start of a season or at least 3 months out from the show. However, as planning for the upcoming season takes place, you're executing the for the current season of shows.
3-6 weeks out from the show, the Production Manager and Technical Director normally 'advance' the show by meeting with the Tour Manager and others to solidify the plan prior to execution.
On the day of the show, all of the prior coordination and planning comes together. It begins with RSOI: reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of the touring production. Like the stevedores at a port, the freelance tech staff off load equipment from trailers and stage them within the auditorium. Tour staff designate spaces backstage for artists while the tech staff move into their assigned positions and begin installing lightsets, backdrops, and other props for the show.
Lastly, other tech staff integrate the tours equipment with the house lights and sound to ensure that all systems are ready for sound checks and last minute rehearsals prior to the show.
To witness the process is amazing. Sometimes it may take 6-8 hours just to build a set for a 90 minute production. But it is a great feeling to be a part of something like a touring Broadway show or an internationally renowned artist.
The Murphey Performance Hall is able to download two semi-trucks at a time. We've had up to five for some of our bigger shows.
Staging equipment is key to a speedy load-in of equipment. Many tours bring their own light sets and other set pieces that can fill the space on the stage.
When everything is in place, it is a wonderful feeling.
But the work never really stops. Since each venue may be different than previous tour stops, artists often have to work on spacing for dance numbers and other cues.
Once the show is over, then the operations transition to redeployment. It usually takes half the time to repack the equipment and load it onto the trucks. Once this is complete, the staff also begins cleaning and restoring the theatre back to its basic state to prepare for the next show.
Some theatres and venues may have 2-3 shows a week, which requires a lot of coordination and synchronization. Others may only have 2-3 shows per month.
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