Struck Down By Artist Visa Problems

I guess it was just a matter of time before it happened. You hear about it happening to someone else–and you hope it stays that way. Yesterday I received confirmation that because of problems getting travel visas, one of the foreign performance groups for my season won’t be making it this year.

My partners and I are scrambling to figure out if we can reschedule them for next year since we have already paid hefty airline ticket prices and hope to use them. We are also looking into whether the fees and other paperwork we have completed can be applicable to a trip next year.

I have spent the last two days implementing contingency plans–namely figuring out how I will refund all the ticket purchases and publicize the cancellation in a way that doesn’t alienate my audience for next season.

One semi-fortunate element of the timing is that the news came just a day or two before the ticket purchases would have really picked up due to our promotional efforts (which had to be cancelled as well, of course). Had we found out a week or so from now we would have quite a few more tickets to refund. (An order did sneak in over the internet just as we were changing the web page and disabling the order functions though.)

It is amazing how many people have to be contacted when something is cancel even in addition to the audience members. I had to inform my staff, caterer, the car rental place, the hotel (we almost got hit with a penalty for cancelling because it was less than 30 days out), the print, radio and television advertising reps, the print, radio and television media who were going to do stories and calendar listings.

One of the people I forgot initially was the company providing the sound equipment and backline. Thankfully my tech director remembered to ask. I also had to break the disappointing news to a student group who were preparing a big welcome for the performers.

It is too early to determine what problems, if any, will come of this since so few people know about the cancelation. One of the things I am watching with interest is the way my partners announce the change. Currently, the alteration in their seasons hasn’t appeared on their websites. They are telling customers it is cancelled because a woman called to see if the show was cancelled at my theatre upon learning that the group wouldn’t be appearing near her.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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