Ah, Proscenium!

I am beginning to understand why performance spaces were constructed in the first place. I have done some talking in the past about how performances may need to be uncoupled from the traditional performance spaces to have significance to audiences whose entertainment experiences continue to evolve. But now that I am actually trying to do that…. Well, I begin to see the wisdom of having a controllable environment.

I think the problem is that we are trying to offer people a traditional experience in a non-traditional space. I have moved performance operations to remote locations and run outdoor music festivals so I am familiar with the logistics of having performances in places that were not designed to accommodate them. Some of that will help me make arrangements for our site specific production, the Celebrity Project. In the long run though I think committing to taking art out of the traditional spaces is going to require a concomitant effort to change expectations about where and how arts can be experienced. (And yes, it certainly can be argued we are trailing so far behind in that respect, we may not be in the position to shape and define these expectations.)

But in some ways, I think we are hobbling ourselves by cleaving to old practices. Our concerns revolve around getting enough lighting equipment to different outdoor locations. People will move between different locations, but will stay there for a long enough time that they may want to sit so we will have chairs set up. But the chairs need to be set up in a way that has good sight lines but doesn’t congest the movement of people between different areas.

I am starting to think that next time maybe the site specific show needs to make more use of the site specific features like natural light. The Greeks might have been big on outdoor theatre, but they knew the natural features were of great importance. But with a show dealing with celebrity, moments in the limelight certainly can’t be neglected. Modern technology helps us cheat a little and put shows where we want them rather than needing to places with natural sound reinforcement.

Part of this is because are somewhat slaves to audience expectations. If we have a show as an event rather than just a happening on the street, people have a certain expectation of length to motivate them to make the drive. Comfort and accessibility for aging audiences during that time period need to be addressed. They will also want to see and hear everything that is going on from whatever vantage point they are at. All these considerations shape the staging and seating arrangements for our performance.

Most nights we only need to direct audiences to locations that meet these expectations once a night (we assume they can find their way back pretty well after intermission.) For this project, we will need a good plan for doing it multiple times over the course of an evening. So even as rehearsals start today, we are starting to plan. Though not too carefully too soon as I am sure the layout will change a number of times before the show opens.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the 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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