The Space Is The Thing

So if you have been following my infrequent postings about the site specific work we are developing, The Celebrity Project, you know that I have reveled in the role of telling people to think big rather than to limit their vision and mused on the wisdom of having a set performance space rather than moving audiences around.

Now we are 10 day out from the performance and plans really need to bow to practicality over idealism. One of the biggest changes since last I posted on the subject in January is that we have really consolidated our performance spaces. Because we are getting rain more frequently now than we did even a month ago, we have moved performances to a more sheltered central area. Most of the show is still outside, but out of necessity, the audiences won’t move between performances spaces because there is less room to maneuver around.

We are still going to split the audience between different stages, but instead of the audience moving to a new stage, the actors will flip between them. There will be some activities they will witness in common in the area between them and a final piece in the theatre. It will certainly be great fun, but the change had us scrambling a little in the administration office.

Our original concept was to have the program book be a large fold out “map to the stars” that people would use to get from stage to stage (though mostly cued by ushers and performance guides). Now that people aren’t moving from stage to stage, the design has to be changed a little.

The other problem is that our press release played up on the star map concept promising people that they would get one but warning that there would be guards present to make sure they didn’t wander off in search of a star’s possessions to sell on Ebay. It was all sort of fun and tongue in cheek. Unfortunately, the release went out before anyone told me that part of the show had been scrapped. I made a slight retraction when I sent out a little update note letting people know they could attend the show without concern about the rain.

Because the action is now in a more confined space, albeit still outdoors, I had to ponder some of the same concerns about traffic flow and crowd control. In our tech meeting today, I asked that alterations be made in the staging of one piece to draw people away from a potential choke point rather than congregating there. I also asked that the cast members guiding people in pivoting to another performance area not wear masks. They can be a little disconcerting and we want to avoid people pausing as they approached the cast member while those behind moved forward to see what was happening.

Now that things are becoming finalized the assistant theatre manager and I will start attending some dress rehearsals to figure out our front of house procedures and evaluate any other problem areas. I will have to remember to get some pictures to post here before it is over.

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. (

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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