Don’t Worry About The Backstage Door, Guard The Electrical Outlets!

You may have seen this story that has been circulating about the guy who brazenly climbed up on stage just before a Broadway performance in order to plug his phone into the (unbeknownst to him) fake outlet on stage.

Lest you think this an isolated incident, only a few months ago I was in an airport and saw someone plug their phone into at the ticketing kiosk by the gate. Emboldened, other people did the same until there was no more room on the power strip and people started unplugging the computer and ticket printer.

This is another issue arts organizations need to make note of. It used to be you only need to have security standing in front of the stage when the performer was famous enough to warrant it. Now you need to do so when anything appearing to be an outlet is in line of sight! (Just imagine a fan rushing the stage and the lead singer darting away before realizing the guy is making a bee line for an extension cord.)

But in reality, having sufficient outlets and charging stations available may be another amenity, along with things like good parking and opportunities socialize with friends over drinks before/after a performance, that serve as criteria when deciding whether to attend or no.

Arts organizations are frequently frustrated trying to keep up with the changing expectations of audiences and all the options there are for interacting with them. Just when you feel you have your presence correctly aligned on a social media channel, everybody you want to reach shifts elsewhere.

In this case, it’s just as you feel like you your lobby is particularly welcoming and your staff isn’t pressuring people to leave the lobby after the show, you start to worry about whether you have enough accessible outlets and Wifi service.

But of course, people who work in the arts aren’t without sin either. They share the same expectations as their audiences. If you are sitting outside the changing room in a clothing store waiting for your kid to come out, there is a fair chance you are going to be looking for an open outlet, too.

Sometimes there are opportunities to manage scare resources and still keep many people feeling satisfied.

The restrooms in our facility inevitably develop lines at intermission and other periods of high traffic. However, there are some people who know about some seldom used restrooms in an out of the way location. Even though these restrooms are physically less convenient to the theater than the lobby is, knowing the secret about our restrooms and not having to wait on line is regarded as a satisfying outcome.

So by posting a pro-tip about where to find secret restrooms, outlets or whatever on a site like Yelp, you can keep those who value being in the know happy even as they are crawling under a staircase to plug their phone in.

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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