What If We Cut A Few Corners Designing Our New Theatre?

What If We Cut A Few Corners Designing Our New Theatre?

CX 93 Staging What If

You’re building a new theatre, either in a new building or, more likely, you’ve inherited a “space” and are going to convert it into a theatre, or worse, the dreaded “Multi Purpose Venue”.

You’ve seen lots of shows in theatres and have even been involved on the periphery of another theatre construction project or two and have sat in on the site meetings with the theatre consultants and theatre contractors, so you’re not exactly working in new and unknown territory, right?

So when the budgets get tight, as they always do in any construction project, you have to make some tough decisions about where to spend your precious funds and where to save them for a rainy contingency plan.

The local Council Building Certifier has some very definite and specific requirements when it comes to getting your building signed off and ready for occupancy, so there is no suggestion of skimping on the fees for the Building Architect, the Structural Engineer, the Services (Air Conditioning, Fire Services, Plumbing) or Electrical Consultants, and the appearance of the building and it’s surrounds will have a large bearing on the success of the venue, so the Landscape Designer is safe.

So what gives when the time comes for “budget rationalisation”?

All too often, we see the role of the Theatre Consultant or Theatre Designer axed in the first round of cuts, especially when there isn’t a history or tradition of the venue being used for theatrical performance and is consequently without an incumbent group of theatrically knowledgeable users - in other words (and at the risk of sounding a little unkind), when the end user or client doesn’t know what they’re doing.

This was especially the case when we were all scrambling to help with Building the Education Revolution and all of those multi-purpose Basketball Court/Examination and Assembly Hall/Live Music Performance Space/Shakespearian Theatre venues were being rolled out at the rate of one a week.

Now, to be fair, the skill sets required to design and efficiently run a large public school are not insignificant, and the folks who do this successfully are to be greatly admired and respected, but having successfully staged a Year 5 pantomime every year in the school assembly hall is not quite the same as understanding, designing and commissioning a large commercial theatre.

So why would you be wise to invest your scant dollars in the services of a good theatre designer?

Experience is everything and you need someone who understands the design and operating processes that make a building work to take the “vision” and turn it into a functioning reality.

“The experience” is how the success of the venue will be judged – the experience that the audience attending a performance takes home with them, the experience of the performers on stage interacting with the audience and the experience of the staff operating and working in the venue.

To make all of this happen, you need enough experience to fully understand the complexities of a working theatre and how all the pieces and people fit together efficiently.

You need to understand the layout of the stage and the technical areas surrounding the stage. You need to understand how the box office works, how many dressing rooms you need, where to put them and what to put in them. You need to understand lighting, drapes, sight lines, scenery and the workshops to build it, rigging, sound, communications, stage management, risk management and human nature.

If you understand all these things you don’t need to hire a theatre consultant because you probably are one.

Jands Staging
provide articles to the "Staging What If" section in CX Magazine. If you have any questions regarding this article then please comment below or email info@jands.com.au.

Bookmark and Share



- Thank you Nick and Michelle for making our day meoblamre! You two do great work, the photos are beautiful! It was a pleasure to get to know you two!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thank you! thank you! Thank you Laura MelocheOctober 4, 2010 6:59 am

Please comment using the form below (email will not be displayed)





Please note that your comment will only appear after it has been moderated.


Security key