A Shared Venue

Posted on 07 May 2013

If you are performing in almost any festival, you will be sharing a venue with other performers. It’s possible to just bump-in and out of your performances while remaining utterly oblivious of your co-inhabitants, but you would be missing opportunities. Your relationship with the venue owner is important. Strengthening your relationships with everyone who passes through that threshold could forward your career.

Here are twelve tips on how to manage your festival tenancy, so that your stay is harmonious and helpful.

Call a meeting of all co-inhabitants.

You need to know with whom you are bumping elbows.

Schedule rehearsal times.

Your venue manager will have already allocated your performance slot. However, it will probably be up to you to agree on rehearsal times. Otherwise it will be a first come, first served scramble. You don’t want your time wasted in this manner. Come to some sort of agreement and make sure everyone has a copy of the schedule.

Agree on stage and seating set-ups.

It’s easiest if all performers in a venue use the same arrangement of stage, set pieces, and chairs. Often times this is possible for a group of standup comedians. However, once we are dealing with theatrical works and sketch comedy, you may find that each show needs a unique layout. Even so, it’s possible to arrange things such that bump-in and bump-out is easier and quicker.

Having a centre aisle for two shows may mean the performers of one show will be able to quickly remove all their props as the next show is rearranging the chairs for theatre in the round.

Allocate storage space.

The instant anyone makes use of costumes or props, people will need storage space. To avoid any mishaps or disagreements designate a storage area and agree on the allocation of that space.

Make policies on use and abuse of each other’s gear.

One of the great things about knowing who is sharing your space is that sometimes you can share props as well. This is up to each group. Whether or not this happens, make it clear how you want your items treated.

If something is particularly delicate, make people aware of this. Tell people what can be moved, if need be. Let it be known that people are expected to refrain from touching each other’s items, to treat all items with respect, and to replace anything they break.

Discuss lighting and sound arrangements.

Much like arranging chairs, it’s best if you can use one set up, but at least make things easy if things must be regularly rearranged. If the venue does not supply sound or lighting, perhaps discuss sharing the cost of renting equipment.

Manage dressing room space.

Often you will be using the venue’s public toilets. If you are lucky, you might have access to a broom closet or the like. Schedule when people will have access to these facilities. You don’t want to crowd one another out, or worse, crowd out the venue patrons.

Make policies on bumping-in and bumping-out.

Sometimes you will be given fifteen minutes to get in and out of a space for your show. Sometimes you will be sharing that fifteen minutes and have only around seven minutes. If people understand each other’s logistics, the transition can be made easier and run like a well-oiled machine.

One of the policies must be that each performer or performance group cleans up after their show. I have been in too many venues where the previous show will leave shredded paper, spilled water, tossed candies, or the like all over the floor. It is both dangerous and rude to not take resposibility for your mess. Be a model citizen. Make your parents proud.

Pool skills and funds for group advertising.

Marketing is expensive. Sharing marketing expenses with a group means you can produce more professional and widespread advertising and promotion. Find out if anyone has photographic skills, graphic design skills, or has access to cheap printing and is willing to offer assistance. You can even hand out flyers for one another.

One year a group of us created a full page ad we put in the street press. We also printed up A2 glossy colour posters of the four of us that we spread around.

Agree on how to manage dispute resolution.

You don’t want to end up bothering the venue manager every time you have a problem with another group. Have a cork board behind the curtains where you can leave one another messages. Agree to start with polite requests when something isn’t right. If that doesn’t work, find people who are willing to be neutral third parties in finding amicable solutions. In the end the venue manager will have to be the last word.

Share contact details.

This is extremely useful. If someone is ill and has to cancel a show, it becomes easier to get that message delivered to the venue. If a prop is accidentally broken, calling the person responsible for that prop immediately gives them time to repair or replace it. If an item is left behind like a phone or camera, the owner can be contacted or have the item posted to them.

Make friends.

This is a networking opportunity. You are unlikely to be this close to these people ever again. These people could recommend you for a gig, be available to play a part in one of your productions, or even be a good shoulder to cry on. Personally, festivals should always be about making friends. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

Peace and kindness,


1 Response to A Shared Venue

  • David Erik Finn says:

    Seems like reasonable advice… and I’ll take it!

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