BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Navigating the Challenges of Program Changes
Moving our production of THE SHINING from November 2020 to June 2021
By Greg Carpenter
We encounter many challenges when planning our mainstage seasons at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, strategizing two and three years in advance. Our challenge is to create compelling seasons, selecting repertoire that will generate sufficient ticket revenue to cover at least 40% of our annual operating expenses. Our challenge is to find just the right artists, directors, and designers to bring each opera to life in a way that is most engaging to our audience. Our challenge is to inspire and excite our audiences so that our contributed income can provide at least 60% of our annual operating income, making the company both financially and artistically solid year after year.
On one side, these challenges are both exciting and invigorating, and on the other side, they are daunting and stressful.
The one challenge all artistic teams dread is the movement or change in repertoire after a season has been announced and tickets have been sold. Last-minute changes of this nature are usually precipitated by an unforeseen downturn in the economy or lagging ticket sales and contributions, requiring a company to rethink its income projections and look for ways to increase revenue by replacing less popular repertoire with more blockbuster selections. In the case of moving our fall 2020 production of Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s The Shining to the last two weeks of June 2021, our decision was made out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of our staff, artists, production personnel, and audience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Making a change like this is complicated and has many moving pieces. The closer you are to the actual rehearsal and performances dates, the more complicated and costly the change becomes. Moving our production of The Shining to June 2021 provides a full year to navigate a long list of complex details.
The change began with securing new rehearsal and performance dates at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. This required working around other rentals that may already be booked. Once dates were secured, we contacted the agents for the artists, designers, director, and conductor and discussed the date changes and ascertained whether the dates were available in their calendars. In some cases, these individuals may already be booked, requiring us to pay-out any number of contracts and then hire new cast members at additional cost. We were very lucky to secure dates in the opera house exactly when we needed and every artist was available and willing to make the shift in rehearsal and performance dates.
Once dates and artists are confirmed, a whole host of other details need to be adjusted. Accommodations need to be moved from the fall to the new dates in June 2021, travel arrangements get shifted for everyone traveling to Denver, addendums to contracts need to be drafted and signed, and complex rehearsal and production schedules need to be reworked, just to name a few. Then a complete overhaul of the production budget takes place to reflect any expense changes resulting from the program shift.
The final step in the process is to create a communications plan that effectively and efficiently conveys the programming shift to the public and to each individual involved in creating the production. Depending on the urgency of the programming change, all of the above mentioned details may need to be addressed in a matter of days. In the case of The Shining, we were able accomplish everything in just shy of five weeks, making no changes to casting and minimal changes to the budget.
After a long day working with the staff to make complicated changes like this happen, it is always nice to relax with colleagues or friends over a cocktail. Instead of my usual meal recipe, I thought I would share with you the recipe for my favorite summertime cocktail, an Aviation.
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 ½ oz. gin
¾ oz. Luxardo
¾ oz. Crème de Violette
Shake in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Pour into a martini or coupe glass and garnish with a Luxardo maraschino cherry. It’s tart with a floral twist – just right for a warm summer evening. Enjoy!