Selecting a Recital Venue
Jeffrey E. Salzberg
As we recover from this year's onslaught of recitals, we can take solace in the fact that...soon it will
be time to start planning next year's performance.
I would never dream of telling you how to organize the dancers, set the order of performance, or deal
with difficult parents (my suggestions in this last instance would probably be illegal, anyway), but as
a lighting designer and facility manager, I'd like to offer a few tips on choosing a venue that -- if
followed -- might make your life easier...or at least less difficult.
- Choose a theater or auditorium which is professionally managed. There are a variety of such
venues available in most cities, ranging in capacity from 100-3000 seats. Professional
management increases your chances of not being "blind-sided" by last-minute revelations of
inadequate equipment, restrictive rules, and/or hidden charges. It doesn't eliminate the
possibility, but it certainly lessons its likelihood.
- Know what you're getting into. I mean this literally. Before you sign a contract, find out
which rooms the agreement entitles you to use. Get it in writing.
- Does the rental price include the use of all of the facility's lighting and sound equipment? Are
you sure? Do you have it in writing? If there is an extra charge for use of any house
equipment, how much is it?
- Who operates the facility's lighting and sound equipment? What about the fly system (that's
the network of ropes which fly your various drops in and out)? Are you allowed to use your
own people or are you required to use house staff? Are the house staff professionals?
(NOTE: In either case, I strongly recommend that you employ professionals, especially in
regard to the fly system).
- If you're required to use house stagehands, at what point(s) do they go on overtime?
- Does the house furnish a house manager and ushers? If so, are you required to use them?
The same question about overtime applies to these people.
- What period(s) of time does your contract cover? Can you load-in/setup the day before?
Will this entail an extra charge? How much?
- Is the facility safe? DO NOT ASSUME!!! Look it over yourself. If you have any questions,
ask! You simply cannot afford that kind of liability and bad publicity...and, more important,
you don't want anyone injured or killed. This is not a rhetorical point; there are facilities I
would not use even if they were the only ones available.
- What facility management personnel will be on-site on the day of your recital? When will they
- What are the house policies concerning food and drink in the facility? Most venues do not
allow food and drink in the seating area (and you should communicate this in advance to your
students' parents); some also prohibit them backstage.
- Does the venue have a qualified lighting designer? In a professional situation, it is the
company's (that's you) responsibility to provide artistic personnel, but many studios do not
have ongoing relationships with professional lighting designers. NOTE: you have the right
to use whichever designer you please; while the venue is within its rights to insist that you use
their employees to operate their equipment, you are not required to use house staff as your
- Is the house sound equipment adequate? If possible, listen to it yourself.
There will probably never be a recital that is totally free of stress, but doing your homework before
renting a facility -- and getting it all down in writing -- can save you endless hours of grief and
frustration...and let you concentrate on what's really important -- showing off your students to their