3.5 Opening Night

If you do self-present, there are a few details to take care of when the show run starts. Devise a system for selling tickets and getting the audience members safely to their seats. Create a program of the event to orient the spectator and credit all the people involved in the production.

Don’t skimp, make a program! A program is a souvenir, an educational and a promotional tool you can use as support material for future grant applications.

Mandatory content:
• title, date, location
• all credits (music, photos, collaborators, technicians, etc.)
• logos and names of sponsors and funding bodies

Optional content:
• thank-yous
• the creative intent of the piece
• biographies (choreographer, dancers, collaborators, etc.)
• a history of the company
• photos (action, headshots, etc.)

Front of House
‘Front of house’ (FOH in shorthand) is a term used to describe the activities of selling tickets, receiving and seating the audience. Many theatres insist that you hire their own front of house staff, but if you take on those responsibilities, keep them as simple as possible. For the most basic FOH model you need:
• a ticket seller – tickets can be numbered tickets, an ink stamp or the evening program itself;
• an usher who checks tickets/stamps at the door and wards off or ushers in latecomers;
• an adequate float of small change;
• a guest list (the VIPs who get in for free);
• some press kits for journalists and presenters.

It may not be worth the trouble to take reservations unless you worry about selling out quickly. Reservations require a phone number (with a suitable message) and/or email, as well as someone to respond to them. Be careful, some spaces ask that you have a contact number on your flyer, as they do not want to be disturbed with questions regarding your show. Conversely, some spaces may offer to take calls as part of the rental package.

Pre-selling tickets helps secure the budget, but requires more paperwork. If you have presales, you need to print tickets and keep track of their sale. Give them to the crew to sell to their friends. If you wish to have tickets available at local businesses, make sure your event is high profile enough to warrant it, and arrange it well enough in advance. Usually such an arrangement entails a commission or cut for the seller ($1 per ticket sold or so).

For the box office, make a float of small bills and coins in a cash box, and a float sheet, for tabulating the net income, and the number of people in attendance each night. These statistics are important to report to funding bodies and may be required by the venue. Schedule a trip to the bank teller – running out of change is a real drag and shop-owners are not always helpful. Make sure your float makes sense; imagine necessary change if 50% to 80% of your audience pays with a $20 bill.

Reserve a seat centre back for the videographer and a few near the door for latecomers. If seating is numbered and assigned according to the ticket, you may want to hold onto (not sell) a few of the best seats in the centre of the house for last minute VIP reservations.

Ushers must be prepared for an evacuation and know the location of all emergency exits. They must ensure no food or drinks are brought into the theatre and should help clean up after the audience at the end of the show. They also enforce your policy regarding latecomer, either bringing them in quietly or sending them away. Someone should remain stationed outside the entrance throughout the show to deal with latecomers.

When the theatre is set to accept the audience, the technical director or stage manager informs the front of house manager that she can allow people in to seat themselves. Ideally, open the house 10 minutes prior to show time. The front of house manager is also responsible for deciding when the doors to the theatre can close and whether it is necessary to turn people away. The stage manager or technical director should be notified when the theatre is back in their hands, so she can decide when to lower the house lights and begin the show.

… next chapter: 3.6 Closing Night

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