Backstage tales

While most of the ospedali mostly kept their way of running a secret, or at least the figlie (female orphans turned performers) were singing hidden behind metal grilles, my backstage experiences have rather been enjoyable, and logically kept private from the public eyes. The latest event on my list reminded me why I love doing what some call “venue management”: pre-show, it is a mix of performers, athletes, producers, light operators, sound technicians, ushers, caterers, security staff, runners, plumbers, electricians, contractors and… some lost visitors. Sounds like a mess at first, and all seems to come together within the first 48 hours of meeting with each other (depending on the length and the complexity of the event, of course).

Used to coordinating all the procurement for the various venues of an event, from sourcing the most adequate suppliers, or contractors, to negotiating and managing their contracts once on site, starting managing a venue once all this work has been handled by another team is sometimes challenging. One of the critical components of any contract lies in the building of the relationship with the supplier(s): not knowing the history of how an agreement was reached and interacting with a supplier’s representative, sometimes, can be perplexing when walking into it. Getting to know the different actors of the venue becomes essential for future requests, and other favours.

Discovering the restrictions imposed by the local union (and prevent any unnecessary situation leading to a grievance: been there, done that, not fun), losing the sound technician to back up another venue, improvising and touting (somewhat soliciting too) to reinforce and market the show to the crowd, stepping up on stage (or on the mat) and pretending to be a performer, or an athlete, to make sure the lights, the sound and the angle for the cameras are properly set and ready for the show, or running to get half/half for the host because he likes his coffee sweet are a few examples of dealing with last-minutes adjustments.

Responsibilities cover the management of priorities for all stakeholders (yes, that includes the VIP’s whose names were not communicated either ahead of time, or at all), ensuring they are all happy and enjoying their visit, or contribution, to the event. Remaining calm is a must too: regardless of what happens, be a major power outage an hour before going live, lightning striking and shutting the hot water tank down for 5 days, protesters congregating in front of the main gate, the key to last and keep some sanity calls for what I see as a detached commitment. I am ok to lose sleep, to get my body to ache from walking and running in and around the venue, as it comes with the show, and that must go on.

Photo credit © OFL – “PNE 13, AVS”