(Close Window)
Topic: Your Technical Pre-Show Checklist!
Message: Posted by: Jeff Hayden (Jul 31, 2004 03:38AM)
In addition to sending your requirements to the venue in advance, I would like to open up a discussion on a pre-show checklist. I think a lot of people just getting started could benefit from a basic checklist of things to know/check out in advance. This is in the context of your stage show where you will be going from venue to venue.

For example, as posted in a recent topic... Some magicians new to performing in venues may crank out the smoke machines in the middle of the performance and send the audience running into the street and set off the indoor sprinklers! Not what you had in mind? Talk about a bad day. That's not just embarassing, it could end your magic career and land you in court. This could be a very innocent and costly mistake.

Another thing that needs to be considered in advance is power distribution. How many amps are you trying to pull off of a circuit? I'm not an electrician, but I know that most circuits are somewhere around 15-18amps? If you pull more than that at any one time, get ready for a blackout! You've got to know your equipment and you've got to know your venue. I'll bet there is nothing more embarassing than the music and lights shutting off right in the middle of that levitation. Doh!

I require that smoke detectors be shut off, house lights must all go down (I use a black art stage) and if it's not a regular stage, I make sure I pull from two different circuits to prevent a nasty blackout. I also require an exit behind the stage (for my assistant to appear in the audience) and so I can get away fast if things go south -just kidding ;) If the venue can't accomodate those simple requirements, I don't perform. Period. Those are my requirements and they are non-negotiable.

There are enough opportunites for problems with the performance and illusions. Utilizing a good checklist in advance can help prevent "technical" catastrophies in advance is a must.

What would you add to this list?

Technical Pre-Show Checklist:

1) If you use a fog machine(s) or hazer make sure smoke detectors are turned off.

2) Make sure you know your own show's technical power requirements and make sure that you are not overloading any circuits.

3) You MUST go to the venue in advance (preferrably at least a week) and check it out for location, angle considerations, lighting, do you need your own sound system? etc. etc.

Message: Posted by: Andy Leviss (Aug 1, 2004 03:54AM)
Just to play Devil's Advocate on a couple of those:

#1 should really be, "...make sure it is approved with the AHJ and, if approved, that the appropriate smoke detectors are zoned out and a fire detail is on site in their place." Just turning off a smoke detector without the permission (of the fire marshall/other AHJ, not just the venue) is not only dangerous, but illegal.

While a good idea in a perfect world, #3 is not practical for many professional performers. Most performers, especially in corporate and college markets, fly into a city the morning of the show, get to the venue, load-in, do the show, load-out, and fly to the next city.

Message: Posted by: MichaelKent (Aug 1, 2004 02:51PM)

We all know how ultimately important it is to allow ourselves extra time before club-date type event. I used to add an hour on top of how long it would take me to set up my show just to be sure to get my bearings on the room. But I soon found myself repeatedly saying to myself, “If I had known the room/stage was going to be like this, I would have brought that routine instead of this one.” There will always be variables as far as the venue is concerned. But for our show to remain at the constant level of excellence, we can be ready for some of these variables ahead of time.

When you work in the same city often, you can become familiar with particular venues. Particular hotel ballrooms, country clubs & banquet centers may become more comfortable to you as an entertainer in terms of both the technical layout of the room and the banquet staff that is in charge of the room. But we don’t always get this luxury.
When you are contracted to perform in an unfamiliar venue, I suggest that you invest your time in scheduling a “Venue Pre-Check visit.” This will provide you with ample time to familiarize yourself with the room and do all the things you would normally do upon arrival on the show date. Here are some essentials to bring with you on the Venue Pre-Check:

Tape Measure: This one is a no brainer. You need to make sure your cases fit through the load-in doors, get stage dimensions, check distances to make sure you have enough speaker cable, etc.

GFCI Tester: This is a small device found in hardware stores that will check the condition of outlets. Especially useful if you are appearing in an old venue, this will ensure that you don’t damage your valuable electronics by plugging into an unsafe outlet.

Paper & Pen: Sketch out the stage, marking the dimensions. Also take any notes or special requirements that the facility manager may have.

Client: This one is an option. Sometimes, it may not be appropriate to disturb your client from their work to come check out a venue that they, most likely, have used before. But having the client there will answer questions about table placement and overall layout of the event. Also, I’ve found that more unthought-of issues come up when the client is actually at the venue. I once worked an event where the client had planned on placing a car to be raffled directly in front of the stage. The client didn’t think that this would be a problem at all until the issue came up at our Venue Pre-Check. Had I arrived at the show without a Pre-Check, I would have been performing a show for an audience trying to overlook a brand new Mustang Convertible.

Banquet Manager: This is a must! Have the banquet manager give you a tour of the room. The things they point out are the things they WANT you to know. They would love is every entertainer did this. Just like our job, their job has variables, and one of them is the entertainment. Every night, they are dealing with different entertainers that all want to rearrange their facility in order to put on a good show. The banquet manager will let you know what’s okay and what’s not. They will also be a wealth of information for technical questions you may have.

All of these things are critical to the Venue Pre-Check. It shouldn’t take up a whole afternoon. Usually, it only takes 30 minutes to an hour. It’s well worth the invtested time, as it shows off your degree of prefessionalism to both the client and the banquet manager, saves you time, and ensures another excellent performance on your behalf.
Message: Posted by: Jeff Hayden (Aug 1, 2004 11:57PM)

You are absolutely right about the smoke detectors. I assumed you would follow the legal requirements. I know I shouldn't assume. ass-u-me, as they say.

If the event is at the other end of the country or significant travel, then obviously you might not be able to go there in advance, but as Michael Kent explained so well, this is definately preferable.
Message: Posted by: The Mirror Images (Aug 2, 2004 03:27PM)
Most large venues you can check at there site and they will have a requirement check list for your show. Mostly under renting the facility. Fill that out and they will take the proper procedures to make sure that happens.


Message: Posted by: Andy Leviss (Aug 2, 2004 10:16PM)
And after you do that, call and double check; a frightening numnber of the sites are out of date, if not just plain wrong. Not that I've found out the hard way :o)
Message: Posted by: Jeff Hayden (Aug 4, 2004 12:49AM)
Never trust a website. I repeat: Never trust a website.

You shouldn't even trust what the host verbally tells you beforehand. Get it in writing. A lot of times, the organizer of the event is swamped and generally scatter-brained anyway because there is so much to do. They may make assumptions or verbal agreements with you and then completely forget to accomodate you - as you will find out when you show up!

Get everything important in writing. When it's written down, it is much more likely to happen and be taken seriously.

a 5'x5' 1 foot high platform is NOT a stage. LOL.

Message: Posted by: The Mirror Images (Aug 4, 2004 09:21PM)
Well that is why you call. You want to get all the information that they have that you can from ther site that they have at the venue. Gather your questions and give them a buzz before booking there. Make sure that every question is answered and not "ah I can find out" kind of answer.

Main theater venues do have very good sites if you know the theater and what not. They ususally have there specs from lighting and sound. Mesurements of there stage and what not. They do this to lower the calls on just questions if a particluar show can come through. Here is an example of a theater http://www.apollotheater.com/rentals.shtm

There are many theaters that do this for there venue. But if there is a question or something not on the list then give them a call to help you out.

Message: Posted by: Andy Leviss (Aug 4, 2004 10:46PM)
And, coming from the perspective of somebody who has toured through many major theatres in markets all through the US as a sound engineer, it's a 50/50 shot whether those websites are kept current or not. Websites are maintained by marketing people, not tech people.
Message: Posted by: Lee Darrow (Sep 1, 2004 02:37AM)
I actually have a checklist that I send to the client before any show that details the requirements of the show, including sound system, lighting requirements, bad room layouts that will constitute a breach of contract (an 'L' shaped room is sheer death for a stage hypnotist, for example) and a list of other questions.

Because I often work several thousand miles from my prior gig, it is often impossible to actually tour a site a week before a show, so I use the list and the accompanying photos and drawings to insure that they know what I am talking about and make sure that both the client and the venue manager get a copy, sign it and send it back to me.

It is marked as a codidil to my performance agreement and is enforceable under the terms thereof. (how's THAT for lawyerly speechifyin'?)

Bottom line: write your list as though Murphy and his Law Team were riding your backside all the way to the show, sitting on the edge of the stage during the show and will be helping you load up to leave (not to mention that he will be riding shotgun on the way home!).

Lee Darrow, C.H.
Message: Posted by: paulajayne (Sep 24, 2004 12:17PM)
Here in the UK - London is worst for this.

Parking and unloading.