Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

When performances don’t go as expected…

The WNO recently dealt with an unexpected turn during their first concert. The power couple duo of Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello were giving a love songs performance when Stephen had to leave the stage. For the rest of the show. A program full of duets had to be reduced to songs that were only sung by Ailyn. Luckily, she is a fabulous performer and was able to pull off a great rest of the concert. But, as an arts administrator, how can you be prepared for something like this? Is there some way to be ready in case the night doesn’t go as planned?

I feel as though this doesn’t happen quite as often when patrons are already in their seats. Often concerts are cancelled before audiences have arrived, and those situations can be dealt with. But what are strategies that can be in place in case a performance doesn’t go as planned?

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4 comments on “When performances don’t go as expected…

  1. amyjoforeman
    September 17, 2014

    Ha! That sucks! But the truth is this kind of thing happens more often than not, right? Performers getting sick, injured, arrested, etc. (One of my friend’s cast mates was just arrested during intermission so I had to bring it up #crazy). Coming from the theatre, there’s no shortage of these stories. What I find really interesting about the article is who the journalist reams Michael Mael, WNO executive director, for how he handled the situation in front of the audience. He “ungallantly apologized” and I have to wonder how he was making Perez feel. Was he hyping her abilities to the audience? Did Mael struggle with the announcement b/c he didn’t have a previously thought out game plan? I think that’s one thing that definitely could have helped in this situation!

    • amyjoforeman
      September 17, 2014

      Well, maybe “not more often than not,” but often-ish.

  2. Jenni
    September 17, 2014

    Coming from a ticketing background I can tell you that this does happen more one would think. The best thing you can do as an Arts Manager is to make sure you have a strong team and plan in place who can deal with the challenges that arise. That’s the fun of the performing arts. If you have plans in place with your staff (front of house, box office, backstage, etc), you can usually avoid most problems. Broadway shows have understudies who are ready to take over a role at a moment’s notice. This actually happened when I went to see Newsies in NY in January. The flu was going around and the lead guy got sick halfway through the first act. He finished his song, went off stage and a new guy came on for the next scene. Just like that the switch was made and if you weren’t paying attention, you could have missed it.

    If there is a legitimate issue and the show is halted or cancelled the house staff and box office should be ready to handle any complaints. And a system should be in place to deal with them. It’s definitely something that needs to be thought out before it happens!

  3. jaredchamoff
    September 19, 2014

    The show must go on! Isn’t that what they say? And I think what AmyJo said is so true, this kind of thing happens all the time. I was playing in an orchestra with a saxophone soloist who’s reed cracked (or something?) he had to stop and go off stage and get another one. While I thought that the audience would get a little bit pissy, the whole situation made them love the soloist even more. I think that mishaps like broken reeds, or sick soloists can bring the arts to a more human level that audience members eat up. Nobody’s perfect (to quote Miley Cyrus). I think audience members get a kick out of such situations as it shows that the musicians, while incredibly talented, are as human as they are!

    As arts managers I think it is important to always plan for every contingency. Hope for the best, but always expect the worst.

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