The Client Arrives

You are the venue technician and a new client is in the venue. When you first meet them you are going to be wondering if their technical skills are up to scratch. You also wonder how they are in the area of safety. It is often difficult to gauge the skills of the client when they are in the venue. It is usually not a problem with proffesional companies. The ones that can worry are schools, dance schools,amateur theatre companies etc. They may say to you that they have done it many times but have they done it right those times. There are I am sure some venues that do not check up on the work of these volunteer type crews. You wonder what sort of training, if any, that they have had. You also get the classic “we always do it that way”, which can be very scary when you know it contravenes several safety regulations. So how do you deal with these people. One way to deal with them is to call for a meeting at the start of their bump in and set up and talk through what is going to happen and who is going to do what. It is at this time that you also explain the venue rules and induct them. By inducting I mean explain the safety procedures, evacuation procedures, have they are to behave etc. You should also ask them what skills they have in the tasks they are about to perform. It is here that you can express concern about their lack of skills if that becomes apparent. Some crews will have a good range of skills and these are the ones that you want on side. You should also give their sets and props etc a look to make sure that they also comply with the venue’s safety policies. Now doing all of this might make you seem like an ogre but you are also looking after their interests as well. If you feel some of their crew are not competent in the roles that have been assigned you do need to make it known, not necessarily to the whole group but to the Stage Manager or Technical representative. Once the meeting is over everybody should know what their task are and also everybody has met each other. This should make people more comfortable.
My major concern is sometimes the skill of the Stage Manager of the group. Some of them are really good, but I have worked with some who don’t know how to call cues, who don’t seemed focussed on the task and are more interested in watching their child perform, or who also have a role on stage. Having a SM that also performs can be scary and it is when they are on stage that things start to go wrong or there are multiple cues and you have seen the show once. But the worse is to have a show with no SM, or a show when someone is picked to be in communication with the tech and they disappear after the show starts. I no longer allow that to happen. All groups using your venue should be made aware that their needs to be at least a competent person as a Stage Manager. You should also remind them also that it would improve their show if they also had skilled persons doing audio, followspots, or other task. But I have also heard from clients saying how they have been left to their own devices by the venue tech. And if there has been a problem they have not been able to find the venue tech.

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2 thoughts on “The Client Arrives

  1. Having a venue tech disappear on you is not uncommon in a lot of the smaller theatres (even the big venues) around Melbourne.
    While the client/company should make sure they have competant people involved in their show, I think it needs to be acknowledged that in some circumstances the venue tech is being paid to be there yet somehow they are of no help (due to many reasons, one being absense)! So a point for people who work as a venue tech – always be present during the clients time (even if you are just standing there pointing at the roof), make sure you at least know where everything is and how it works or if not, then make sure you have a contact number for someone who does on speed dial!
    I completely agree with you though in regard to clients providing a crew of people who simply don’t understand or have no basic training in their appointed area. A venue tech can only do so much in a 4 or 5 hour call, and 9 times out of 10, those extras hours are not on the clients budget.

  2. Funnily enough, I’ve had the opposite experience as Karlae: the hirers were completely incompetent, I was the only tech on staff, there were no FOH people, the hubby was my backstage ‘crew’ and the hirers had no concept of safety. I was completely underinformed thanks to the incompetency of the venue manager.

    On the other hand, I have seen absolutely atrocious behaviour in terms of safety provided by one *very* bad tech at the Victorian Arts Centre (would you believe?)!

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