Before becoming a part of Team Cybis, I had spent the majority of my professional and higher educational life within the world of theatre. One of the things I really enjoy about working at Cybis is the chance to bring my theatrical experience into the world of corporate theatre and our extension of that: Total Creative Communication. These worlds share a number of similarities and a number of specific nuances that really do separate the experience of working within each discipline. For this first blog, in a potential series, I wanted to talk about some of the similarities I’ve noticed early on in my tenure and some tips that the world of theatre provides for us to make Cybis events successful!
THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON
As I mentioned, I spent a lot of my pre-Cybis time within the world of theatre. Most recently I was teaching theatre and technical theatre at arts middle schools in Polk County, Florida. Every year, my new students would be asked the same question. It’s the same question I asked high school students and college students when I adjunct taught or was brought in as a guest designer/artist:
Who is the most important person in theatre?
Regardless of the age, I would usually get the same first few responses; Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, the person who pays you (the Producer). Then some of the more attuned students, remembering what I had told them about my experience, would answer the Technical Director or the Lighting Designer. While I appreciate the grab at brownie points, the answer still isn’t right. Here’s their clue: It’s the only person or person(s) required for any art to be successful; dance, drama, opera, sculpture, digital, corporate… any art requires it.
Look at the first picture. The most important person isn’t in there. Despite my technical background and position at Cybis, it’s not the techs. It’s not any of the designers, the directors, or even the producers.
Here’s the same event (Washington DECA 2014 Fall Leadership Conference in Seattle) but now the most important person is there. The thing that makes art, well art, in any capacity is:
Without an audience, a production team is just rehearsing, an actor is just talking, a dancer is just moving, and a graphics designer is just clicking, dragging and typing. When someone views our creation, our creation becomes art and is subjectively and objectively viewed and responded to.
The audience is the sole reason art exists. Without it any creation is essentially a glorified diary entry – a way to express one’s ideas, desires or reflections of their experiences and observations. It’s a key component to understand when going into any artistic endeavor.
I can imagine that those of you who really key in on that adjective: corporate, might be asking yourself, “What about the client?” Well it is true that the client is very important in our line of work. Without the client, we wouldn’t have a contract, without a contract we wouldn’t have revenue, without revenue I’d be either volunteering or working elsewhere and the business wouldn’t survive. Clearly, the client is important. In terms of theatre this person, this entity – the client, doesn’t directly exist. We would call the person ultimately calling the shots and signing the checks the Producer. Producers make the business happen. Producers are why we go into theatre as an industry. But it’s not why the theatre exists. Ultimately, the producer – the client, caters to some higher authority. They speak through buying tickets, sharing reviews and especially in corporate theatre; continuing, starting or increasing their support of your brand. It all comes back to the audience!
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Understanding the importance of the audience is integral to every decision. Our Total Creative Communication focuses not only on what the client asks for, but why the client is asking for it. How does it impact the audience? What is the audience flow into the room? What do they see? Will our really cool graphics on the computer at HQ read to a live audience? Are we broadcasting to another audience?
Those are the easy questions to consider. The answers can be simple or they can be complex but ultimately the question itself is very basic and conceptual minds can sort out the answer. But the effect of the audience should be more impactful than even these major concepts. The audience needs to always be the focus during installation, rehearsals and the show itself.
Let’s take our rehearsal process. I’ll delve more into the rehearsal timeline and process differences between traditional and corporate theatre; because they are massive!
Typically Team Cybis rehearses 1-2 days before its show time. (Theatre friends, I know! I told you, I’ll get into that in the future.) In that period of time there is troubleshooting, rehearsing difficult parts of the show, getting familiar with the intricacies of this particular script, for this particular session, for this particular client, and integrating all of the individual components: speakers, keynotes, lighting, sound, scenic, stage management, video, cameras, etc. Under optimal circumstances it’s a lot to do in a short period of time.
Now let’s say something isn’t going right. Maybe the switcher is having a hard time getting through a tough section in the script. Maybe the sound board operator doesn’t feel comfortable with a transition, but they can still hit their cues. Maybe the lighting designer wants to run a section over again to tweak the focus on one of their moving lights. All three people will tell the director that they need the stage or a few minutes, but the director needs to follow the schedule and get a full opening session rehearsal in before the keynote speaker arrives in 45 minutes. How do we proceed? We remember that the audience is the most important person. We prioritize our efforts towards those things that most impact the audience. Obviously if any of these things impacted safety, it becomes priority number one! In our situation, nothing will directly impact safety… Now put yourself into the director’s chair: What would you do?
Our directors know how long a session will take to go through. Let’s say it takes 35 minutes. That leaves 10 minutes to make changes and check those changes before the keynote rehearsal begins. Ten minutes isn’t that much time. It just took you 10% of that time to re-read the paragraph above and another 10% to get to this point. Time’s wasting!
In the few minutes remaining, here’s a solution:
- If the switcher misses cues, the audience will notice if the graphics and script don’t match. Let’s work through that section.
- Let’s also have the Stage Manager meet the keynote speaker to help them get setup when they arrive so we can go right into their rehearsal when they are ready.
- When video is resetting, lighting and audio can work their sections.
- After a few runs of the rough switching section, let’s put it all together and run the problem section for the switcher.
- Time to rehearse with the keynote!
- Now let’s go back to what used to be the rough section, check our progress, find out we got it, save our work and… break for lunch!
Remembering that the impact to the audience is the number one concern, we know we need to get the switcher right. If audio can hit their cues, they aren’t a priority. And if lighting is just cleaning up a look or series of looks, even if the change is slight, the impact to the eyes of the audience may be significant. Get the switcher right, then lighting, then audio in our scenario. To the audience, the show will be optimal and the event memorable. A happy audience! Just what the client wanted.
Posted By: Erik Morris, Technical Producer