Are you ready?
I don’t know about you but I feel like recital season arrived much faster this year than most. It’s time to start cracking open those costume boxes, collecting volunteers, cutting music, finalizing show orders and printing programs and tickets. Recital season is the most exciting time of the dance year and without careful planning and preparation it can turn into the most stressful time as well.
Do you direct your show or do you have a stage manager? How do you communicate to your dressing rooms? Do you have prop dads setting props or does the theater have personnel to utilize? These and thousands of other questions are probably beginning to swirl through your head. Let’s try and straighten a few of them out.
Here are a few thoughts, ideas and experiences to help prepare for your big event:
Volunteers can make or break a show behind the scenes. It’s up to you to assure they are as knowledgable and prepared as possible. Whether they are a ticket taker, room runner, dressing room parent or quick change parent they are representing you while volunteering at your recital. Take the time to define each volunteer’s role for the show. Don’t be afraid to be detailed. It’s important they understand what’s expected and what’s not. Assign a “head volunteer”, someone you trust and who’s been through 1,000 of your recitals. A graduated student’s parent is a great choice. Let your head volunteer put out the small fires that arise. Schedule a volunteer meeting at the studio before you’re in the theater. Hand out expectations, introduce the head volunteer and take the time to say “thank you”. After all, without them the show would be almost impossible.
Time Is Money
I’m sure you’ve heard that expression. I don’t think it rings any more true than when you’re renting a theater for recital. In most cases you’re renting by the hour. Every second you’re in that theater you’re spending money. It’s important to arrive with a game plan. Be meticulous in your preparation and try not to deviate from the plan. Of course there will be unforeseen setbacks, handle them as they come, but stay the course the best you can.
You have to delegate tasks. I struggle with this, but there is too much to do for one person. Put people to work and don’t micro manage. Everyone has good ideas and they want your show to be as good as you do. That isn’t to say you settle for anything but the highest standard. If you’re unhappy with a job that was done, not that it wasn’t done your way, but a genuinely poor effort, say something. Do it diplomatically and explain your expectations clearly.
Finally, when you’re done setting up or the day is done, GET OUT! Don’t spend time standing around talking or hanging out in the dressing rooms, get out! Nothing is worse than getting that final invoice and seeing all the extra time you racked up talking about nothing. Go to a local restaurant or someones house to talk about the days events and tomorrow’s plan. I also recommend keeping a log book, or note on your phone of when you arrive and leave each day. Keep track of any other chargeable services as well, custodians, technicians, room usage, etc. You’d be surprised what shows up on that final invoice. I know I’ve caught a few things that were over estimated or line items we didn’t even use. It’s ok to question charges. Don’t just assume everything is right, you could be over paying.
Main Curtain Up
We made it, show time! All your hard work is about to pay off, but don’t rest on your laurels just yet. There’s still a lot to make happen. Assure that your head volunteer is making their rounds and everything is ready to go. Communicate with lighting and sound to assure everything is in working order (there’s nothing worse than pulling the curtain and finding out the music doesn’t work). Check the stage to assure the first set is in place and make sure the first routine is ready to go.
Most importantly, take a second to breathe and take pride in your accomplishment. Those few minutes before the curtain goes up and that show starts are magical.
In The Thick Of It
Once the show is rolling it seems to take on a mind of it’s own. All you can do is hold on and make the tweaks necessary to keep it on course. Do your dancers come on and off stage to black outs? Whether you realize it or not blackouts add up, quickly. I’ve sat in audiences of recitals and timed the blackouts in between routines. At one show we sat in the dark for a total of 38 minutes. Take the time to rehearse the flow of one routine to the next. As one routine finishes, the next enters the stage, gets set and the music rolls on. This helps keep the audience interested and the show moving smoothly. It also allows the dancers to enter the stage with the lights on. No more running around in the dark trying to set three-year-olds. Blackouts should be reserved for set changes and emergencies. Last year we had a flying prop that broke lose of it’s strings and was dangling. Our prop dads swooped in and saved the day to a great applause from a dark audience.
Ok, you spent all that time preparing and organizing, the show was incredible. Time to relax, right? Wrong! You still have to load out. Again, take the time to create a detailed plan of how things leave the theater. Ask that your volunteers assure the dressing rooms are as you found them. Employ prop dads to rush props out the door. Everyone should be going bananas to empty that theater as quickly as possible. Take the time to pick up garbage in the audience and give extra attention to the dressing rooms. The more you clean up the fewer hours the custodial crew has to charge you for. Finally, as with moving in, once your done, GET OUT!!
Recital season is a crazy, chaotic, stressful, fun and rewarding time of year. The more prepared you go in, the more time you’ll have to enjoy it when it’s happening. Also, take note of other local studio’s recitals and check them out. Talk to your parents who have come from other studios or students who’ve attended their friends shows. Ask what they liked and didn’t like about those shows. Find out what others are saying about your show. Don’t be afraid of negative criticism. Everyone does it differently and we all have something to learn!
What fool proof tips and trick do you have for recital season? Comment below and let me know!