Marion Palace Theatre

From Start to Stage – May 2019

From Start to Stage – May 2019

I had someone in my office a couple of weeks ago discussing some exciting things happening in and around Marion County in the coming months. Once we had wrapped things up, he asked how things were going at the Palace, ultimately asking how a show makes its way from just an idea to center stage as part of our season. I thought maybe you’d be interested in reading about that process, too, as we prepare to announce our new season.

Selecting programming is among my favorite things to do in my role at the Palace. The Board of Directors sends me to the Arts Midwest Conference in the fall of each year. Those are long days starting at 7:30am and winding down well after midnight. Folded into those 16 hours are opportunities to meet other arts presenters, collaborate on new ideas, learn from experts in the arts, hold personal one-on-one meetings with artists and agents, and take in lots and lots of talent in showcase performances. Rinse and repeat for 4 days. I head home with my mind racing and full of ideas for a new season of entertainment.

During my visits to the “marketplace,” where I’ve met with artists and agents, I collect CDs, DVDs, one sheets, and more. Once back at my desk, I sort through all the “goodies” and begin to break down the information by genre. I create spreadsheets on all the artists to share with the Board’s Strategy and Quality Committee. They dedicate their time to reviewing all my finds. We get together for marathon meetings to watch videos of artists or listen to sound clips and recordings. Some show ideas are quickly eliminated and others we debate and discuss, working our way through hundreds of options.

As we work to make final recommendations to the full board, we take a number of important factors into account. Will Marion enjoy them? Can we afford them? Will the artist play to a house our size? Have they played here before, and if yes, how long ago? Is it a style or genre that will be supported by our audience? Will they draw in new patrons? Is it a show worth taking a risk on so we can introduce our patrons to a rising star or a meaningful but unknown performer?

After we’ve talked our way through all of these questions and more, we sort it all down to a series of touring artists we’d like to bring to the Palace. From there, I create an individual show budget that I hope accurately reflects expenses and potential income. The board carefully reviews the lineup and the budgets. Once approved, I begin the back and forth with agents.

I say, “I’d like this artist on this date for this amount of money.” They reply, “Let me check into that.” And back and forth we go. Sometimes no matter how badly both sides try to make it work, things just don’t align, and then we’re back to square one selecting a replacement artist for the lineup. This takes anywhere from 3-6 months. Offers are finalized, signed, counter signed, contracts and riders received, reviewed, signed and returned with deposit checks included.

And then, here we are. Sitting on the edge of our seats, anxiously awaiting the day we get to share with you who you’ll see on the Palace stage. Stay tuned…the big announcement is next month!

Bev Ford, Executive Director