July 3, 2014
by Scott Morfitt, CftC blogger
Quite simply, if Eau Claire is going to get top-caliber performing acts, we need a new theater. Many of us have seen Ben Richgruber’s video tour of the State Theatre and understand that though the theatre has it’s charm, it cannot meet the requirements of large scale touring acts.
To get a good perspective on what top tier acts require from performing arts centers I interviewed Jason Jon Anderson.
Jason holds an MFA in Lighting Design and has spent the last seven years as UWEC’s Event Production Coordinator before being promoted to Assistant Director of Conferences, Marketing and Technology. On top of that in 2012, Jason joined the Bon Iver team as the Production Manager.
I couldn’t think of anyone better to answer my questions on what will make this these theatre spaces something that will be valuable to the community. (Note: The interview below is abridged, if you would like to Jason’s full answers you can click here)
Scott Morfitt: When you were working with Bon Iver on their tour, you got to enter a wide mix of event spaces. From a production standpoint what are a few of the basic things needed to successfully run a top-tier show?
Jason Anderson: When selecting a production venue to host national touring act there are a range of things that are looked at. Some of which take into account the need to have a population density large enough to ensure at least the possibility of a sold-out performance.
Knowing what the profit margins should be for a nation touring show; capacity needs to be around 3000 for a music concert (this could be achieved if the orchestra level had removable seating that would allow the entire first floor to be standing room only) And 1250-1500 fixed seating for theatrical style shows
SM: Why are these things so important to a production?
JA: Tours work on a commodity of scale and need to not operate in a manner that generates revenue. In order for national music tours to stop in Eau Claire as opposed to continue to other larger market cities the Confluence needs to hold enough people to make it a profitable venture for a tour to stop.
Rigging capacities for modern tours is paramount. The ability for a tour to know that they can use their rigging motors to hang the audio systems, video walls and lighting trusses just as they would in any venue ensures that tours can stop.
Modern accommodations such as catering, lounge spaces, dressing rooms, production offices and wireless internet are the exception. Remember that these spaces serve as tour members’ homes for the day. If it feels like home they will want to come back with this tour or a future/different tour.
SM: What do you see as the potential for the theatre spaces in the Confluence Project?
JA: I believe it is only limited to its’ designers/managers imaginations. The mainstage venue should be able to hold concerts for the community’s symphony’s, jazz bands, and theatrical groups. It must be designed to accommodate national theatrical and music concert tours.
The thrust stage should be designed to accommodate national and international tours (London’s Globe tours). It will serve as a replacement to Kjer and a modern Riverside Theatre and it will also provide an additional performance space for the ECCT and Theatre Guild.
The Black Box theatre should serve as a laboratory experimental space that can easily be converted to host backstage music concerts, new musical reviews, dance performances, art gallery installations and as a gala reception space.
SM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JA: As much as any modern city needs a performing arts center for artistic growth. Eau Claire needs to replace Zorn arena. The need for a large gathering space that can host athletic, commencement and civic engagements in the capacity of 7k-11k people is required. Much as Lacrosse has the Lacrosse Center Eau Claire needs a large Arena.
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