Canceling a show - who makes the call

robmonty

Member
Hi

I know some of you in this group are staff at venues, and I was wondering if anyone has a show cancellation policy or protocol that they use. Im sure that every major venue has an evacuation plan, but I am interested to find out if anyone has a policy for cancelling a show before the doors open.

We had a power failure in our venue a couple of weeks ago, part of a power outage that included a large portion of the city. This happened at 4:00 PM during sound check. Getting information from the utility company was impossible, so it was tough to tell when we would have power again. In this situation, you can't let an audience into the building.
In the case of utility power outage/dangerous weather/etc. who goes about calling the show off?

Does anyone work in a venue that has some kind of a policy for this?

Thanks

Rob Montgomery
 

TeeDeeDon

Member
I worked a show last summer when the power went out and we ended up using the limited power of a backup generator. None of the dimmers were working, but were able to get a handful of ZFXs working through a wireless node. They functioned as house lights before and after the show and stage lights during. It was a solo dance recital and ended up being much more intimate than it would have been otherwise. There may be options that aren't obvious initially.

Who makes that call? It depends on what type of show and venue. Generally, it is the producer's call since they are the one who has to figure out the monetary logistics of cancelling it. But that producer needs to be well informed on safety and other liabilities to make that decision which is where we come in. In the places I work, we don't have a set policy,but take it on a case by case basis.
 

SteveB

Well-Known Member
Not only do we not have a cancellation policy but we can't even get our so-called "Public Safety Department" to show up for an alarm.

A week and a half ago, in the midst of a rehearsal for a public school graduation, with roughly 200 kids and teachers in our large road house, the contractors on the attached new theater building decide to test that buildings new alarm system (we find afterwards). As the buildings are connected, the alarms are connected and when they should have isolated the new site, they didn't.

Fire alarms in our lobbies and shop/dock area's all trigger, the Dept. of Theater staff vacates their 3rd floor offices. I am senior staff so await the arrival of a PS supervisor. Nobody shows after 5 minute and in consultation with our house manager, tell the teachers to have the students and staff leave the theater. No issues and they do. I check with the PS officer at our campus exit gate (outside our dock) and he says that his department is notified. 15 minutes later nobody from PS shows up, the alarms turn off and the gate guard then tells the assembled staff "It's OK to go back in the building". NOBODY from PS comes around to tell us what's happened, what to do, nothing. The NYC Fire Department shows up, nobody knows what is going on.

No procedures as to how and when to evacuate. No indication that the main public safety office event knew there was an alarm until the NYFD showed up. We have as BTW, been asking via e-mails, for approx. 10 years or so, for the Public Safety office to work with us as to the procedures and steps to follow in the event of an alarm with rehearsals and/or performance underway in our theaters.

Nothing.

Incredible.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Hi

I know some of you in this group are staff at venues, and I was wondering if anyone has a show cancellation policy or protocol that they use. Im sure that every major venue has an evacuation plan, but I am interested to find out if anyone has a policy for cancelling a show before the doors open.

We had a power failure in our venue a couple of weeks ago, part of a power outage that included a large portion of the city. This happened at 4:00 PM during sound check. Getting information from the utility company was impossible, so it was tough to tell when we would have power again. In this situation, you can't let an audience into the building.
In the case of utility power outage/dangerous weather/etc. who goes about calling the show off?

Does anyone work in a venue that has some kind of a policy for this?

Thanks

Rob Montgomery
@robmonty I'll offer two comments and get out of the way;
1 - The promoter, the person bankrolling the event, generally makes the call in accordance with police, fire and safety officials.
2 - I experienced a similar situation in Hamilton, Ontario in late 1973 early 1974.
The venue, at the time (The number of seats has been changed since), was a 2183 seat soft-seater with two balconies, four licensed levels of lobby and at least seven lobby bars for quick service.
The event was a(n) SRO performance by an 'A list' attraction.
The house / city were the promoter / producers.
It was about an hour to curtain / 30 minutes to doors and the lobby was already filling up.
The power went out. As far as the eye could see ALL of downtown was powerless.
The venue manager and the FOH manager huddled with the talent and put the following plan into action:
The V-12 diesel was purring with enough fuel to last to show's end.
The ice machine was on back-up power along with the beverage coolers and dispensers.
We had minimal, but safely sufficient, light in the lobby and house but NOT ENOUGH to attempt the show, especially in light of the talent, level of production expected, and the ticket prices already paid.
The FOH manager elected to do the following:
Every ticket holder was handed one free ticket good for one beverage of their choice. They could choose from anything on hand including tea, coffee, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages from wine on up to the finest single malt Scotches. Patrons were advised of the situation and the unknown status of the remainder of the evening. They were told they could depart immediately, drink their gratis drink and leave, drink their free beverage and pay for additional beverages, stay as long as they liked, roll the dice and potentially see their show or drink their free drink, turn in their ticket for a full refund and vamoose into the thunder and lightning / chaos of downtown traffic with no stop-lights.
The vast majority stayed at least for their free drinks. Power came back on shortly past the scheduled curtain time, possibly within 30 minutes, remained on and the performance, other than beginning slightly late, played to a packed, and happily receptive / well lubricated, house. The producer / manager was THRILLED to keep the revenue in the bank and have minimal refunds requested.
I don't set policy but those are my comments.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
Edit: Inadvertently left an 'N' out of lightning.
 
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sk8rsdad

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
Our venue is mostly community theatre and one-off low budget events, so never with the same monetary impact as the big venues, and with mostly understanding patrons. We have procedures in place for various scenarios including power failures. We run a theatre, not a hospital. Nobody dies if the show has to be cancelled.

The policy around power failures for our own productions is pretty prescriptive, covering pre-show, and during performances. There are many more details but this is the gist of it:
  1. if the power goes out then pause for up to 20 minutes, under emergency lighting.
  2. If power has not been restored then evacuate, providing instructions on how and when to contact the box office. The remedy is either rescheduling the patrons to another performance, refunding via comps to a future show, or giving back money if necessary.
  3. If the power is restored then resume the performance.
Rentals are trickier but typically we would try to reschedule. It's their challenge to deal with their patrons.

FWIW, most outages fall into 2 scenarios:
  • brief (minutes) - fixed by flipping a switch somewhere that either restores or reroutes power.
  • long (hours+) - somebody needs to repair or replace something.
The call is made by the FOH manager on duty in consultation with the stage manager, or the technician on duty in the case of a rental.
 

MRW Lights

Well-Known Member
The term you are looking for in the legal nomenclature is "Force Majeure Event" more commonly an Act of God. Defined as "unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract". When this clause is "activated" in our rental agreements it assumes some of the things mentioned above and can include others, but mostly either and or;

1. Due to circumstances outside of my control as Owner and by no fault of due negligence at the fault of the Owner the terms of the contract cannot be fulfilled.
2. The venue is deemed unsafe by reason of law, typically meaning not safe for occupancy. (No one can legally make the call contrary to the cancellation of your performance or occupancy of your venue if deemed unsafe.)

In the case of a Force Majeure Event we automatically offer a refund of any and all fees, both to rentals and patrons (if we're handling patron fees otherwise we accept no responsibility on behalf of patron management beyond safety and general front of house customer service.) A refund is not only monetary it can be rescheduling, comps for another event or performance, any reasonable offer is typically acceptable. In the event of a loss of revenue or damage such that a performance can't be rescheduled or another alternative can't be offered is where you'll want to be close with your insurance agency. They will become your best friend in a time of need.

I would have a look at your local code about what deems your venue fit for occupancy and your municipalities action plan for when such events are triggered. This removes the personal responsibility of making the decision and places it in the hands of a tested system put together by people who spend their 9-5 making these plans, checking them, testing them and then doing it again. All in the hopes that they waste a career of work that's never needed.

We are required by law to have evacuation plans, emergency plans and an entire book of policies and procedures for WHAT IF's and to regularly review and test these plans. Even if it's not required in your locality, put them together and regularly review and practice them. Never let it be about IF you need it, only hope there's never a time WHEN you need it.
 
<<<
We are required by law to have evacuation plans, emergency plans and an entire book of policies and procedures for WHAT IF's and to regularly review and test these plans. Even if it's not required in your locality, put them together and regularly review and practice them. Never let it be about IF you need it, only hope there's never a time WHEN you need it.
.>>>

Yup. This is great advice for sure!

Even though the Video Studio is inside of the University of Michigan's Duderstadt Center Library, we have the clients all sign a user agreement.
By signing it they agree that in the case of an act of God, fire, flood, power outage, equipment failure - that the studio manager has the right
to cancel the event for any reason - - - and they agree to indemnify and hold the Univ. harmless for any financial or other losses.

There is no one set rule because there are an infinite number of circumstances. ***Safety is always the determining factor.*** If the power goes out in the middle of a weather event, we send and guide the crowd to shelter in the basement of the building = an actual shelter. We do NOT send people out into danger - a tornado or severe weather - that is for sure. You can't stop them from heading into it, but you do your best to dissuade them.

We've had the power go out on a couple of occasions because of a DTE energy failure, and after waiting for thirty minutes – with some light provided by emergency lighting - but when the building closed we had to cancel their event. Luckily, these were only student productions and they didn't lose much.

I would get with your management and/or owners and get a solid plan and also legal documents for clients to sign - which can only help everyone to know the deal when things go bad.
Also a review of safety procedure, in the event of a cancellation and to address safety gear and procedure such as emergency lighting during a power outage - is always an on-going thing for everyone to agree upon and/or know.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
<<<
We are required by law to have evacuation plans, emergency plans and an entire book of policies and procedures for WHAT IF's and to regularly review and test these plans. Even if it's not required in your locality, put them together and regularly review and practice them. Never let it be about IF you need it, only hope there's never a time WHEN you need it.
.>>>

Yup. This is great advice for sure!

Even though the Video Studio is inside of the University of Michigan's Duderstadt Center Library, we have the clients all sign a user agreement.
By signing it they agree that in the case of an act of God, fire, flood, power outage, equipment failure - that the studio manager has the right
to cancel the event for any reason - - - and they agree to indemnify and hold the Univ. harmless for any financial or other losses.

There is no one set rule because there are an infinite number of circumstances. ***Safety is always the determining factor.*** If the power goes out in the middle of a weather event, we send and guide the crowd to shelter in the basement of the building = an actual shelter. We do NOT send people out into danger - a tornado or severe weather - that is for sure. You can't stop them from heading into it, but you do your best to dissuade them.

We've had the power go out on a couple of occasions because of a DTE energy failure, and after waiting for thirty minutes – with some light provided by emergency lighting - but when the building closed we had to cancel their event. Luckily, these were only student productions and they didn't lose much.

I would get with your management and/or owners and get a solid plan and also legal documents for clients to sign - which can only help everyone to know the deal when things go bad.
Also a review of safety procedure, in the event of a cancellation and to address safety gear and procedure such as emergency lighting during a power outage - is always an on-going thing for everyone to agree upon and/or know.
Wash your mouth! What do you mean "these were only student productions"? Be careful @Jacques Mersereau You're going to get yourself tarred and feathered with talk like that around here.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

StradivariusBone

Custom Title
Fight Leukemia
I was thinking about this the other day when the lights went off in my office for about 2 minutes. We've never had more than a quick flip that means we have to reset the amp rack.

A parallel question- what do you do if you smell smoke? We were closing out the last show of our spring musical, in the very last scene and less than 3 minutes to curtain when I was notified that members of the pit smelled smoke and reports were suddenly coming in from the audience too. The FACP is in our main office of the campus and not accessible during after-hours, but I don't know if that would've told us anything. I immediately ran to the pit, and then ran to the catwalk to check all the lights to see if a curtain or something had gotten stuck. I left explicit instructions with my SM to standby house lights and evacuate if the alarms went off. With the proximity to final curtain we also quickly decided to cut bows and ask the audience (who by now was well-aware something was up) to quickly and safely depart. Ultimately I couldn't find anything wrong, though I suspect it was a belt in the air handler getting stuck.

The alarms didn't go off and my tech kids were alert and trained for this sort of thing. We talk often about calling for house lights and evacuating in different sorts of emergencies, but it was weird to be in that limbo of not wanting to evacuate for what eventually became trivial, but also not have the assurance of the alarm tripping. Also, the lives and well being of all souls in the building hinging on your judgement carries no small weight. If it hadn't been so close to show close I am certain we would have dropped the main and raised house lights and evacuated as a precaution (which we ultimately did within 3 minutes of being notified anyway). In that case it was our own show, cast and crew, but if it were a rental client I feel like I would've made the same judgement call and dealt with the fallout after making the best decision for the safety of the occupants.
 

kiwitechgirl

Well-Known Member
In my world it's the producer who makes the call. I've had several nights' worth of one show cancelled in my last job when one of the actors fell ill - it was a two-hander, it was early in the season, we didn't have understudies and the play was the David Harrower play "Blackbird" - it's effectively a confrontation between a young woman and the man who sexually abused her fifteen years earlier - I've had actors stand in on the book but for this one there was no way it would have worked, so we cancelled until he was better. We had capacity to re-book patrons on that one.

The night that the Martin Place siege happened in Sydney our ballet performance was cancelled, not due to any danger to patrons in the building, but the city was in lockdown and it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to get to the Opera House. I actually have a feeling that was venue management that made that call, not the ballet company. Punters all got refunds because the season was sold out and they couldn't be re-booked.

I've made the call to hold a show in a previous job - hot day, theatre air conditioning went out during kids shows in the daytime and by the time we got a tech in to fix it, the theatre was very hot and humid. I called the production manager and said I wasn't happy about putting the actors on stage until it had cooled down and he was happy for me to hold the show for 30 minutes, which brought it down enough.
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Ultimately I couldn't find anything wrong, though I suspect it was a belt in the air handler getting stuck.

Had this happen opening day of my third show at my community house.

2 hours before curtain, luckily. Fire and maintenance both showed up, localized it, pulled breakers, and they ventilated the lobby; auditorium doors had stayed closed.

The alarms didn't go off and my tech kids were alert and trained for this sort of thing. We talk often about calling for house lights and evacuating in different sorts of emergencies, but it was weird to be in that limbo of not wanting to evacuate for what eventually became trivial, but also not have the assurance of the alarm tripping.

And that's it, right there. The reason you think out and game out the possible problems in advance is so you don't *have to* make judgement calls if/when it happens. The same thing happens just calling 911 for medical problems, IME.

It's what I tell junior people in the booth (usually on lights, as I'm usually on sound):

If you see open flames, or the SM or I call an Evac, hit House 1, and Blackout, and get the eff down the ladder.
 

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