Since we are currently in the process of building two events in venues with resident stages, it seemed like a good time to talk a little bit about the pros and cons of this sort of thing.
First, the pros: It’s a stage. In your room! It’s cool, it looks a little more “real” ... a little more “Broadway.” You don’t have to use scruffy hotel risers. And you get to say words like “proscenium,” “fly rail” and “main drape.” All good things, to be sure.
But even though a built-in stage has its advantages, it generally won’t solve all your problems. For example, there’s a stage at a convention center we frequent that -- to the casual observer – appears to be a real stage, but when you get right down to it, it’s unusable without building out an extensive thrust addition. Why? Well, there’s hardly any depth to speak of, and no wing space. Which means that if you have any scenic items or any technical gear on the stage, you’re out of space for your presenters or performers. In addition, there’s not really any access to the house without going backstage, which makes it difficult for award winners or presenters to come from the house. Not world-ending problems, just things to consider.
In another heavily-union venue we’re working in, the resident stage comes with a high price tag. It looks like a complete package, ready to go, but further research has uncovered a plethora of extra costs. Doing anything on the stage requires a special rigging call, for example. And what looks like a perfectly suitable lighting rig is really at the wrong angle for the stage action we’ve got going on, and requires union labor to re-hang and re-focus. And when we asked to move an existing scrim from one fly rail to the other, the initial answer was “no,” which would have required us to acquire and hang a new scrim, when a perfectly usable one was already in place ... just a few yards out of position. (We were later able to change that to a grudging “yes,” thereby saving a few dollars.)
Another “watch-out” is stage size. If you’re used to creating a nice little 18x24 deck with hotel risers and all of a sudden you’ve got a 50-foot proscenium to fill, you’re going to encounter some extra scenic and lighting costs.
So by all means, pursue spaces with built-in stages. But remember to consider the pitfalls, and examine things like backstage space, access to house, fly space (and accompanying costs), existing lighting truss and instruments and union regulations. And then, break a leg!
-- Amy Oriani