Public show

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A large show for the entire attendance of BJC as well as members of the public. Usually held in a dedicated theatre space, often off-site. Cardiff BJC public show had 350 members of the public [1]; BJC 2010 didn't sell tickets to the general public at all, due to lack of space.

The Public Show is expensive. It has cost between 24% and 30% of the entire budget of recent BJCs. The largest costs are venue and equipment hire, and travel and accommodation for artists.

A show needs a producer and a stage manager. These are two quite different jobs, although they can be done by the same person.

Producer[edit]

The producer is given a budget. They find and book all the acts and get them under contract, and make sure any problems getting the artists to the convention are resolved. Acts of the quality usually seen at a BJC public show get booked up very far in advance, so it's very important to get this started as soon as possible.

In 2014 three of the acts were turned back at customs for having tourist visas when they were clearly working. Tourist visas may have previously been good enough but they clearly are not now.

Andy Vass booked the show for Derby, Bodmin and Nottingham. Sam booked the show for Doncaster, Norwich and Huddersfield, with the assistance of Emily Winch for Norwich and Huddersfield.

Producing a BJC public show is a job for someone who travels a lot and has a good fat address book. The expectations of a BJC audience are very high. Picking the acts is not a job for a novice or someone whose knowledge of the juggling scene is limited to UK conventions. If you are thinking about producing a BJC show and do not travel much or have a fat address book, be prepared to go around with a notebook asking experienced jugglers/performers for suggestions for acts. Also, be prepared to spend a great deal of your life on youtube or juggling.tv, this was how it was done in 2013.

The rest of the job - contacting the acts, negotiating a price, sending a contract and making hotel/transport/visa arrangements - can all be done by someone else with the producer's supervision, if necessary. See Programming a Cabaret Show for more on booking acts.

The producer is also responsible for making sure the artists get paid. Many will be happy to invoice for payment later, but it is much easier to pay cash on the day. This is because

  • After the convention, everybody is too tired to do anything, so payment may be late
  • The producer is responsible for making the payments, but may not have access to the bank account / cheque book
  • Paying on the day gives a good impression, and it's important for the BJC to be seen as a good employer.
  • If the convention ends up making a loss, paying artists on the day makes SURE that the artists are not the ones who lose out.
  • Paying on the day makes it easier to sort out any confusion over what amounts should be paid.

For BJC 2009, payment of expenses was done earlier in the week as the artists arrived on site. It was all done in the site office, with easy access to change, exchange rates and the right place to leave the receipts. (Yes you need all the receipts for the tax man). The day before the show, the producer calculated the fees due - all nice round numbers - took the cash from the site office, and put it in envelopes with act names on. These were easy to distribute immediately after the show. Having a dedicated office at the show venue to hand over cash in, would have helped, since of course people want to count the cash in private. All of this was made easier by a big spreadsheet.

BJC 2010 had a similar system, but because one of the organisers made the payments instead of the producer, there was some miscommunication over how much was due, and a couple of the acts didn't receive their payments promptly as expected.

If you are going to pay cash on the day, you need secure storage at the venue for the cash. Secure storage doesn't mean the venue back office where their staff are going in and out all day. But it must be somewhere that will be easy to access when you need the money - you don't want to get to 10pm and find that the keyholder for the safe has gone home.

Stage Manager[edit]

A stage manager is responsible for the technical aspects of the show:

  • Working out what sound and lighting gear and paid staff will be required, as well as any other equipment such as staging, backdrops, etc.
  • Checking with the artists for any special technical requirements.
  • Providing any risk assessments the venue may need.
  • Sourcing the necessary equipment, negotiating the costs with the BJC team and the supplier, ordering it all and making sure there is a contract in place.
  • Making sure that enough trusted volunteers will be around as stage hands, runners etc.
  • Running the technical rehearsals on the day
  • Running the show itself and making sure it goes smoothly.

Mini Mansell stage managed the Public show for BJC's 2007,2008,2009 and 2010

Public Show Tech

Stage hands[edit]

People wearing black clothes who will probably be required to go on stage during the show and set out props, clear them away or sweep up mess.

If they don't all have black clothes, then beg, borrow or steal some, or use matching convention merchandise. T-shirts with logos can be improved by turning them inside out and removing the labels with scissors.

These people need to be around during the tech run in order to make notes on what is required. Different coloured tape can be useful to mark the stage showing where each prop should be placed.

Using a prop table helps to avoid confusion over where the stage hands can find the props. The prop table goes back-stage, next to the entrance the stage hands will use. Each artist has a labelled area on the table, in the correct running order, where they lay out their props for the stage hands to pick up. If a particular prop layout is complex, it can be mimicked on the prop table to make things easier. If the layout is REALLY complex, make notes and tape them to the correct section of the table.

It should be easy to glance at the prop table and spot if something is missing. Make sure there will be enough lighting to see the table during the show when house lights are down. If necessary, get a desk lamp.

The idea is for ALL the thinking to be done before the show, so that during the show it's almost impossible to make a mistake.

Runners[edit]

During the tech run, people will discover things they need that are missing. Batteries, bolts, gluten free food, bin bags, duct tape, safety pins. Ideally there will be somebody who has no other job than running around town looking for these things. Hopefully they will have a car and the local knowledge to find B&Q and the supermarket.

Somebody needs to bring enough spare cash to cover these expenses. Do not forget to keep the receipts.

Food[edit]

Many of the people working on the show may be working from 10am straight through to 11pm with little time to eat. Some buffet food and drink set out in the green room is a good idea. Artists will often want small amounts of light and healthy food through the day. Fruit and bottles of water are good. Other staff need to be able to grab a bite in a quick break. It can be useful to task someone (perhaps the show's runner) with making sure everybody eats, bringing them food if necessary.

It's not practical to provide one big meal at a set time, since the day's schedule will usually be packed and unpredictable.

Most artists won't want a big meal before performing. They will be hungry after the show, and happy if you can direct them to somewhere they can get food late at night. If you have a deadline for getting out of the show venue, you can't feed them there after the show. If you are paying them properly, and there's somewhere they can reasonably get their own food afterwards, it's not your responsibility anyway.

Venue[edit]

Crucial things to have in your show venue:

  • A backstage area that the audience can't see and do not have access to.
  • Raised staging
  • Tiered seating
  • Somewhere to rig lights
  • Power for lights and sound
  • Wings
  • A green room area, large enough for all artists to get changed in, with access to private toilets and a full length mirror with decent lighting. The green room may need windows blacking out if they provide a view from the street.
  • Enough height above the stage (visible by the audience) for all your acts
  • Safe points from which to rig any aerial gear you want.

Very useful things to have:

  • Blacks at the back of the stage make things look much more professional
  • Private invisible access to the back stage area, and from one side of the stage to the other, so none of the artists or crew ever have to go through the auditorium while there are audience members present.
  • A small office space in which to pay people privately
  • Secure but accessible storage for cash
  • Radios with headsets for stage manager and crew.

Technical requirements[edit]

Lighting jugglers is not something theatres do very often. For BJC2013 Mr Jules provided a couple of files that helped How to light a juggler and How to light a juggler 2 Essentially this suggests lights (fresnels or par-cans) in the four corners of the stage, pointing up into the air.

Ask acts beforehand for their technical requirements (lights, sound, music and stage setup and how long they are likely to need for technical rehearsal). Put all this info into one document to give to the techies a few days before if you can. Get the acts to send you their music on mp3 and put it all onto one CD in the likely order it will appear in. Be aware that at least one of your acts will not provide you with tech requirements or the correct music until the day of the show.

Set timings for performers tech rehearsals, with the more complicated tech-ing first. BJC 2013 did this and had a very very smooth tech rehearsal.

If you are going to do a curtain call (you probably should), rehearse this too. There is normally no need for a full tech/dress rehearsal.

Get your compère to get to the theatre at the start of the tech runs, then they can see all the acts performances, and have chance to speak to all the acts about how they would like to be introduced.

Venues are not experts in aerial rigging. If you need to rig aerial you have to ask the right questions; not "can we rig a trapeze", but "can we hang a point load of X kg at least Ym above the centre of the stage", and "what exactly will we be hanging it from?". Even then, there is a risk that the person you are talking to says it's fine, when the rigging is not in fact possible; or the venue staff on the day decide to forbid it. If you know any aerialists who have worked in theatres before (perhaps your act themselves), they might be better off talking to the venue directly. Having done that, put your requirements in your contract if you can.

Video[edit]

If you are going to video people's acts, get signed permission. They need to sign off on every individual thing you plan to do with the footage. (Don't just get permission for a DVD sale and then put the footage on the internet).

If the sound guy is friendly, he may be able to supply a direct feed from the mixing desk to the camera, which will give much better audio than the mic on the camera will pick up, but without as much audience noise.

HOWEVER:

While your venue will usually have its own licence allowing you to play copyrighted music there, you have no legal right to distribute a video that has copyrighted music on it unless you get permission from each artist (the musicians, not the jugglers!). Very occasionally an act may use royalty-free music, where the author has explicitly authorised public performance with no royalties, but in the normal case you cannot legally distribute a video with your acts' music on it.

Two sittings[edit]

Curiously, doing two sittings of a show (because the venue is small) can cost approximately the same as doing one sitting.

Drawbacks of having two performances:

  • Much less time to do all the technical side of things. How much of a problem this causes, depends on how much you need to change the setup of the venue for the acts you have.
  • Less atmosphere due to smaller audiences
  • If you can't fill one of the performances, even less atmosphere due to an even smaller audience.
  • An early performance means it will be still light outside. If your venue cannot be blacked out this can kill the atmosphere (as it did at BJC 2009).
  • More potential for time overruns causing you to get out late and have the theatre charge you extra.

Advantages:

  • A smaller venue may be cheaper
  • People with kids like earlier shows
  • If you end up with too many seats, you may be able to sell more tickets to members of the public and make more money.

Audience[edit]

If you do not want the audience to; video the show, take flash photography during UV acts, heckle as if they were in a drunken renegade show, let balloons fly across the stage during performances - then you might want to tell them this. It doesn't need to be too officious and can even be humorous as long as it gets the message across. Perhaps you might want to advise the front row of the audience to place stray props on the stage or give them to stage runners rather than just throw them back at the performer (unless performer explicitly asks them to throw props back).

If the venue are selling tickets to the public, you will need to mention to the venue if you intend for BJC attendees to sit where they like. Venues normally sell numbered tickets so people know where they are sitting and might be perplexed to find a juggler in their seat. You can get round this by having a public area and a BJC area.

The rest of the week[edit]

Your show performers can add a lot to the rest of the convention, whether that is through doing workshops or even performing on renegade. This does mean you have to think about housing and feeding them for the rest of the convention. At BJC 2013, largely due to the lack of cheap hotels in the area, they ended up putting performers in 3 beautiful self-catering cottages. This worked incredibly well, worked out much cheaper than hotels, and made performers very happy.

Remember that spare beds can be given to exhausted team members!

In the first email sent to performers in the show for BJC 2013, the community and volunteer led nature of the event was mentioned (i.e. please perform on the cheap!) and they were asked about workshops. Later on, once contracts were signed,renegade performances and other convention aspects such as 'Old Skool Panel Show' were talked about. Many performers are happy to do things like this, others won't unless you give them loads more money. It has been known that 'practising in the main hall' has been written into performers contracts in earlier years, other performers will do this anyway.

In BJC 2013 the performers were sent a youtube link to a video summary of the previous years BJC which, if they hadn't been before, gave a sense of how much fun it would be. In the email it was mentioned that it may not be the best paid job in the world - but it would be the most fun!