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Waiting Rooms & Living Rooms

02.11.11 | 2 Comments


CATEGORIES arts service organizations, conversation starter, ideas, non-profit theatre, storefront theatre

This is an extension of last year’s post, What’s in Your Lobby?

Whether your theater company is itinerant or in a permanent space, and whether you are an arts administrator, an artistic director, or a fan, ask yourself: what is your lobby?

Is it a living room?  Is it a waiting room?  Is it the work of individuals or the reflection of an institution?

Does it reflect the values and aesthetics of the company?

If the space features headshots, banners, and tacked-up reviews, are you bringing the audience into a living room that is decorated with nothing but your framed diplomas and family portraits?

Are you reaching for awe?  For comfort?  For institutional practicality?

Is there a place for the audience to leave their mark, for an audience member to contribute to the space?

Is the lobby primarily a place of commerce? If a bag of M&Ms costs $3, are you reflecting the same values as an airport or a ballpark, where a premium is charged once the visitors have passed through a point of entry?  Does this reflect your values?

What is the experience for your audience outside of the play itself?

Do you corral your audience? 

Do you welcome your audience?  With all five senses?

Flowers? Legos? Water with slices of cucumber? A complimentary can of PBR?

How does it smell? How does it look? How does it taste? (Does it taste like cucumber water or PBR, or is your audience already parched unless they pay a supplement? Does this reflect your company’s values?)

Do you offer locally roasted coffee? Locally made beer?

Does your lobby reflect the aesthetic allies in your town or city? Does it display their work and offer their goods?  Do you have partnerships with any companies or organizations in other cities or countries?  Do they, or could they, have a presence in your lobby?  At the concession stand?

A movie multiplex offers the same high-quality films available worldwide, and their concessions–the Dots, the Sno-Caps–are likewise consistently available everywhere. Does your lobby reflect your specific neighborhood and your specific tribe in the way that those multiplexes reflect dependable homogeneity?

What would your lobby be if you discarded the need to impress?  Or even inform?

Does your lobby resemble the DMV? Does your audience wait, ticket in hand, for their appointment?

Is your lobby deliberately lit?

Is anything handmade?

Is anything alive?

Are you hiding?

Eric Ziegenhagen

Eric Ziegenhagen is an arts consultant, theatre artist, and musician based in Chicago.

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  • Amanda

    I am actually going to use this as a questionnaire to be filled out in production meetings by me and the Producer, the set designer, the board–atmosphere is the reason I eat at some restaurants over others, and it should be that way with theater too. This is awesome.

  • Amanda

    I am actually going to use this as a questionnaire to be filled out in production meetings by me and the Producer, the set designer, the board–atmosphere is the reason I eat at some restaurants over others, and it should be that way with theater too. This is awesome.


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