Time to get to work this summer

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Summer is here! Feet in the sand, sun on the skin, sweat on the brow and booking and show building. YES! You heard me correctly- Booking and show building. The Opera House closed the books on the 20th season on Sunday, 20 years! THANK YOU! John Anderson helped us celebrate an amazing year and set the stage for an amazing 21st year. And with that booking is already underway and the brochure is under development.

How does this all happen? Have you ever wondered what we do during the off season? Its summer right, the Opera House staff is probably off for the rest of the summer relaxing and basking in the light of another season. The reality is the opposite and in a big way.

It’s a massive multi-step process that involves multiple departments and multiple steps that blossom into the amazing season that launches in August.

Step 1: Molly spends a week in a very cold New York City going dawn to dusk talking with agents, seeing the artist perform live and maybe if Molly is lucky, a sandwich from the food truck. Did I mention it’s cold? The main venue for meeting with agents holds around 10,000 different agents representing more artists than one brain can comprehend. Agents and venues talk about artists, costs, routing and dream big. Then the agents send us out to different venues throughout the City to see these artists live. After a week and several legal pads of information later, Molly returns home.

Step 2: Those afore mentioned legal pads become very well used over the next few weeks along with the hundreds of emails following up on conversations in NYC. Yes, hundreds of emails start to flood Molly’s email inbox along with phone calls. Bless the Opera House staff for helping Molly field all the calls and gather more information. This time is truly a staff effort during January-March with all hands helping research artists, pull previous data, look at reports from other theatres, cost analysis, marketing costs for some acts, viability with our audience and sometimes just a gut feeling to leap on an opportunity.

Step 3: Bask in knowing so many wonderful acts WANT to play in our house. WIN! They are calling Newberry to book OUR OPERA HOUSE!

Step 4: The following steps start to happen all at once between May and July: development of genre groups, pricing, gathering photos and PR materials for the brochure and website, contracts start coming in, review of every line of the contract, negotiations on price and dates. All of this is happening in multiple departments and is populated into one big spreadsheet that adjusts as we change the variables, photos, informational blurbs.

Step 5: Freak out on the short timeline the staff has devised to gather all this information. Stop and reflect on step 3 to help the team keep going.

Step 6: Keep going! Last minute corrections to price, informational blurbs because the artists changed PR firms, updated pictures because the said new firm doesn’t like the old photos, and then the last minute show that finally signed their contract and you are out of pages in the brochure, and we have to fit them in.

Step 7: Hand everything over for the first printing for proofing. The review happens multiple times with multiple eyes from both inside the Opera House to people we pull off the street to review everything. It’s amazing what we find and refine!

Step 8: Press “Send” and hope the final draft is the final and we’ve caught everything, ensured the data base for addresses is the most up to date, and all addresses are correct with correct salutations.

Step 9: Going on all throughout this process is the redesign of the website to mimic the brochure, program the ticketing system to reflect all the pricing for individuals, groups, military, seniors, sponsors, donors, discounts. The review process is extensive and yes, we do miss something- we are human.

Step 10: ON SALE late July and early August! There are four on sale dates, and we have to be ready for the first one, which is in late July. Board members are first followed by the Order of the Gar two days later, then one week later we have a 9 a.m. on sale for the Phantoms, and at 10 a.m. everything goes live.

Whew! Relish in Step 5 for a good while!

In all, it hinges on Molly being able to get as many contracts negotiated and solidified with PR kits before the season ends in May. Being prepared ahead of time makes the journey to brochure and ticketing and website much easier, but action packed and full of fun.

So as you slip your toes into the sand or drive by and look at the lonely parking lot remember the amount of energy and work going on behind the scenes inside this grand lady! It’s busy, but this is a fun time for the staff, and they relish and excel in the challenge each year. Here’s to the 21st Season! I have to get back to the spreadsheet now.

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Molly Fortune is the executive director of the Newberry Opera House. Contact her at molly@newberryoperahouse.com.

Molly Fortune is the executive director of the Newberry Opera House. Contact her at molly@newberryoperahouse.com.