Event design and experience
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Before we can discuss what an event is we must understand what the definition of event design is, for the purpose of this report we shall be employing a definition taken from EMBOK which we feel is the clearest definition."Event management is the process by which an event is planned, prepared and produced. As with any other form of management, it encompasses the assessment, definition, acquisition, allocation, direction, control and analysis of time, finances, people, products, services and other resources to achieve objectives. An event a mangers job is to oversee and arrange every aspect of an event, including researching, planning, organizing, implementing, controlling and evaluation and event's design, activities and production.
Silver (2004a) Update EMBOK structure.
Chicago the theatrical musical was performed at the Kings Theatre, Glasgow and was attended on the 10th October 2009. For the purpose of this report we shall be looking at the how the event was staged and the interaction of the performers, audience members and stakeholders which when put together would hopefully make the experience a positive one for all those involved.
The first known record of theatre was noted by historians in the performance of the sacred plays of the myth of Osiris and Isis in 2500 BC in Egypt. This story of the god Osiris was performed by the Egyptians annually at festivals throughout its civilization and thus marking the beginning of a long relationship between theatre and religion. Theatre has also played a large part in society by interacting with the public as well as entertaining and educating them.
Description of Event
The main purpose of modern theatre is to entertain the customer and as such that is the main reason why people in 2010 attend productions.
Kings Theatre, Glasgow was opened in 1904 at such a time when Glasgow was one of the leading industrial cities in the UK if not the world and as such the building retains a sense of history for customers who attend performances today.
The performance on the night lasted 2 hours 30 minutes with one standard interval of 15 minutes after the 1st act which is common place for all theatre productions.
Seating in the Kings Theatre is over 4 levels and includes - Stalls, Grand Circle, Upper Circle and the Gallery and shall seat a maxim of 1,785. On the night of the 10th October the cast was performing to a "Full House" as it was the productions last Saturday night performance before leaving Glasgow, this factor was an added bonus when it came to the atmospheric conditions for the customers or another word for it would be an "Eventscape"
Analysis of Elements of Interaction
At an event such as a musical not only is it the cast and audience who interact but a whole host of other people which could include the stakeholders, ticket sellers, ushers, merchanance sellers. Rossman states that to;
"Understand the role that relationships play in the interaction of a programme and anticipating how they may contribute to or detract from client satisfaction is an important element of place. Programmers cannot simply assume that the best course of action is always to foster or create a relationship between individuals who attend an event" Rossman (2003, p.38)
As such event designers do not have to provide a relationship for everyone or different groups that shall take part in the production and subsequently if they do they run the risk of over complicating the event.
First contact that a customer would have had in regards to "Chicago the Musical" would either have been the advertisement of the event or the online or telephone booking of tickets. This is where the customer will start to make expected expectations and where the event designer and the customer can differ in their expectations, which could lead to a shortfall for the customer and disappointment for the event designer.
What would be the purpose of an event if people were not going to participating in the event! The answer would be none. People are what 'make' an event; they are what 'make' an experience by interacting with the customers or participants. Since this report is going to be in reference to a theatrical event I shall try to include references which will refer to the theatre.
Jackson argues that, not only are characters and story line likely to have the biggest impact upon audiences but the 'metatext' (Harris et al., 2003) is an important task that 'needs to be undertaken for events if they are to reach their experiential goal (2005, p.8)'. Taking this into account and having the currant fashion of casting celebrities in leading roles in order to capitalise on multiple audience avenues, this will offer the event designer the possibility of increased numbers for the run of the production. This extra dimension could offer another market base of potential audience members who had never previously considered going to the theatre. Their first contact would have maybe been an article in a newspaper or online advertising the fact that their favourite soup star would be performing in Chicago. In this case the soup fan feels that they already have a relationship with the character but this relationship runs the risk of failing due to pre-conceived ideas and expectations when the soup character is confused with the theatre character or falls short of delivery.
Rules play a large part in everyday life and are a guide as to how we can interact with others or situations. Rossman, 2003 states that Rules through are also codified and ceremonial and there are also rules of everyday discourse that require understanding.
Looking at the example of the theatrical performance of Chicago which was performed at the Kings Theatre Glasgow, this event ran to a widely accepted template of rules and rituals. Although there are rules which are in place for the purpose of legal or for behaviour reasons, there are also "polite-ceremonial" rules which are also in force throughout the performance. An example of this would be that it would be deemed inappropriate for an audience member to talk or leave their seats while the performance is still taking place. Another polite-ceremonial rule would be that it would be considered rude for any audience members to eat anything which would make a noise and distract other audience members from enjoying the performance.
By having rules which govern the audience's interaction of the performance this would influence the experience that the audience would have. Common place for theatrical performances is to have everyone seated at least 5 minutes before the performance is due to start this is done by the means of a tannoy annoyisment of "Ladies and Gentlemen, 5 minute to curtain call".
There are also rituals which take place before, during and after a performance and would be expected by the audience, if they did not take place and audience could possibly feel disappointment or even that the performance was incomplete.
Audience member through past experiences and expectations now assume that the all the cast should take to the stage for one last "bow" and then clear the stage to be left with the leading actors for a final bow and show of appreciation . If this was not to happen I feel that the audience would continue to sit in their seats with a feeling of confusion and disappointment.
There are three different types of objects as stated by and they are represented by social, symbolic and physical meaning. For the purpose of the Chicago performance the object which has become symbolic for the performance would be the score which was composed by Fred Ebb according to the Internet Broadway Database (www.ibdb.com). Without this particular music the performance for Chicago would not be Chicago, it would become something else completely.
Looking at the physical objects of the musical this would include the Kings Theatre building in which the performance took place. Also the characters themselves in the musical would be a physical aspect for the objects as the characters are specific to this musical and could not be transferred to another.
For the Social object for the performance the audience had come together for a shared experience with most having an appreatation for musicals. They would have had to have paid for their tickets and as such would have either purchased them online or direct at the ticket office at the Kings Theatre.
Chicago the Musical was staged as discussed earlier at the Kings Theatre, Glasgow. Possible locations for a world renowned musical to be staged in Glasgow would only include the Kings and Theatre Royal, bookings for both theatres would have been made at least 1 year in advance. Venues for theatre or musicals can vary according to many factors which could influence the choice for the event designer.
Physical Setting for the event designer would also look at catchment area for customers the reason why Glasgow was chosen would include the fact that it is Scotland's largest city and that the musical had already performed at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Fortunately the performance of the musical is not synonymous with the venue and this allows the act to travel to new locations.
Although the venue does change, the set in regards to the performance shall stay the same no matter where the musical is performed. This means that there is no limit to where the event can perform but also that there is continuity for the customers who do attend the event at the different locations.
According to Allen el al., 2005 The relationship between event and location is often fundamental to the experience, and one useful categorisation is that given to 'hallmark' events where the event has become linked and identified with the spirit of a particular place.
Also to be included in the Physical setting of the performance would be the temperature for the audience members, whether that to be too cold, too hot or it was an outdoor event if it was raining. On the night of the 10th October the Kings Theatre, Glasgow was a capacity sell out performance and the outside temperature was pleasant for the time of year. Unfortunately for the whole of both the first and second half of the performance the inside temperature of the theatre was unbearably hot which resulted in the side emergency exists being opened to although cooler air for the cast and audience members. This aspect resulted in audiences members having a negative experience throughout the performance which could have jeopardised the whole enjoyment of the event for the audience.
Graham Berridge states that animation in regards to events is the most difficult of the 6 elements which we have covered in this report.
Some of the most successful events are the ones that appear to be spontaneous in their design for the audience, although this is rarely the case from the event designer's point of view. In regards to a theatrical performance in the terms of "animation" all plays, opera's, musicals and theatre productions must from both the audience and the actors perceptive have structure throughout the performances although for different reasons.
For the purpose of theatre the performance must have structure in order for the event to run smoothly and on schedule, this must be planned in advance. Movement, dance and choreography must be planned and rehearsed and actors must learn their lines. All this once put together would allow the audience members to feel that the performance, although staged the overlapping elements will have a flow to the design. If an audience member were to purchase a "Programme Guide" on the night of Chicago they would have had clear written view of the structure of the performance and the actors as well as when they could anticipate the break in the show.
In order to fully understand an event the customer or audience member must be able to analyse what has happened at that event to completely experience the full effect from the event.
For people in the events industry to try and understand an event, Solomon (1983) provides the industry with a definition which will allow us to break down the process of analyse;
"Symbolic interactionism focuses on the processes by which individuals understand their world. It assumes that people interpret the actions of others rather than simply react to them" Solomon (1983)
Audience members throughout the theatrical performance shall interpret different symbols and react to them in their own way which shall result in the event designer having to anticipate every possible reaction, which is extremely difficult.
Was the event a success? This question shall be answered differently for each and every audience member as each person will interpret the event in their own way. Each of Rossman's six elements will go into their event analysis and will result in understanding the event better.
The theartrcal performance of Chicago runs to a well oiled plan which is easily transferred from one venue to another and has run since 1975. This allows the cast and crew to have an easy tranison between locations and would show up any potential problems to the event designers.
- Allen, Judy, The Business of Event Planning. 2004 edition. John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd
- Anglia Ruskin University, Harvard System of Referencing Guide, Available at http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm [Accessed 25/11/09]
- Berridge, Graham, Events Design and Experience. 2009 edition. Elsevier Butterworth - Heinemann
- Blowdin Glenn, Allen Johny, O'Toole William, Harris Rob, McDonnell Ian, Events Management. 2nd Edition. Elsevier Butterworth - Heinemann
- Internet Broadway Database, Available at http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=5654, [Accessed 20/12/09]
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