6. Stage Management and Equipment

Stage management could well be the single biggest budget item for your event, and the main focus for activities. The components may be arranged separately or as a package.  In particular, sound and lighting are usually done by the same contractor.

There are important technical and safety considerations involved in staging, and you are advised to appoint a responsible stage manager to oversee this part of your event.

6.1 Use of Council's Stage

You may apply to Council to hire a stage for community events. The stage is 10 metres long by 3.4 metres wide and 1 metre high (off the ground).  Hiring charges vary according to the nature and location of the event.  Contact 02 4560 4647 for more details.

6.2 Public Address Systems

A public address system (PA) is a device that amplifies sound so that large numbers of people, either in a hall or outdoors, can hear the speakers or performers.
 
The main components of a modern PA are the speakers, the amplifiers, the mixer and the microphones.  The mixer allows you to send a large number of different sounds through the PA at the same time and control their relative volumes and tones.  If a mixer has 12 inputs, then you can send 12 separate sounds through the system.
 
It is wise to select a PA with 'foldback'.  Foldback is a separate speaker system that allows musicians and singers to hear themselves on stage.
 
Discuss the needs of your event with your PA supplier.  When ordering a PA, be clear about the size of the venue, the numbers of people attending, the type of performers using the system, and any special requirements such as cassette/CD player.
 
Most good PA companies will assemble and test the microphones in front of you at the shop before you load them into your car or truck.  You should ask them anything that you are not sure of at this point.  It is far more difficult for them to explain the operation of the PA over the phone later on.

The easiest and safest way to take care of the PA is to hire a sound engineer to assemble and run the PA.

6.3 Lighting

Lighting is an essential safety and presentation requirement if your outdoor show continues past twilight or if your show is indoors.  If your show finishes in daylight you should allow a few hours of daylight for the equipment workers to dismantle the equipment and stage in a safe manner.  A light which can flood the stage at twilight can make the packing up of complicated electrical equipment much safer.
 
Well-designed lighting can improve the quality of a show enormously.

As with the PA system, it is safer to employ a lighting operator.  You should however offer your operator some advice on what sort of show you would like. If your organisation is paying, it has a right to have input on the light show.

6.4 Stage Power

Electricity

Most PA systems draw the amount of electrical current available from a domestic power outlet.  This is 15 amps.  If you are running an average sized PA system and one or two extra lights, the domestic power supply is adequate.  However your power requirements may be greater than this and if so, you will need a 'three phase' power source in order to use industrial amounts of power operate safely.  Check with your PA supplier as to the type and amount of power required.  Check with the venue as to whether three phase power is available.

Generators

If you are running an outdoor stage too far away to use mains power, you need a generator.  The generator can supply all the power you need for lights and PA.  See 3.13 Electricity and Lighting.

6.5 Stage Safety

If your event has a stage, make sure the following considerations are taken into account:

  • is the stage steady and sturdy enough for all acts
  • is the stage free of protrusions and loose floor coverings
  • are power cables safe, secure and firmly in place
  • is the stage surface protected from rain and/or sun
  • ensure that people on the stage proceed in an orderly manner
  • unless your outdoor stage is very small you should get the stage hire people to deliver and erect the stage

If you are holding an outdoor concert you should have a contingency plan if it rains.  This can mean securing permission to use an indoor venue close by, or it can mean having enough tarpaulins close by to cover the PA system, especially the speakers, or it may mean having a cancellation procedure and a rain date for the event.  If any part of the PA system or the lighting system becomes wet, the whole stage becomes a very dangerous area.
 
If the surface of the stage is painted a dark colour and is in full sunlight, keep in mind that the surface will become extremely hot. Either any performers intending to perform in bare feet should be warned of the burn risk or the stage should be covered.

On the morning of the event, listen to the weather forecast.  If you have any doubts about the weather, ring the sound engineer or PA supplier and discuss whether the event should go ahead as planned.

For more information on Health and Safety at your event, see 4.3.4 Risk Assessment.

6.7 The Stage Manager

The role of the stage manager is to ensure all activities on the stage run smoothly and efficiently.  To accomplish this the stage manager should:

  • ensure the punctuality of the performers
  • supervise the changing over of performers, instruments, props and equipment between the acts
  • ensure good communication between all those involved in presenting activities on the stage
  • keep the show on time
  • rearrange the running order if a cancellation or change results in a gap in the programme

The stage manager may need some assistance.  The number of assistants depends on the size, complexity and type of show.  For smaller events, stage management could be conducted by the compere or MC.

6.8 The Compere (MC)

The MC is an essential contact between the audience and the show.  This person should have a proven track record of good communication and public speaking skills.  The MC and the stage manager should work closely together to ensure the smooth running of the programme of events.  The MC can also make public announcements regarding lost children, found keys, programme changes etc.
 
The MC will require a running sheet and access to a microphone.

6.9 Back Stage

A back stage room or tent can be very convenient.  This allows a space for performers to change and prepare for their performances, and a place for the stage manager to identify, inform and direct the participants.  This area should not be used by the general public and access should be decided by the event coordinator and/or stage manager.  A mirror and clothes rack may be provided, as well as cool drinks and other refreshments.

6.10 The Production Meeting

A production meeting, held either on the day of the event or the day before, is extremely valuable.  The production meeting anticipates and solves problems, hopefully before they occur.  This meeting should be attended by all those directly involved in the presentation of the programme of events, eg. the event co-ordinator, sound engineers, a representative from each performing group, stage manager and MC. 

The meeting is usually held at the site, in order to imagine the way the event will happen.  At this meeting:

  • the day's activities are checklisted, from the beginning until the end of the day
  • participants try to visualise how their component of the event can best work
  • participants try to anticipate any problems and ways of dealing with them
  • health and safety issues must be discussed
  • any final, tying-up of loose ends should be done at this meeting

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