Controversy-Free Met Opera News

Maybe it’s the art form of opera that attracts controversy? The Metropolitan Opera grabbed the media spotlight in recent months, first with rancorous labor-management negotiations and recently with uproar about upcoming performances of “The Death of Klinghoffer” – decried by some Jewish groups for endorsing terrorism. We’re glad the union agreements were reached, so opera lovers in New York City – and around the world via the Met’s “Live in HD” outreach – can enjoy the shows. This week we’ll explore several interesting, controversy-free Met stories: What’s a Field Worth? …

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Two Rigging Standards Available for Public Review

Are you familiar with the current standards for the installation and safe operation of fire safety curtains? For that matter, are you aware that there are documented standards for fire curtains—and for many other kinds of stage equipment? PLASA, the international trade association for entertainment technology professionals, brings together the top minds in the industry to develop standards for theatre equipment and procedures. Its Technical Standards Program—accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—promotes safe working conditions at every level of production. You can find standards here for the use …

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Q&A Spotlight: “Big Data” Helping the Arts


Interview with Roland J. Kushner, Ph.D., Economist, Arts Researcher and Musician YPP: Why was the Local Arts Index developed? Kushner: Americans for the Arts had vast experience with overall measurements in creating our National Arts Index: we’ve tracked more than 80 national-level indicators going back to 1998. The Local Index maps data onto specific communities as much as possible, down to the county level. Americans for the Arts Vice President Randy Cohen and I developed this along with Martin Cohen from the Cultural Planning Group. YPP: Where does local data …

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Audience Etiquette: Leavers & Latecomers

theater etiquette

Controversial aspects of audience behavior – expressing dissatisfaction by walking out early and disrupting performances by arriving late – were recently highlighted in two lengthy articles in The New York Times. Voting with Feet. “Walk-outs” vote with their feet and skip the rest of the movie, concert, ballet, etc., for a variety of reasons. A question about their motivation posted on the paper’s Facebook page received nearly 500 responses, evoking common themes. For movies, excessive violence was a frequent complaint. For live performances, the quality of the presentation factored heavily. …

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Pay Comparisons: Music Careers & Pro Athletes

The topic of “pay transparency” is making business headlines recently, with more companies deciding to openly share what each employee is paid rather than banning such discussions. Our bare-and-share-it-all social media culture is credited with encouraging openness, facilitated by wage-comparison websites like and The income of star athletes is already publicized and ranked, along with their performance statistics compiled for fantasy leagues. But what about careers in the performing arts? This Labor Day week we’ll riff on salary comparisons between a variety of sports figures and a few …

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Rigging Problems, Part II: How to tell there’s a problem

Equipment wears down with regular use. Do you know how to tell if there’s a problem with your rigging? Sudden increase in difficulty moving a set. Consistency is a hallmark of quality. Any equipment that is inconsistent has something wrong with it. Noise while moving a set. Scraping, squeaking, squealing, or a prolonged squawk are all signs of trouble. There should be no noise in the system other than the occasional, slight sound of an arbor’s guide on the guide system. Vibrations or change in the feel of the set. …

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Inspiring Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Yesterday (August 18th) marked the 10th anniversary of the death of composer Elmer Bernstein, whose prolific talent enhanced more than 200 movies and television shows over a career spanning a half century — from 1951 to 2002. His extensive film credits include many genres, from westerns (Magnificent Seven) to dramas (To Kill a Mockingbird) to comedies (Animal House). Bernstein’s scores continue to be performed around the world, including a recent tribute at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Generous Spirit. In celebration of Bernstein’s life, we’d like to spotlight his generous friendship …

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Performing Arts on the Fringes

Devil hat - Mpls fringe3

This week we’re inspired to explore the “fringe” movement and its growing influence in the performing arts. The 21st annual Minnesota Fringe Festival (MFF) concluded last Sunday, after presenting 169 different productions at 19 stages across Minneapolis over 11 days – nearly 900 total performances. Strong attendance figures for the opening weekend showed a similar trajectory to 2013, when the entire festival sold 50,000+ tickets. Open Expression. The U.S. Association of Fringe Festivals (USAFF) describes the movement’s eclectic nature: In the U.S., no one organization or individual owns, controls or …

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Rigging Problems, Part I: Where Should You Look for Signs of Wear?

Equipment will wear down through regular use. If you increase the load, you increase the rate of wear. Do you know the common trouble spots in your venue? Sheaves. Overloading, uneven loading, and fleet angles are the most common culprits. Look for uneven wear in the groove, imprinting on the cable pattern in the groove, or cracks in the casting. Bearings. Sheaves should run smooth, straight, and silent at all times. Anything else is a problem. Particularly bad is a seized bearing, when an unloaded sheave won’t turn by hand. …

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Performing Arts on Main Street

Bear Paw Festival 2011

The title “Performing Arts” often connotes high-brow images of luxury: tuxedo-clad conductor, formally dressed musicians, wealthy patrons, multi-million dollar concert hall, etc. That aura of exclusivity ignores the myriad of activities that comfortably fit under the metaphorical “big tent” of performing arts (lower case) – both indoors and out. This week we’ll offer a more main-street perspective, inspired by the VenueConnect annual conference wrapping up today in Portland. Conference Highlights. The Intl. Assoc. of Venue Mgrs. sponsors this annual event; IAVM represents “public assembly venues around the globe” including auditoriums, …

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