We have recently published the 2013 Historic Theatre survey containing great insights and best practices for those restoring or operating a historic theatre. More than 75 theaters from 32 states, responded to the survey.
If you are interested in a copy of the newest annual survey, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of your theatre and state.
It is important, obviously, to protect the asset of the theatre property at all costs. For that reason a monitored system is recommended that will notify the police as well as you in the case of an intruder or fire issue. It is important to also monitor closely the issuance of keys to employees as well as a regular re-keying of important spaces. Keep the “call list” up to date so the security company knows who to wake up at 4am when they get a false alarm. Even though I lived just 5 minutes away from the theatre, I was wide awake by the time I would get there to meet the police and would tend to charge in to protect my the theatre only to find nothing.
In regards to patron safety at events, as well as performer safety, an important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “crowd control”. You can “manage a crowd” but not control a crowd. Key elements of the management of an audience include the obvious areas of adequate lighting and backup generators, a trained staff, but also it is crucial to have the correct number of professional, trained security people on hand relative to the audience. Depending on the local rules related to security in a venue (and relative to liquor sales if applicable), a minimum of 1 trained security staff per 250 guests is a must. Some cities may require uniformed off-duty police officers, while others just want to see trained staff with no other responsibilities. At my former theatre, I hired out for security as opposed to having staff. This was due to liability issues as well as the uncertainty of a four-wall rental with limited self-presenting. With rentals, I would set the security based on the attendance and my research on the type of audience I was expecting. Of course the talent’s rider would often specify security outside the artist’s dressing room door, at the front of the stage, as well as in the loading dock area which is often non-negotiable.
The adjunct to this discussion is the use of volunteers as ushers and de facto first line of security. This is not an option. I had a rule to not put volunteers in harms way or in a position where they would be exposed to potential large problems. So, I kept volunteers away from selling tickets or concessions and did not ask them to get involved with security issues. They were expected to “observe and report” and I never had a problem.