The Performing Arts 


Music, dance, theatre and/or opera in a relationship between performers and an audience, conceived by an artist and performed in a venue.


Performing Arts Organizations


Performing arts organizations usually operate under one of three categories:

  • as professional, not-for-profit organizations 

  • as professional, commercial organizations

  • as amateur or community not-for-profit associations

More often than not, the term “performing arts organization” implies a professional, not-for-profit organization.


Performing Arts Venues


Performing arts venues are distinguished and defined by their mandate, mission, management, programming, type, stage and seating capacity.


Mandate:  Generally refers to the legal purpose or perimeters within which an organization is entrusted to perform a service.


Mission: Usually describes the purpose in more specific terms, for example, presenting the arts to an audience; renting facilities to user groups; producing performing arts; or some combination of these three in an order of priority. 


While the primary purpose of the not-for-profit performing arts is public service, these activities may also be described in business terms. 


Depending upon the size of the facility and the market which it serves, these three programming arrangements are listed in order of their possible risks and potential returns:

Renting - the management licenses or "rents" the use of its facility to a user group for a fixed fee or guaranteed minimum plus a percentage of box office receipts.  Management assumes no responsibility for the choice of the event or its promotion


Presenting - the management buys a show for a fixed fee or cost-profit sharing agreement and promotes it to its audience with the aim of recovering costs and/or achieving a net surplus in ticket sales


Producing - the management, (usually a resident producing company) creates and finances a show and promotes it with the aim of recovering costs through box office, sponsorships, subsidy and/or future licensing agreements.

Management:  Professional calibre, not-for-profit facilities are usually owned by governments, government agencies, not-for-profit facility corporations or resident theatre companies.  They may be managed by the facility owner, a facility management entity or a resident producing company.


Programming:  Music, dance, theatre and opera have subsets such as: popular versus classical music (or amplified music versus unamplified music); modern dance versus ballet; straight plays versus musical theatre; and operetta versus grand opera.  Each programming subset has different physical, acoustical, visual and technical requirements of a performing arts venue.


Theatre Types:  Concert hall, dance theatre, playhouse, musical theatre and opera house are all terms that imply a set of facility characteristics suited to a particular performing art.  Multi-purpose facilities combine characteristics of two or more venues.  Cinemas have a different set of characteristics from performing arts theatres.


Stage Types Proscenium, thrust and arena stages refer to types of stages and seating arrangements applicable to venues primarily designed for dance, theatre and opera.  A true concert hall has an end stage configuration with no division between the house and the audience.


Seating Capacity:  Performing arts venues are financed by earned income from ticket sales or user group rental fees and such things as concessions and merchandising, as well as contributed income from donations and subsidies.  In a theatre development process the choice of seating capacity and type of facility should be made on the basis of user group demand, potential audience size (or market share), the types of performances contemplated and a cost/benefit analysis.  In general practice, seating capacities ranging from 100 - 599 seats are usually incubator spaces (for renting and producing), while venues with 600 to 2,000 seats are often used as presenting spaces.


Performing Arts Centres


A performing arts centre is comprised of one or more performing arts venues and supporting facilities such as rehearsal space that reflects:

1.  The needs of local user groups and/or

2.  The needs of local audience and

3.  An appreciation for the role of the arts in human society.

A performing arts center usually has:

1.  Two or more venues under one roof (a critical mass of facilities)

2.  Supporting Facilities (Rehearsal, Production, Retail, etc.)

3.  Complementary Facilities (Gallery, Studios, Cafe, etc.)

Performing arts centres create a "critical mass" of performing venues with the combination of two or more venues plus supporting facilities under one roof.  While the capital cost is higher than it is when building one venue, the benefits are numerous:

1.  Allows for a broad range of programming

2.  Provides user groups (clients) and audiences (customers) with choice

3.  Satisfies community and audience demands

4.  Allows a combination of incubator and presenting venues

5.  Creates synergy between local and visiting artists

6.  Improves revenue generating capacity

7.  Provides economy of scale (multiple venues, one set of resources)

8.  Mitigates operating risks

9.  Offers exponential increases in economic impact