STEPS IN THEATRE PROJECT PLANNING
by Janis A. Barlow
INTRODUCTION TO THE THEATRE PROJECT PLANNING PROCESS
following steps are a brief summary of the stages of a theatre project. They
are a framework for theatre planning based on conventional business and project
management models. The plan itself is a tool, a snapshot in time which is the
basis for action, communication and replanning the project as is necessary. The
plan must be inherently flexible and responsive to ever changing conditions.
Progress is not always consecutive; more often it is cyclical and with each step
the previous phases may have to be reviewed.
Historic theatre preservation, restoration and adaptive reuse are all
subspecialties of the theatre project design. An historic theatre inevitably
requires additional research, time and expertise to produce and implement a
successful rehabilitation plan, but the following steps would apply to either a
new or historic theatre building project.
PRELIMINARY PLANNING - PROJECT POTENTIAL
and Goal Setting
what is driving the demand for a theatre? Is it a user in search of a space, a
space in search of a use, or a response to a gap in the community's cultural
very important to focus on the mission of the organization and to document the
guiding assumptions. Are its project goals cultural, heritage or economic? Is
its strategic focus arts or entertainment? Are there specific program goals and
conditions? What is the core business - Will it produce, present or rent to
fulfill its goals?
Previous building or programming studies should be reviewed and the history of
demand chronicled. All existing site documentation should be assembled.
Supplementary on-site research and testing will be required during the
development of design drawings.
these consultations may be undertaken on an informal basis, taking advantage of
professional resources available locally, through government agencies or through
the Development Advisory Program of the LHAT.
Professional and Community Consultations
Preliminary consultations with experienced professionals should provide a
cursory assessment of viability. Consultations with key community stakeholders
(patrons and opinion makers), facility users (clients), and some form of
research into the market (customers) should be undertaken by these objective,
independent experts in theatre planning, management and design.
funding sources should be identified, and a rough cash flow projected for
capital, project administration and operating expenditures. By this stage of
the project, it is important to identify any and all sources of funds for
planning or technical assistance for your project.
Site Selection or Stabilization and Security
suitability is measured by many factors: size, access, visibility, location,
utilities and neighbourhood services are some of the criteria.
there is any commitment to acquire, build or rehabilitate on site, there should
be a series of site specific engineering assessments undertaken.
adaptive reuse or rehabilitation of existing buildings are involved, then
stabilization and security must be considered.
The Project Management Plan
project seems potentially viable, this next step is a series of tasks to
methodically study, replan and document the project. With the assistance of
independent, professional expertise, all the elements of a successful enterprise
can be defined, assessed, analyzed, extrapolated, selected and implemented. The
project management planning process addresses, in very specific detail, the
basic organizational questions:
What are the goals of the project?
How are they to be accomplished?
following pages, project planning tasks, including the comprehensive feasibility
study, are described in greater detail. Once the planning process is complete,
the project enters into implementation steps which include:
Building Program, Design Development, Specifications and Tendering
Raising, Marketing, Programming and Construction
OPENING! ....Programming, Operations (and Financial Planning....)
THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN
Establish a Project Steering Committee and Identify a Project Manager
Steering Committee, which may evolve into the nucleus of a Board of Trustees or
Management of the theatre, should be comprised of the owner’s representatives or
community representatives who have a stake in the theatre and can direct the
progress of the project. This Steering Committee may also be known as a
Building or Design Advisory Committee depending upon the status of the
organization leading the project. It is also important that at any given time,
there is one individual responsible for project management, coordination and
liaison, and expectations are clear.
Undertake a Strategic Planning Workshop
the assistance of an objective, experienced facilitator, the Committee should
develop a preliminary mission statement for the theatre. This statement may
include the theatre's purpose, program goals and assumptions, and at this phase,
outline a set of project goals, conditions, and design criteria for the
direction of the project will be governed by the overall mission and goals, but
the project itself has to define its own set of conditions, objectives and
strategies to serve the mission. A theatre consultant who can facilitate
planning and the following tasks may be contracted until staff are retained, or
the workshop may be undertaken as part of the feasibility study.
Develop Terms of Reference for a Feasibility Study
order for the community to be assured of the viability of the project, and to
qualify for funding through government agencies or private foundations, a
feasibility study must be undertaken by an objective professional. A number of
issues are assessed and analyzed in order to develop a building program and
design proposal. These typically include:
Community needs and market demand
Facility ownership and management
Financial seed money and cashflow management
Project positioning - credibility and urgency
raising campaign potential, lead gift
Nature of future subsidies
Economic impact studies
phases of a comprehensive feasibility study are outlined below. The terms of
each feasibility study can be modified to suit the decision-making needs of the
project and the resources available.
PHASES OF FEASIBILITY ASSESSMENT
Phase I: Research and Preliminary Assessment
Local Activity Data
Environmental and Architectural Data
Site Options (to establish cost/benefit)
Supply Data (inventory of competitive facilities)
Demographic Analyses of Demand
Prospective User Groups
Market Study and Needs Assessment
Summary and Preliminary Program Suggestions
Phase II: Program Analysis
Use Program, Policies, Management, Event Calendar
Mission review, Design Criteria, Building Program
Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment
Estimates of Probable Cost
Phase III: Resource Analysis
Economic Impact Analysis
Phase IV: Synthesis Phase
1. Action Plan
3. Preliminary Terms for Property Purchase, Lease or License
4. Management Organizational Structures
5. Market Plan
first feasibility study may be followed by an architectural feasibility study or
master plan and a fund raising feasibility, depending upon the specific needs of
3.4 Write the Theatre's Business Plan
from the mission planning process and feasibility study, a Business Plan for the
theatre may be extrapolated, addressing the following:
mission statements are the basis for the Business Plan and ongoing programs. A
succinct Business Plan which summarizes project viability will be required by
many individuals and foundations as a prerequisite to making a donation.
Project Management Plan is a variation of a business plan which is focused on
the delivery of a project.)
Ratify Project Goals and Operating Structure
Initially, the project management plan is a guide governed by mission statements
which include project goals, conditions, design criteria and an organizational
structure devised to accomplish project goals. Project conditions should
include deadlines (if relevant) and budget constraints.
proposed management structure (for project design and construction only) is
appended. The Steering Committee is responsible for governance of the project
while the project and design teams are headed by the Project Manager. The
organization chart should be expanded to include project research, marketing,
fund raising and administrative personnel/consultants and notes on operating
policy and accountability.
3.6 Develop Comprehensive Terms of Reference and Selection Criteria
for Project Personnel and Consultants
Providing clearly defined terms of reference for all project personnel is the
best way to be assured that the Steering Committee is getting the best possible
value for the money expended. A well organized, well briefed and highly
qualified team will operate more efficiently and be more motivated to generate
options and creative solutions necessary to achieve project goals.
3.7 Draft an Integrated Action Plan for the Project
Action Plan should integrate the step by step, critical path of the construction
aspects of the project to reach its opening goal as well as concurrent
activities with respect to administration, fund raising, marketing, bookings,
special event planning and other milestones.
3.8 Produce Preliminary Cash Flow Projections
on all the information gathered and the planning ratified to date, as well as
estimates of project revenues, expenses and scheduling, provide cashflow
projections for capital and project administration costs for review by the
flow options may include conducting the project on a "cash in, cash out" basis,
or pledges may be used to guarantee loans. Once the financing approach is
approved, the project management plan may be assembled.
SUMMARY OF COMPONENTS IN THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN
Mission Statements and Program Goals
Project Goals and Design Criteria
Conditions (Deadlines, Budgets, Issues to be resolved)
Marketing Strategies (Derived from Fund Raising Report)
Operating Structure (Organizational Chart)
Project Team (Job Descriptions)
Action Plan (and Critical Path)
Financing Plan (Cashflow Projections)
Building Program and Architectural Plan (to be developed)
Planning and replanning will continue through the life of the project and the
building, but implementation begins with the commitment to design development
3.9 Contract Project Consultants
preceding tasks should be completed in order that the Steering Committee and
Project Management staff are in the best position to select their design team
and direct their work most efficiently. The Business Plan of the theatre and
the Project Management Plan are essential background information for the
the design team may be the same professionals who have assisted in the
preliminary feasibility and planning studies and tasks. Continuity is important
but it can also be in the client's interest to have separate contracts with
their consultants for each phase.
general rule, the Steering Committee will be assured of the consulting services
which best serve the needs of the project if the Committee follows the following
prepares a set of terms of reference;
prepares a draft contract;
prequalifies a selection of recommended candidates;
invites proposals which have quantifiable and qualitative bases for
interviews three qualified candidates;
judges on the basis of qualifications rather than lowest fee; and
selects a candidate conditional upon successful negotiation of the contract.
Theatre Design Team is often comprised of two or more Architects (the Design
Principal and Project Architect), Construction Management and a Restoration
Consultant or Interior Designer. The first consultant to be contracted should
be the Architectural Design Principal.
Design Principal should have specific training and experience in theatre
projects, (and restoration if applicable). Specialty consultants such as
theatre and acoustic consultants should be named as part of the Design
Principal's team. In many communities, there are not architects with highly
specialized skills in the planning and design of professional caliber theatres.
When an outside Design Principal is retained, the Principal usually seeks a
Project Architect from the community rather than appoint one from their own
local Project Architect should be selected by the Owner, Steering
Committee and/or the Design Principal and should be based in the area. Ideally,
their experience should include public assembly buildings. They should be a
full service firm with comprehensive knowledge of local codes, authorities
having jurisdiction, local trades, suppliers and resources.
Normal engineering consultants such as structural,
mechanical and electrical may be named on the Design Principal's team together
with the specialty consultants or selected together with the local Project
Committee, Design Principal and Project Architect should select the
Construction Management. Construction Management should be a contracting
firm with experience in building, scheduling, expediting and phasing complex
projects. It is helpful if the firm is local and experienced in public assembly
Interior Designer is a decorative specialist with specific experience in the
interior of theatres. This Consultant may be selected by the Design Architect
to recommend colour schemes, patterns and fabrics. In an historic theatre
project, a Restoration Consultant may be retained to research, analyze and
recommend a decorative scheme according to the rehabilitation philosophy of the
User Group Survey
next step requires that the Architects canvas key user groups for their specific
requirements of the building, which they will assemble into a building program
governed by the program and project mission statements and design criteria
developed by the Steering Committee.
Building Program, Design Development, Specifications and Tendering
Consultants will undertake site research and develop conceptual floor plans and
cost estimates for approval by the Committee before proceeding with schematic
drawings, design development, working drawings and tender documents, and further
the refinement of drawings and specifications and the imposition of actual
market conditions at the time of tendering, more accurate estimates of the total
project cost can be assembled together with a more accurate construction and
cash flow schedule. Financial reviews and re-planning are required on a regular
4.5 Fund Raising, Marketing, Programming and Construction
four management functions will continue simultaneously, albeit with shifting
emphasis at different stages, through the life of the project and the building.
OPENING! ….Programming, Operations (and Financial Planning….)
matter how much wisdom may go into planning,... the measure of its success
always will be in the spirit and mettle of the individuals engaged in its
matter how much treasure may support a project, or how elaborate its
organization, or how detailed and farsighted its operational scheme, the human
element is always the central one."
Dwight D. Eisenhower