This blog is the first in a series in which Pigeon Creek Executive Director answers questions that audience members and regional actors frequently ask about the company.
1. What is the difference between a venue and a producing organization?
We get this question a lot because Pigeon Creek is a touring company. We produce and perform plays, but we don’t own or operate a performance venue ourselves. The confusion comes because “theatre” can refer both to the physical space, but also to the company that produces performances. In our area, there are some theatres that are just venues, physical spaces where performances occur. Examples of this are the Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids, and the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon. Neither of these venues produces shows itself. Instead, they are businesses that rent their spaces to producing organizations. Some venues also book and pay performing groups to come in. A venue usually maintains the physical space and operates box office and front of house for any performances that take place there. So the Dog Story Theater, where we frequently perform, is a venue, and it hosts many different producing organizations.
A producing organization is the group that creates performances. In our case, that means we hire actors, directors, stage managers, and other production personnel, and oversee the rehearsal and performance of our plays. Because we are entirely a touring company, we appear at many different venues, which means coordinating with their staff, promoting our shows, providing personnel to load-in and load-out — basically all of the tiny details that make our shows happen.
Some producing organizations either own or lease permanent venues. The Grand Rapids Civic Theater is a good example of this in our region. The theatre company produces the plays that you see there, and their staff also operates the physical theatre space. All of their productions perform at the same venue.
There are several reasons that Pigeon Creek operates as a touring company, rather than operating our own venue. First, the expense and person-hours required to own and operate a venue would take resources away from our priority of paying actors and other artistic personnel. Second, we want our programming to be able to serve multiple communities in our region and state. It’s extremely exciting to go into communities which may never have hosted a Shakespeare play and introduce new audiences to our love for these plays. Last, touring connects us to the theatre companies of Shakespeare’s time period. Yes, Shakespeare’s company did operate not just one, but eventually two venues, the Globe and the Blackfriars; but they also did a considerable amount of touring, adapting their productions to inn-yards, guildhalls, and the large halls of noble families’ houses. The spontaneity that arises from actors having to adapt quickly to new spaces keeps our productions fresh for both actors and audience.