By Leah Cooper, October 2017
Winter is well and truly on its way. As the nights draw closer and saving daylight becomes the norm, I have subconsciously started to prep. New coat purchased, Christmas dinners with friends booked, and, after many musings, a mid season sun trip deemed necessary. I am laying the foundations for the months of cold and bluster, planning for the months ahead.
In life we are taught to adhere to the old adage that if ‘you fail to plan you should plan to fail.’ When it comes to the art of event planning both are truisms.
Because, as with any performance or art project, you can draft, re draft and rehearse and curate till the cows come home, but you should also never be afraid of things getting a little messy and definitely be prepared to colour outside the lines.
The one thing that we know here at 4 The People with almost absolute certainty is that inevitably things will go wrong during both the process and the execution of any project.
Now when you’re hit by a curve ball during the prep period this is to be expected and there is (hopefully) time to re-route and re-strategize. After all this is what the prep time is for, this is why we ‘rehearse’; to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, what lines need cutting, what needs to be re-blocked.
It is during the operations side of things, when we actually ‘perform’, that things falling short can lead you to having to think quick on your feet.
If we go with the premise of event as performance then we must ask ourselves who our players are. We have the ‘client’ – be it bride and groom, fashion designer or presenter – who act as our main characters cum writers – as after all they are essentially writing and performing in their own show. We have the guests as our audience. We have floral and catering as our set designers, production as stage management and then we have the planners attempting to direct it all – ensuring that we have a cohesive narrative and that we are all telling the same story.
We are here as artistic director for what is to be a very personal show that must not only reflect the dreams and ideas of the client – our artistic patrons – but also function as a fully operating event. Because an event, like a theatrical performance, is a living breathing thing. It is not static and unmoving, but very much alive and must be treated so.
As it is something to be lived and experienced the small details – like in a stage set – must function and tell the story but also be beautiful and the compliment the overall aesthetic. It is these little things – a monogram on a napkin, a parasol for the sun – that can often be overlooked but really add a finesse and completion to a project.
It is in this attention to detail that one finds the true artistry in planning. It is that balance between having a constant and coherent sense of the bigger picture whist not forgetting that the devil lives and loves those details.
Ultimately the backbone of any good performance is a well-rehearsed cast and crew. The ensemble must have trust to be able to function and deliver a seamless performance, because, as any theatre goer will know, lines get forgotten, cues get missed, understudies must step up, and that ingrained trust enables improvisation – that old quick-thinking attitude.
Being able to go off book – if the music system fails, if the canapés are delayed, if the presenter hasn’t arrived – is vital. There must not only be a Plan A, but a Plan B, C and even sometimes D is necessary. Contingencies are your best friend and if you are well rehearsed, then even if you miss a cue, the show can continue.
The one things we always know is that ultimately the show must, and will always, go on.