Many organizations choose the theater as a unique venue to host a special event for clients, members and key constituents. This is an excellent way to vary the types of environments where people gather.
Whether you’re planning a fundraising benefit, corporate entertainment, group social event or another activity, an evening of theater is an excellent place to host a special event.
Who wouldn’t enjoy tickets to see shows such as Chicago, Jersey Boys, Wicked or other shows?
Many theaters are rich in history, and their theater architecture will serve as a spectacular visual backdrop for nearly any private event.
Depending on the design of the theater, popular locations for hospitality include the following:
- Lobby (including various balcony levels)
- Private dining rooms
- Dressing rooms
- Stage itself
Broadway Shows, Off-Broadway Shows, Off-Off Broadway, Regional/National Shows, International Theaters
When hosting an event during a show itself, it’s helpful for event planners to understand the difference between various types of shows.
A Broadway show refers to a production that is taking place in New York City at one of the professional theaters in the theater district. These are often the most expensive tickets.
Off-Broadway shows are also frequently thought of as plays and musicals in New York City at slightly smaller venues than Broadway theaters.
Off-Off-Broadway refers to theaters in New York City that are very small in size usually with experimental productions.
Now, for those who aren’t in New York City, plays and musicals held around the country throughout the U.S. will be referred to as Regional or National Shows. Playbill identifies 175 cities in the U.S. and Canada where theaters may be found. Regional/National Shows are frequently Broadway shows or Off-Broadway shows that are scheduled to appear throughout the country.
The other major city for English speaking productions that will rival New York City is London (West End). Many shows may have their first run there, and then the U.S.
To be sure, many cities throughout the U.S. host a variety of local productions and small neighborhood theaters.
Securing Group Tickets for Hospitality
Most theaters offer discounts and special programs for groups and parties that have a minimum of 20 guests. The key, however, is to plan many months in advance, preferably before tickets go on sale.
It is also helpful to know exactly how many tickets you need at the time of securing group seats. Some theaters will require payment for those seats within three weeks of requesting them. After that, the seats belong to the group.
For example, you could hold 50 seats for a client event, but theater agreement may require payment for the seats within three weeks. During this time the group will have an opportunity to reduce it’s count to, say, 40. After that, future ticket reductions may not be allowed.
Special Events at the Theater
Whether it’s an evening at the theater with a pre-show reception, a stylish occasion using the theater foyer, or dinner on the stage, the ideas of how to use the theater for special events are endless.That’s because most theaters are already offer lavish décor and stylish atmosphere. Just take a look at detail seen on the walls, ceilings, floors and box seats.
Many are frequently recognized as historic buildings, and some theaters in older cities may be a second or third version of an original building. This, giving the space an even more unique character and its own story.
Dining Options for Theater Special Events
For those who are interested in hosting their event at the theater itself, most theaters will already have an exclusive arrangement with preferred caterers, and the special events staff will be happy to provide a range of food and beverage options.
However, many theaters also have established relationships with nearby restaurants and hotels that are familiar with the theater’s programming schedule.
It may be helpful to inquire as to which restaurants in the neighborhood have a preferred relationship with the theater. Those facilities will understand the importance of timing the pre-show dinner or reception so that the event guests may leave on time for the show.
Tip: Ask the theater special events department about what discounts are available with partner hotels and restaurants. Event planners should use this information to their advantage when negotiating catering services.
Private Suite Service at Theaters
Perhaps one of the best ways to host a special event in conjunction with a show is to secure private space at the theater, either before or after the show.
For an additional per person fee, many theaters will offer a private reception room for 45 minutes to an hour prior to the performance or after the show itself.
There, event planners may offer guests light hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, coat check and private restroom facilities. This area will also be made available to guests during the intermission.
Requesting Actors to Attend Your Special Event
For those planners interested in giving their guests an opportunity to meet one or more of the performers in the show, this is an interesting challenge that event planners should never promise.
However, the special events staff at many theaters are willing to submit this type of special request to the touring manager with a few stipulations:
- No guarantees are made.
- Performers must not be asked to perform.
- An appropriate charitable donation for the theater’s foundation.
Private Theater Tours
Although it is not likely to happen during an evening when the show is scheduled, private theater tours are available for those who host special events using the theater as a venue during non-performance days and evenings.
Some theaters will have actors provide such tours during, highlighting historical facts, lobbies, décor, construction, backstage areas, dressing rooms, staging, etc. They may even stories of past shows and legends.
Event planners should encourage theater tours as part of their special events.