Special Events

Entertaining Acts

What you need to know to match your event with the right act ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS FOR SPECIAL events are as diverse as the audiences who want to be entertained.

Rachel Mark, vice president of sales and marketing at The New York Fun Factory in Hicksville, N.Y., says event planners must get to know their clients in order to suggest the best entertainment. "Knowing who the company is can give you a good idea of what they are about," she says. For a bat mitzvah, "find out if the girl is a sophisti-cated 12-year-old or a youthful 12-year-old before you suggest a carnival theme," Mark says. "Clients may look elsewhere if they feel you don't understand their needs."

Richard Blau, executive vice president of New York-based Chez-zam Entertainment, says he and his staff ask basic qualifying questions to determine audience demographics. "Is it a morning general session or an evening program? What is the nature of the event, a sales meeting or a fund-raiser?"

Identifying the audience can change the direction of entertainment. "A client will start off saying, `We want a '70s band,'" Blau says, "but by the time they are finished answering the basic qualifying questions, they figure out the audience is made up of 90 percent of men who aren't going to get up and dance!"

BUDGETING FOR THE BEST "Planners are somewhat reticent to expose their hand as to what their budget is," Blau says, "but we almost can't get started if we don't have at least some range."

He says three categories make up the true cost to deliver great entertainment. "The first category is the artist's fee. If the fee is $20,000, there is a general rule that the total cost to the client will be easily double the artist's fee."

Some of the extra cost comes from the second category - incidentals. "If the talent is based in Las Vegas and the client's show is in Hawaii, the purchaser's responsibility includes travel and hotel accommodations," Blau says. "If it's a headline performer, you might have some first-class plane tickets to buy."

Ground transportation and shipping charges for things such as costumes also add to the cost of incidentals.

The third category is production costs, which can include lighting, sound and staging. Most hotels have stages, but if the event is being held in a venue such as a museum or aquarium, the client might have to pay for staging.

CIRQUE WORKS Cirque-style performances are popular with audiences of all types. Sam Trego, president of San Diego-based DreamCast Entertainment, sends his Balagan troupe of acrobats, contortionists and gymnasts around the world. However, such dynamic acts call for special considerations, including the venue.

Crowd-pleasing aerial acts require at least a 25-foot ceiling, while small contortionist acts can work with a 4-foot-by-4-foot stage.

Clients also should consider scheduling when trying to book the Balagan troupe, for-merly known as Cirque Nouveau. "With touring schedules, the cast is on the road 60 percent of the time," Trego says. "We can produce a full-scale show with 30 days' notice, but we try to book cities that are close to each other."

The show can be customized to meet budgets. "Obviously the budget not only affects cast size, but it also affects the quality of the individual performers," Trego says. "There are some artists who get $10,000 for a six-minute act."

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