Part 3 of an extended Throwback Thursday – Theatrical Network before the internet!

My final installment of a celebration of the anniversary of the opening of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The beautiful theater (see my Wednesday post for a photo) could be configured for our exceptional Naples Philharmonic, but also for touring performances of other musicians and Broadway touring productions. From my early days of leading touring productions across the country I knew that many similar performing arts staff would tip off other venues if there were good or bad issues with the production. When I managed a backstage venue I did the same thing. But it was ad hoc network based on a need to get information for your venue and familiarity with your peers.

When I was part of the team to open the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, I decided to formalize it. While productions send out ‘riders’ and requirements for the local venue to best present their show, it can be hit or miss. Sometimes the productions do an incomplete job of sending out information or the show may morph and develop on the road and by the time they reach your stage, specifications have changed. My venues referred to these requests as OBTW’s (Oh, By The Way)s. What if we could fix that?

Florida is a uniquely shaped state and being at the southern tip offered an advantage. If a show was booked through the state they usually filled in date gaps along the peninsula before and after playing our theater. If I knew the tour routing I could notify stages before and after us if there were problems. Forewarned is forearmed so we could fix OBTWs before they became problems. We opened in 1989, before the internet or email was available to the general public. So I did it the old fashioned way with technology available at the time.

I asked theaters on our ‘network’ to send me their public, or better yet, private calendar so I could pinpoint where any particular show was at any particular time. I assembled the data in a master schedule and sorted it by show and printed it out. Then I could mail and/or fax (remember facsimile machines?) the results. If a theater needed information about a show (what are their food requirements, not clear) or to warn other theaters along the tour (watch out, the electrician on tour is difficult to deal with) there was a network contact sheet with the schedule.

I am a bit of a packrat and so recently found an old schedule in a box of files. Here is the cover page I created.

Here is a cover from November and December 1992 and the theaters interested in being involved in the network. I was an early computer adopter and enthusiast and I had a rather crude scanning device (state of the art at the time) that had to be dragged over a page at just the right rate to record an image. You can see we had 19 venues participating. Inside were several pages and this is just one example…

So you can see that at the end of 1992 Bob Hope had three dates in Florida. Not at The Phil, but of course I included it to help Melbourne, Clearwater and Ft. Lauderdale where he was performing. There was also a tour of the musical Fiddler on the Roof that played four stages before The Phil and three after. We could get advanced information before they landed at our loading dock and could pre-warn those venues following us. By fax or phone of course.

If being done today it would be even easier with faster and more sophisticated technology. It served us well in its time. This wraps up my salute to The Phil. It was and still is a fabulous place (though now re-branded as Artis-Naples). A rose by any other name is just as sweet.

As always you can find more at and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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