With our Spring Season just about to kick off, we decided to pick the brain of Berkshire Theatre Group's Programmer, Simon Shaw, to find out what exactly goes into programming a presented season.
How did you get into programming? What is your history with the Performing Arts?
“Let me start from the beginning, I initially got into the performing arts because of my love of rock ‘n roll. I toured Europe for eight months with various pop bands. Once I realized I really didn’t want to stay on the road, I found a position with a promoter in London. He presented acts as diverse as the Bolshoi Ballet and Rod Stewart and also worked on developing talent. I spent six years working with him in London. During that time I met my wife, an American, and I moved to the States. I started working with a Broadway Booking Agency out of New York City that managed touring shows. I worked there from 1999 to 2005. Then we decided we wanted to leave New York City and head to the Berkshires. Through friends, I was introduced to the previous executive director of The Colonial Theatre and was invited to program the inaugural season in 2006. After the inaugural season we went our separate ways and I formed my own company, Shaw Entertainment. Currently Shaw Entertainment represents a handful of touring artists and I also program the Queens Theatre in New York City and of course, Berkshire Theatre Group’s The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.”
What do you take into consideration when choosing acts? Can you walk us through the steps of looking for a show to book?
“When I’m selling my acts to theatres, I ask the theatre what is working for them. How are the audiences responding? Which artists are working best in their space? How do we make the different audiences happy? I go to conventions, I meet agents and presenters, I learn about new acts. I also take into consideration dates; who is touring where and when? What other events are happening in the space that I have to schedule around? Then once I’ve found an act to book, it’s a delicate equation: How much does the artist cost? What are the production costs? How many tickets do I think will sell and at what price? Are all those numbers in equilibrium? Finally, I try to work out a deal and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
What does it feel like to watch a show that you booked perform live at The Colonial?
“I love it! Standing at the back of the house and watching the audience react to something I’ve booked is the best feeling. It’s magical to be a part of.”
Will you share with us any up and coming performers that you are excited about?
“I am personally really looking forward to Power Balladz, The Popovich Comedy Pet Theater and Audra McDonald.”