Analyze the Sarasota opera case and connect the Opera shows and productions to your understanding of project, program and portfolio of projects. Answer the questions at the end of the case in a word/pdf document.
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At the Sarasota Opera “All the World is a Stage” – and all the
Productions are Projects
Backstage at the Opera – Young performers practice on stage.
At the Sarasota Opera in Sarasota, Florida, they
don’t “begin with the end in mind”, they begin
with the end etched in concrete. The
production season is incredibly tight notes
Director of Production, Chris Van Alstyne.
Sarasota, located on the southwest coast of
Florida, is a mecca for older Americans who
travel there to escape the cold northeastern
winter. Affectionately known as “snowbirds”,
the seasonal transplants swell the Sarasota
County population from 346,000 to over
500,000 during the November to March season.
These seasonal transplants make up the bulk of
Sarasota Opera the patrons that will fill the
seats where 6 shows will be opened and run in
overlapping sequences that at times allow a
patron to see 3 different shows over a single 3Copyright © 2017 T. Porterfield
day weekend. This rigorous schedule results in
numerous performances over a 5-month season
which will generate 90% of the organization’s
annually ticket revenue. The 2016-17 season
includes major productions; Don Pasquale, The
Secret Life of Og, Madama Butterfly, The Italian
Girls in Algiers, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and
The Love of Three Kings.
Planning and executing theses shows is the
ultimate challenge in project and program
management. Each show is treated as an
individual project with unique production
requirements, design elements, sets, props,
musical scores, and opening dates. Together
they are the opera’s seasonal program and will
share many resources including rehearsal space,
stage, dressing rooms, design and production
staff, and even performers.
When activities of the individual performance
projects fall behind, moving the opening date is
not an option. The mythical iron triangle of
project management is alive and well, bringing
to reality the fact that scope, budget, and
schedule are always in tension. At Sarasota
Opera, the opening date (schedule) cannot be
moved out so either the production will need to
be scaled back (scope reduction) or additional
money will need to be spent in order to
complete the activities more quickly (activity
crashing or expediting).
Figueroa in Miniature – Scale models are prepared
for all major productions to ensure that the set
design elements properly fit the stage facilities of the
The footprint of the production facility with
approximately 1,680 square feet of stage space
(28’ deep and 60’ wide) and adjacent backstage
set storage space of only 2,600 sq. ft. requires
that sets be designed across shows ensuring
that their storage can be integrated to support
a schedule where shows can be alternated
daily. Van Alstyne adds that this is no small task
as additional constraints of doorway height,
rigging space above, track space on the stage
floor, and backstage space for off-stage
performers must all be integrated.
The opera follows a planning model similar to
other event-based projects – set the date of the
event and plan the project in reverse to arrive
at the start date of the activities. The launch of
the November to March season will normally
require that design activities start in the spring.
Marketing, subscription sales, ticket sales, and
patron travel plans will all be focused on the
published performance schedule.
Copyright © 2017 T. Porterfield
Lobby of the Sarasota Opera House – This 1925 theater was
restored in the early 1980s and placed on the National
Register of Historic Places, it is the current home of the
But don’t shed too many tears for Van Alstyne
and his team, he has spent his career travelling
the world managing live entertainment
production. As Van Alstyne explains, “It is so
exciting, I wouldn’t want it any other way, I am
constantly solving problems and fitting the
puzzle pieces together – and in a matter of
months I see the fruit of our work when our
patrons see amazing performances.
1. How does Sarasota Opera benefit from managing individual productions as projects?
2. What are the scope, time, and cost parameters for an individual production?
3. Identify the benefits of treating the productions of a full season as a program.
4. List the key stakeholders (individuals or groups which perceive that they are affected by a
project) of the Sarasota Opera?
5. What risks (events that may prevent a project from meeting its scope, time, and/or cost goals)
might a production encounter?
6. How does the portfolio of projects at Sarasota Opera differ from its projects and programs?
Copyright © 2017 T. Porterfield
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