Episode #3 – Change your foyer from a ‘Place to wait” to a “Place to create”

In 2016, and given the tremendous success of their cultural engagement strategy (read episode #1 and episode #2), The New Victory decided to renovate their foyer and spent $9 million on a new makeover. Their objective was clear: instead of being a space to eat and wait, they wanted their new lobby to be a space to create and meet.

“Our lobbies aren’t just a place to wait for the show to start, they’re an important part of the family’s trip to The New Victory.” says Renata Melillo-Townsend, Assistant Director of Education and Public Engagement.

But before The New Victory took on a mission to renovate their foyer, they walked through their venue and pinned down everything that would be confusing if they were first time theatre goers walking through the door:

  • Is the entry clearly marked?
  • What does box office mean?
  • Can I easily find the amenities?
  • Are there hang-out spaces?
  • Things to look at?
  • Things to do while I am waiting for the show? Etc.

After doing this little exercise, and with some great inspiration from the UK Family Arts Standards Guidelines, they were able to go into their renovation with a clear and concise strategy to make the most of their lobby.

Here are a few simple pieces of advice from The New Victory’s Director of Education and Public Engagement, Lindsey Buller Maliekel when planning your makeover:

  • Make sure the space is as welcoming and as easy to navigate as possible;
  • Enable people to look at each other;
  • Try to eliminate, block out or remove dead corners;
  • Include a few retreat spots for people who just want to relax, and don’t specifically want to take part into your engagement activity.
  • Help increase the time that patrons spend in your venue;
  • Allow for other things to be presented within the space simultaneously (e.g. PowerPoint presentation, workshops, live show feed, etc.)

If, like The New Victory, your intention is to attract more family audiences to your venue, but you don’t have $9 million to spend on a full foyer renovation, here are a few simple things that can be easily implemented, and which will greatly improve your patrons’ experience, including:

  • Installing free lockers (because families have stuff!)
  • Allocating dedicated space for stroller parking;
  • Having booster seats available for smaller kids;
  • Making sure you have accessible toilet and baby changing facilities that both men and women can access;
  • Offering free drinking water;
  • Stocking healthy food and drink options in your kiosk (and since kids nowadays seem to be more food intolerant, why not have a few gluten-free and lactose-free options available too?);
  • Installing comfortable seating for feeding babies, including breastfeeding;
  • Displaying clear signage and making sure your staff is easily identifiable;

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.