Trip to the theater

TheaterHangaar Katwijk

“Beware of the blood splatter.”

You don't expect to hear that sentence when you walk into the TheaterHangaar in Katwijk to spend a day with director Harry de Bruin. But this is still one of the many surprising moments of the day for Carolien, who likes to look behind the scenes of the operation. What does a theater director's day look like? Are there similarities with museums or attractions and what is unique to the theater world? What is on this director's plate? An impressive day with blood spatter, fire alarm systems and drinks packages.

From 120 to 3.6 million
There are only four cars left in the parking lot when Carolien arrives at the TheaterHangaar. In a few hours it will be quite full here, because today hundreds of visitors will again come to Soldaat van Oranje. However, Carolien will not be in the audience, but will mainly look behind the scenes, because she will spend a day with director Harry de Bruin. After a career in the hotel sector, Harry entered a new world 14 years ago as director of the TheaterHangaar, with a staff of 120.
      This location in Katwijk is of course best known for Soldaat van Oranje – De Musical, which has already attracted 3.6 million visitors. But in addition to the theater, there is also a large hall of 2,500 m2 (Hangaar2), which is a beautiful location for fairs, conferences, parties and concerts. Harry is responsible for all matters related to the operation of both the theater and Hangaar2. That is a bit different from running a hotel. Or not?

Hangaar congressen Katwijk
Meetings in the TheaterHangaar

Convenient hotel experience
When Harry explains how the organization works, Carolien notices that there are many similarities with the hotel sector. The management team includes duty managers, an F&B manager, facilities manager and MICE manager. So Harry's hotel experience comes in handy here. The hospitality and care for a great afternoon/evening is also comparable. However, while guests in a hotel often arrive or leave spread throughout the day, up to 1,103 visitors arrive in a short time, who also want to eat and drink something during the half-hour break. Managing such visitor numbers is a challenge.

The theater is running smooth
It is impressive to see how well organized the managent of so many visitors in a short time is. After the briefing of the first team, the employees know exactly what they have to do and when. Sometimes literally to the minute, Carolien sees when she walks with the duty manager to get everything ready for the break: “after this scene we open the right doors, then the curtains on the other side and when the character Ada walks past, we have to quickly go to the stairs. Be careful of the blood spatter, because the floor manager still has to wipe it up.” Not only on stage, but also behind the scenes, a kind of choreography takes place by all employees who work together wonderfully, so that the audience does not notice anything. So this theater that has a rotating stand, is running smoothly in every way.

Laatkomers theater
Special place for visitors that are late

Optimize experience
When Harry and Carolien are having coffee and the theater foyer is slowly filling up, Harry explains how he keeps the visitors' experiences at a high level. Just like various hotels or attractions, the TheaterHangaar sends visitors a survey immediately after the performance to ask about their experiences. The data is analyzed weekly and both compliments and points for improvement are passed on to the various departments. In this way they continuously work to improve the guest experience: “People really come here for an afternoon or evening and it's not cheap, so they must have a really nice time,” says Harry.

From spokesperson to serving wine
During the day it becomes clear how diverse Harry's duties are. Early in the afternoon he speaks to a journalist from a local radio station who has come to record an item. Less than an hour later he has a job interview for one of the permanent positions. At the end of the afternoon he will continue with the contracts concerning the fire alarm system. And if one of the duty managers needs extra hands, Harry is just as happy to help serve a glass of wine or help people in wheelchairs to the hall. This way he really stands among his employees.

Collaboration also outside the theater
But the good cooperation also extends beyond the theater walls. Since the start 14 years ago, Harry has built up many collaborations. He started with local connections: cooperation with the emergency services, such as the fire brigade and ambulance, is crucial, because it is a special location and business operations. He also works a lot with local companies: there are packages with accommodations such as hotels and B&Bs and Harry is on the board of the local catering association and marketing association.
      There is also cooperation at a national level, for example with all theaters and theaters. Information is exchanged and they use mystery guests together. “Further professionalization is still possible here,” says Harry, “the theaters are still lagging behind, especially in the field of data collection and analysis at a regional or national level.”

Continuous temporary operation
Although the production and organization are rock solid, it is difficult for Harry to plan far ahead. First of all, the question every year is how long Soldaat van Oranje will continue to run and what alternative there could be if this performance ends. Moreover, the theater was built as a temporary facility, because the municipality ultimately wants to transform the area into a residential area. So drawing up a multi-year plan is actually not possible. This obviously brings challenges that do not arise in a regular theater, museum or amusement park. This makes it difficult for the team, because there is actually only an annual plan that you can build on. But contracts with suppliers and service providers, for example, are also difficult. And when we pause at the outdoor scene, Harry says: “It is difficult to decide which equipment to rent or buy, such as the car in which Wilhelmina will soon drive away.”

Still, the theater continues to develop. Harry wants to experiment with a wallet-free break, where the drink is included in the ticket for the performance and drinks packages that are booked in advance. Business events can now even dine in a number of sets of the performance. Something that was not at all anticipated when the theater was built. A small exhibition has also been created in the foyer, so that visitors can read more information and get thinking. These are all steps that improve the experience for the guest and therefore also the operation. But as is often the case in the world of art and culture, this can sometimes cause tension with the team responsible for production. But here too they can reach an agreement through intensive consultation.

Afbeelding met tekst, poster, schermopname, expositie

Automatisch gegenereerde beschrijving
Tentoonstelling in de foyer

Exciting times
When most visitors have left the theater and the foyer almost looks as if nothing has happened, Carolien's day is also coming to an end. Finally, Harry talks about the exciting times ahead. This week it was announced that Soldaat van Oranje will stop in its current form. We are working hard on how the performance will return in a new form. This way, the work for Harry and his team remains dynamic and challenging. With the team that Harry has built, which works so well together and is so dedicated, everything will be fine.