So just what exactly is a project? Here are two excellent, and complimentary, definitions for us to review. The first is from the Project Management Institute's widely disseminated A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, which we will refer to throughout this course as the PMBOK (pronounced PEM-BOK):
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.
And the second, from writer and Project Manager James P. Lewis, whose excellent book The Project Manager's Desk Reference we will also rely on heavily throughout this course:
A project is a one-time, multitask job that has clearly defined starting and ending dates, a specific scope of work to be performed, a budget, and a specified level of performance to be achieved.
As we can begin to sense, three key pop of these definitions:
A project is temporary.
A project is unique.
A project is the result of a multi-task job that performs something specific (i.e. a goal). It is thus progressively elaborated.
From the above descriptions perhaps you can see where I am headed - A show is a one time (perhaps excluding the Blue Man Group and other never ending commercial endeavors) job that coordinates a wide variety of tasks. It is a project for the TD, but also in directing, lighting, sound and all other elements.
It is temporary (again with the obvious exceptions). The show eventually opens, and eventually closes.
And it is certainly unique.
I think it is sometimes easier to view it as a project if you consider it from the point of view of a freelancer - a designer / actor / director who approaches each show as its own distinct operation. I think TD's and others who work for the full season or year can get lulled into a different perspective. I would still maintain that it was just a series of projects - much like a good designer will work on many productions concurrently.
My life as a project manager is much like a TD's in terms of multiple projects. Some projects are in the estimating phase, some are being drafted, some being built, some could be on site either installing or striking. Except that I am not coordinating one venue or several theatres - I may be coordinating venues like a convention center, theatre, hotel, TV studio, or a host of other locations. My projects usually have different clients, and no interrelationship except how they flow across my desk and through the shop.
A TD who is well acquainted with their theatre can predict periods in the calendar that will be smooth or sections that are tight based on the overall schedule and past experience. Adding entirely new productions to the season doesn't happen too often. They know that a show won't be canceled (well we hope considering today's economy). In this situation each project becomes linked as a whole. This is helpful for season planning (a project as well - a theatrical production and season can be discussed as a project on many levels), but can distort the idea that each piece is a separate project.
In a commercial shop you may bid something that you aren't awarded, and new packages show up. It can be hard to plan on what will hit the shop in a month, let alone a year from now. On the other hand some larger projects can take that long to go thought the process, and those can be planning at a different level.
However, I am digressing - because my point of setting up the show as a project is to be able to dissect the project into phases and methods of managing the process without comparing on TD job description to another.
The link above has alot of good project management explanations - so after you have woke up from my ramblings you should head over and take a look.