Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Every day, the world becomes more and more technology dependent. A lot of good things come from that, but one bad thing (I think) that comes from that is a lack of human to human connection. Texting has replaced conversation, for example. Heck, even when we are together, our ears are plugged and our attention is fully on our device screen.

So far, theater remains one place where we still have direct connection with each other. People are watching other people play out stories about the human experience. But there are other people involved in this exchange that make it all possible.  It is for these people that I offer my gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day.

The box office staff: These people have the patience of Job. I can't imagine answering the same questions over and over. "Will Ben Platt be in the show on Wednesday evening, March 3rd, 2020?" "What do you mean I can't get tickets for tonight's show? I didn't think Hamilton was that popular still." "Where is the best place to sit?" "Are these prices for real?" They go into superhero mode when they have to make exchanges when Glenda Jackson calls out. Thank you, box office staff!

The cleaning crew: I don't know about you, but I personally have almost fallen flat on my face more than once after slipping on a Playbill left on the floor. And how about those wet, sticky sippy cups with wine left in them? Unfortunately, I guess that's to be expected. People are pigs. Add to that every show that shoots confetti, party streamers or snow into the audience and you have a mess on your hands. Enter the cleaning crew who gets every piece of trash, pesky piece of glitter and every nasty spill off the floor, aisles, steps and seats. Then imagine doing that on a two-show day. Thank you, cleaning crew!

The merch staff: This is one area I can speak about with some authority, having worked merch for two different national tours. It is largely a fun job, actually. You get to meet people with the same enthusiasm for theater. Most people are really nice. But you also get to see the uglier side of people. People pushing and shoving, complaining about prices ("Do you know how much I've already spent to bring my family to see this!!??"), not moving out of the way when they are done, and the one that has caused actual fist fights: butting in line. What ever happened to class? I was fortunate to work behind spacious booths. I really feel for those folks who stand pressed against a wall in a puny Broadway lobby, next to what amounts to a microwave cart. Thank you, merch people!

The security team: It is a sad state of affairs that security teams are even necessary. I am glad we have people willing to do the job. Even if all it does is offer a small peace of mind, I'm glad for it. I take some further solace in the knowledge that there is more security in place than we are aware of. Thank you, security team!

The ushers: Another area that I have first-hand experience with. The unsung heroes of the live theater experience. Most patrons are kind and excited to be there. But then there are the ticket holders who arrive late and blame you because you can't seat them until 15 minutes into the show (or later), or the people who complain when you tell them they can't drape their coat over the balcony and then blame you when their coat starts smoking because it's on a hot light (true story, hand to God). And contrary to popular belief, an usher can't simply remove a patron for talking, taking pictures or recording.  That is someone else's job (for the most part). There's a lot more to the job than handing out Playbills and pointing out seats. It's basically a ratio of 1 usher to every 150-200 patrons. Thank you, ushers!

I'd like to give personal thanks to a particular usher at the Golden Theatre. For the past three shows I've seen there, she's been stationed at the top of the first set of steps from the lobby to the mezzanine. She is the best. Knowledgeable, friendly and genuinely enthusiastic about the show she's working. When we went to see The Waverly Gallery, she told us to be sure to come back for the next show, "by that nice young playwright, Lucas Hnath!" The Shuberts are getting their money's worth with this gem of a lady.

Have a wonderful holiday, readers. I'm so thankful for every single one of you.


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