By Alyssa Appleton
Hi everybody! You may have seen the other guest posts I’ve had the privilege of writing for the blog here in my time temping as an assistant in the marketing department of the Hollywood Pantages…but what you may not know is that I started out here as an usher a little over two years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing over a dozen shows come and go, and when I was asked to come up with some ideas for the blog, I jumped at the chance to give a little insight into being on the front of house team.
I’ve only been away from ushering for a few months, but it already feels as though I’ve missed so much, since every night is new and different. Despite this, though, in my time here I’ve seen shows stay for as many as five or six months. I know what you’re thinking…does watching a show six or seven times a week ever get tiring, or does it always stay as cool as it was the first time you saw it?
While the spectacle of some of the shows may not be as “wowing” as the first time, we do get a chance to see the different moments actors have every night, and usually we get a chance to see everyone’s understudy.
I know what you’re thinking. And no, we are not given free tickets to the shows. Sometimes productions are able to give us comps, and sometimes they’re not. And when they can’t, it’s not because they’re mean bad people, sitting on top of mounds of tickets, laughing at us. It’s often because they just can’t, due to how well their shows have sold. And, after all, that’s part of their goal, isn’t it?
Before the actors have their calls, we have ours. As ushers, we arrive half an hour before the front doors open, which is an hour and a half before show time. We change into our uniforms in our locker rooms downstairs, then walk up into the main lobby for our meeting before opening. We’re assigned our positions…which could be taking tickets at the front doors, or handing out playbills as you enter, or taking care of patrons at any number of the doors to the house, or guarding the stage down by the front, watching for pictures…or pouring drinks in the Presidents’ Club lounge — you may have seen the entrance, it’s that roped off area in the lobby near the ATM and the lower bar. Our jobs change day to day and night to night.
On weekends, most of us do what we’ve dubbed the “double-double”, which means working all four shows over the weekend, with a nice break for lunch/dinner in between. So if you ever come to a Sunday evening show and see us yawning as you leave (I’ve been known to do this), it’s because of that good old double-double. It’s not because you’re boring.
And hey, ask us questions! Ask us about the show, about the theatre, about anything! Most of us like to talk about theatre, and most of us are actors, writers, directors, stage managers, and people that work in the industry ourselves.
Oh, and don’t be afraid if you walk by us and we all stand up for you. We’re not trying to gang up on you, we’re trying to be polite. Sometimes people balk at it. And I get it, eight people standing up all at once, potentially coming toward you, is pretty terrifying. But we’re trying to help.
There’s something I haven’t touched on yet that I’m sure a good deal of you are thinking about. “Alyssa, the theatre is haunted, or so I’ve heard…”
If you’re someone who believes in ghosts, or spiritual energies, or that places naturally gather histories that sometimes escape into the present…I’m happy to tell you that yes, we do have some latent energy hanging around the theatre, and most of us have experienced one thing or another in our time here. And hey, that’s another question to ask an usher if you’ve arrived early and you’re waiting to go into the seating area. Ask if they’ve ever experienced a ghost, or a moment where they thought they weren’t alone, or heard a set of footsteps or a voice, because it’s likely that they have. After all, the theatre’s been standing here for 85 years.