I’ve been part of the Front of House team for a private company that operates four big theatres (my city’s equivalent of Broadway) and I’ve been there for five years. I love this job because I’m an aspiring actor and theatre-maker myself and it’s the perfect job to work around in the meantime.

I’m currently out of work indefinitely as all the theatres I work at have shut down thanks to coronavirus (yaaay). I’m also self-isolating and bored so here I am!

Proof My staff pass

Me in uniform

Me now (please ignore my super messy hair lol I’m in quarantine and I have priorities)

I hope some of you actually find this interesting!

EDIT: Okay this is kinda taking off a bit! It's 1am where I am right now so I'm going to go to sleep but I will get to all of you tomorrow! :D Thanks for the interest, this is fun!

Comments: 599 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

Coachtzu693 karma

When I worked on a lighting crew years ago, we used to play standup comedy shows at low volume over the headsets (we could still hear the cues) during long running shows. This was at a small rural playhouse, but how do yall make the time pass when it's the 14th week (or more!) of the same show?

LiliumJay912 karma

Ohh boyyy you've touched on the toughest part of the job.

I've worked on many shows that run for at least a year (Book of Mormon, Matilda, Lion King, Harry Potter...) and watching the same show over and over gets super tiresome and boring.

What I do is, if I'm positioned inside the auditorium (it's a slightly different story if you're positioned out in the foyer), I either zone out completely or just watch the show over and over and try to notice new details. That can be fun for shows with big ensemble casts. We do have to keep an eye on patrons but for the most part they don't do a lot.

Coachtzu328 karma

I can only imagine! Longest show I ever did was 8 weeks of Jesus Christ Superstar, Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, Sunday matinee and by the tenth rendition of the garden of gestheteme (not even counting rehearsals) I was very happy for any sort of distraction. A year would be awful, even with a better show.

LiliumJay299 karma

I know exactly how you feel.

No matter how good the show is, nothing was meant to be watched over 200 times!

cydonia9068 karma

Does seeing a show 200 times result in you being able to see mistakes the audience wouldn't catch? Like when an actor messes up a line.

LiliumJay6 karma

OP- Yep, absolutely. We eventually notice if they change a slight word.

cosmosflow3rs343 karma

When I attend shows, I always feel very self-conscious about the outfit I'm wearing. Something about going to the theater feels very special and kind of occasion-y.

Can you describe some of the weirder or downright inappropriate outfit choices you've seen people wear to your theater?

LiliumJay422 karma

I used to be a total snob about this but I've chilled out a bit now - I go to the theatre all the time outside of work (massive theatre geek here) so it does feel more casual to me now.

However I do like it when people dress up and treat it like a special occasion!

And even though I have chilled out a bit, I still cringe at the dad-of-two wearing a singlet undershirt, board shorts, and thongs (flip-flops to non-Australians) in this old, beautiful, historic building.

But there's no need to feel self-conscious about what you wear - most people keep it pretty casual (jeans and T-shirt vibe) and no one bats an eye.

babyeatingdingoes51 karma

As a teen I saw Phantom with a youth group. Turned out a member of Kiss was playing the phantom or something. Most of the audience was dressed like we were (a bunch of kids in their Sunday best) but more than a few were in Kiss concert ts. One guy I saw was a achondroplastic dwarf in foot high platform boots, leather jacket, and full kiss face makeup. It's been like 20 years and I have forgotten everything about Phantom of the Opera except for that dude.

LiliumJay3 karma

This is incredible.

tylermw8258 karma

What happens when you see someone recording the performance with his or her phone? A woman ahead of us started doing that during a showing of Come From Away, and two laser pointers immediately honed in on her head like snipers (I guess to mark her?).

LiliumJay327 karma

Ooh laser pointers would be much better!
We have torches/flashlights that we basically flash in their face to get their attention, then we just make a gesture to get them to stop. If it's in the middle of the row and they don't look up, I literally have to shine the light in the face of the person next to them to tell them to stop.
If they're on the aisle, I usually just tap them on the shoulder and say 'no recording'.
95% of the time they stop.

SometimesFar100 karma

What happens the other 5% of the time?

Nostromos_Cat395 karma

Where do you think they get the skulls for Hamlet?

LiliumJay40 karma

Apparently Tchaikovsky donated his skull in his will to the Royal Shakespeare Company so it could be used as Yorick's skull?

And the production of Hamlet I saw at The Globe was distrubingly realistic so I'd rather not think about it.

LiliumJay22 karma

A few times people keep trying and we keep telling them to stop.

It's just as infuriating as it sounds.

mydarlingcasey163 karma

What has been your favorite show to experience (especially since you’re obligated to watch them multiple times)?

LiliumJay405 karma

I'd say Come From Away.

Literally everybody who came to see it loved it, all of the ushers loved it, and it's such a beautiful story flawlessly performed. It was a treasure.

Plus it was short so we got to go home early lol.

The two weeks of it's season actually just got cancelled because of COVID and we were devastated!

Faalkons159 karma

Everyone has an off day, even actors. What was the worst mistake you have seen during a performance? Or maybe a case of someone mailing it in for the day?

LiliumJay412 karma

I've seen actors forget lines here and there, usually swing who have to remember multiple roles so that's very forgiveable, and it's usually covered up in a way that no-one who doesn't know the show as intimately as we do would notice.

And I have seen many performers go into auto-pilot mode and give the exact same performance and intonation every night and, as an actor who is struggling to even get professional auditions, I find that very frustating.

BUT! My favourite mistake has more to do with the backstage operations. It was during Cats, and at the end (spoilers, sort of?) when Grizabella is meant to be ascending to heaven (or something, the plot is unclear), the elevator contraption stopped halfway up and she was stuck there. The show kept going until they cut off the performer's mics and made an announcement to stop the show due to technical difficulties, they slowly and agonisingly got her down (while the audience cheered it was hilarious). So instead of this epic, bombastic climax, she kind of just tip-toed off stage. It was amazing.

lordberric57 karma

I love that, presumably, you worked on Cats for a significant amount of time, and still don't know what the plot is. I mean, you have about as much of a chance of anyone at knowing what the fuck goes on in it, but still, nothing.

LiliumJay21 karma

OP- I actually love Cats, the trick is to let go of needing to piece together the plot. It is there, but it's tenuous and not really that important to enjoying the show haha.

rnielsen776122 karma

Anyone sneak in snacks there? You look good in uniform!

Edit: It can be exhausting replying, huh? @OP,lol.

LiliumJay253 karma

We actually don't care if people bring their own snacks.

We just don't allow hot food because it's smelly.

And thank you!

rnielsen77653 karma

What about booze?

LiliumJay146 karma

That happens occasionally.

We don't really have a way of knowing if someone brings in, say, a bottle of wine from outside because we don't usually check people's bags (except for Harry Potter which has super increased security).

Sometimes they even leave it behind for us to clean up.

iamlisahearmewah88 karma

Hello! I'm sure you get this all the time...how do they get those sparkly vests on so quickly in Book of Mormon?!?

fangsrock12345110 karma

Not op but they have them tucked in the front of their pants and while the lights are off they quickly just pull them up and on!

LiliumJay78 karma

I HAD NO IDEA THANK YOU THIS DROVE ME CRAZY

bttrflyr78 karma

What was the worst show you've worked/ seen?

LiliumJay156 karma

I answered this above, but I just thought of another one that is a contender!

There was a short run of this terrible play called Senior Moments, which was basically a sketch comedy aimed at 60+ year olds and it was just lazy as hell.

Norgeroff77 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

LiliumJay95 karma

Brown, it's wooden.

UncleBen9471 karma

Okay, what is without a doubt the worst show you worked?

LiliumJay174 karma

It's a toss-up between Ghost the Musical (yes, based on the 1990 Patrick Swayze movie) and We Will Rock You which, despite being a Queen jukebox musical, and could have been just some trashy fun, has this godawful story that I found offensive and condescending. Also many patrons treated it like a rock concert rather than a theatre show and it got very rowdy which made it even more unpleasant.

midnighteyesx33 karma

Oh my god thank you!!!! We will Rock you was a flaming pile of shit. An entire plot about the bohemians searching for their rhapsody is also the one fucking song they never sing. And “don’t stop me now” is my favorite queen song and they cut it off after one verse to continue the stupid plot? Blind fury. It was also the loudest show I’ve ever been to, did all of you have to wear ear plugs?

seeing the movie Bohemian Rhapsody in theaters when it came out and I was like omg this is the musical I wished we will rock you was!

LiliumJay16 karma

It was the only show I had to wear earplugs for, it was physically painful to sit through.

In the production that I worked on, they sung Bohemian Rhapsody as an encore and it was a complete mess.

CowOrker0114 karma

Can you imagine working a trainwreck like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark?

LiliumJay6 karma

I would've LOVED to witness that.

DancesWithGuppies66 karma

Do you have a story to share regarding bad cellphone behavior?

LiliumJay152 karma

People check their phones all the time which is annoying but there's not a lot we can do about it and I'm a bit numb to it tbh.

There have been people who fully answered phone calls during the show and we had to walk through the row over people's legs to get them out.

Probably the worst was this drunk guy during Book of Mormon who I caught recording the show, got him to stop, but he kept trying to whip out his phone to sneakily do it again, while peeking at me out of the corner of his eye to see if I was still watching (I didn't take my eyes off him for the rest of the show), and he was laughing at the whole ordeal and it just made my blood boil lol.

blue_box_disciple58 karma

Regarding the last story, why didn't the guy get kicked out?

LiliumJay24 karma

We actually had multiple complaints about him from other patrons too, and we called security up, and that decision is up to them.

I've never seen anyone actually get kicked out.

Jadziyah51 karma

I really feel like theater etiquette has slowly degraded. We didn't pay hundreds of dollars for random people to distract us with their cell phone light because they have to check that text, or start yapping to the person next to them in the middle of a serious monologue. We pay to hear what's on stage, see what's on stage, be transformed and brought into another story temporarily. Do you think it has as well? And what can we possibly do about it without causing a disruption ourselves?

LiliumJay17 karma

I agree that a lot of basic etiquette and respect gets ignored and it's a real shame.

Because theatre etiquette is pretty basic if you ask me - it's identical to how I feel you should behave at the cinema and get frustrated that people can't just be present and enjoy themselves??

forrestsnow49 karma

Do you get a chance to meet any of the stars of the shows? If so, anyone cool?

LiliumJay103 karma

Probably the most famous person I met was Dawn French, who did a one-woman show at one of the theatres. Here’s a pic:

Proof

And that was because I lined up at stage door with regular patrons lol.

For the most part, we have very little to do with the people involved with the show itself.

forrestsnow12 karma

Ah I love dawn! Thanks for the answer :)

LiliumJay61 karma

She was very sweet.
I told her I was one of the ushers and she said, "thanks for ushing!"

Haploid-life9 karma

I love your poof on top.

LiliumJay16 karma

Thanks!
I'm a poof everywhere else too.

LibbyGoods47 karma

You mentioned that you’re an aspiring actor yourself. When the time comes for you to transition into talent what pearls of wisdom will you take with you from your time as FOH that you wouldn’t otherwise have had?

LiliumJay20 karma

First thing I'll say is that the more I pursue work in the industry is that there is rarely such a thing as having a full-time career in the arts. I could say confidently that about 1% of actors do it as their full-time job.

That being said, watching the same show over and over can be fascinating from an actor's perspective. My biggest takeaway is that the performance NEEDS to be fresh, as if you're doing it for the first time, every single time - because for most people in the audience it IS their first time. I've become very good a noticing when a performer is on auto-pilot and it's very frustrating.

three_eyed_fish45 karma

Do you have funny stories of people who went to see Book of Mormon without doing research about it?

LiliumJay27 karma

Nothing huge, but there were a lot of elderly people who go and see everything that comes to town who uh... didn't know what they were getting in for.

LateRain197013 karma

Yes please! I had a sense of what it was about, but I was unprepared.

LiliumJay11 karma

I think that's the purer way to experience it.

bb-m44 karma

What are your duties exactly?

LiliumJay112 karma

It varies shift to shift depending on where we're positioned.

Basically, we scan tickets, give directions (cos theatres can be a bit of a maze), show people to their seats, and just generally be lovely and welcoming.

When the show starts we have a lockout procedure for latecomers (which varies show to show), keep an eye on patrons, making sure no one is taking photos or going anywhere they're not supposed to, and torching them out if they need to leave for whatever reason.

During interval, we cover doors people aren't meant to go through, or help the bar staff hand out pre-ordered drinks, or negotiate the women's toilet queue sending them up or downstairs if it clears (this is always a really manic 20 minutes).

Then after the show is done, we pick up the rubbish left behind, one of us locks the doors, then we go home.

It's very going-through-the-motions after a while.

bb-m15 karma

How is the work schedule? Is it a full 8h/day or are you on duty only when needed for a show?

LiliumJay3 karma

Nah it's a casual job, so we're only there for when there is a show - we get four hour shifts for the most part, sometimes slightly longer if the show is long.

On a double show day we'll often have a "double shift" which sort of resembles a full 8 hour day but starting at like 12pm and have a two hour break in the middle lol.

lady_dalek29 karma

Backstage wardrobe crew here! Just wanted to say that everyone who works Front of House is an absolute saint in my eyes. Thank you for taking care of and putting up with patrons, and for doing what is probably one of the least-appreciated jobs in keeping a theater running. Everything would be chaos without you!

My question: what's the weirdest complaint you've gotten from a patron?

LiliumJay14 karma

Thank you! Anyone who works in theatre is a saint in my eyes.

The weirdest complaint happened just last year. Someone demanded that I report to the CEO that the tickets had too many perforations in them, and that it would be too easy to lose the barcode that needs to get scanned.

Which is... not a problem at all if you just don't rip the ticket, and even then it's super easy for box office to reprint the ticket.

I felt so silly even bringing it up with my supervisor.

ElessdeeDMT21 karma

How many people have you caught filming the movies to be pirated later?

LiliumJay44 karma

Quite a few, but it's not as common as you'd think.

It usually happens for shows where people might not understand theatre etiquette. For example, during Mamma Mia! this guy was filming the show like it was a concert because he'd never been to the theatre before, so I couldn't stay mad at him.

pta3620 karma

How often did you see walkouts during Book of Mormon? And at what point in the show did they most often happen?

I assume Hasa Diga Ebowi...

LiliumJay10 karma

Actually none! Australians are less adverse to swearing and crude humour haha.

Darth_Vagrance20 karma

What are some of the more common faux pas you encounter? Any tips on proper theater decorum for a first timer?

LiliumJay14 karma

The most common faux pas is just any phone use.

But really theatre etiquette is very basic and is identical to cinema etiquette. Turn off your phone (and if you MUST keep it on for emergency reasons, put it on silent), don't talk or eat loud snacks, go pee before you get there, and just sit down and have a good time. :)

TheWalrusIsMe17 karma

Who are some of your favorite performers?

LiliumJay41 karma

I'm Australian so this might not mean a lot to people from other countries.

But I adore Caroline O'Connor, I will see anything she's in. I worked on a production of Anything Goes that she played Reno Sweeney in and it was fabulous (problematic content of the show aside).
I'm also a fan of Gemma Rix, Cle Morgan, Christie Whelan-Browne, Zahra Newman, Bert LaBonte...
I'm sure there are many others but that's just off the top of my head from shows I've worked on!

Uhfolks16 karma

Ohh, I've got a question, not sure if you'd know the answer though.

Without giving away details, is the stuff on the walls of cursed child permanent? If so, what kind of hoops did they have to jump through to get approval for that?

LiliumJay11 karma

I literally had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement so I don't think I can say hahaha

juberish15 karma

Do you get paid well or is the reward in access to the shows? I live in NYC and notice the ushers talking to regulars and being very informed about the shows, seems like there's a whole scene there, but is it for love of theater or is the comp ok?

LiliumJay6 karma

Thank you for the NYC and San Diego perspectives! :D Fascinating!

I can only speak for the company I work for, but the pay is actually pretty good. However, it is a casual position, meaning I'm not entitled to sick/annual leave or anything like that, and there's only work when there are shows. When it's busy the money is great, but there have also been periods of months with no work. Theatres often go dark here simply because we don't have the population of NYC or London (it's also not really in our mainstream culture) to sustain hugely expensive commercial theatre productions year round I guess.

DorisCrockford9 karma

I don't know where you are, but when we saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, all the ushers had terrible fake English accents. Did you have to do that (if you're not in England, though that would be kind of hilarious)?

Edit: Ok, Melbourne. So the question definitely applies.

LiliumJay6 karma

Oh my GOD! No, we absolutely do not do that. And if they told us to, we just wouldn't.

(Although, if I'm practicing a particular accent for an audition or monologue or something, sometimes I'll use it at work haha)

itsyabooiii6 karma

You ok through the COVID-19 crisis?

LiliumJay5 karma

Thank you for asking!

I'm luckier than most and I'll be financially okay, but it's not an easy thing to adjust to and has hit me in the anxiety quite bad. But I can happily report the front of house team have come together as a family and we're all supporting each other emotionally :)

Kanotari5 karma

Hi from one of the musicians in the pit!

What was your favorite show to watch?

Any special moments you'd like to share?

LiliumJay8 karma

Hi! Respect!

As I've mentioned in a few other threads, working on Come From Away was a dream.

A special moment that comes to mind is when I saw one of the actors from Come From Away in a gay bar and I actually went up to him and told him how much all the ushers loved the show and he was super sweet about it.

There was another regarding Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The actress playing Hermione was notorious for never missing a show, so when she finally went off (for like, one weekend) for annual leave, the understudy stepped up for the first time after a year of walking across the background and having very little to do. All the ushers were actually really excited for her, even if it was just something new to watch. And she was also an incredible musical theatre performer who some of us had seen in other shows. The next week, that understudy had somehow found out how excited and supportive of her we were and actually wrote us a super lovely letter of appreciation because she was terrified and knowing we were all supporting her put her at ease. (And she did a great job, btw).

revocer5 karma

Curious to hear which bad ones?!

Which ones did you have people leaving during the show?!

LiliumJay4 karma

I've seen people walk out of Ghost and Cats due them hating it lol. Though I personally love Cats. Don't judge me.

But that doesn't happen a lot cos theatre tickets are expensive

acilate3 karma

Where are the best seats in the house? Are there any hidden gems?

LiliumJay7 karma

It really varies theatre to theatre.

But in general I would recommend the middle of the dress circle. You don't have to buy the most expensive, premium tickets to get a great view - the auditorium is literally designed for people to be able to see the stage as best as possible. And quite often the cheap "restricted view" seats are totally fine and you don't miss much.