Lame Adventure 313: What Do I Know?

I love live theater preferably on a stage, not two hotheads having a yelling match at each other on a subway train.  One way I can afford to see as many off-Broadway plays as I do is I volunteer usher, something I do once or twice a month.  This allows me to see theater for free. The only downside to volunteer ushering is sometimes a show is a dud, but more often, they’re good.

“Peter and the Starcatcher”, a play I volunteer ushered off-Broadway that has transferred to Broadway and is now nominated for 9 Tony awards. This was not a dud.

Many volunteer ushers are retirees, students or aspiring actors. Most are pleasant, but when I worked my most recent ushering gig I encountered Sour Usher.  Sour Usher is a retired woman 10-15 years my senior that’s built like Sitting Bull. I have encountered her several times over the course of the 3 ½ years I’ve been volunteer ushering, but she has never given me a single nod of recognition.  When I say, “Hi,” she gives me the “Who are you?” look.

Together, we recently ushered a play that’s still in previews.  It officially opens later this week, so there might still be some tweaks made to it between now and then.  She’s a complainer-type who has been volunteer ushering forever.  Therefore, she thinks she’s an authority that knows more than everyone in the theater company combined.  When I last ushered with her, it was for a delightful musical at New York Theater Workshop called Once.   At intermission, she confided that she hated the show.  I told her that it was an adaptation of a film.  She was unfamiliar with the film and told me that she had no interest in seeing it.

Sour Usher:  Is this like the movie?

Me:  Yes, it’s following the story closely.

Sour Usher:  So the movie was lousy, too.

Once transferred to Broadway earlier this year and has since been nominated for eleven Tony awards.

People parked outside the Jacobs theater at 9 am hoping for tickets to the 3 pm matinee of “Once”.

The play Sour Usher and I ushered recently was one neither of us were familiar with.  The program had a preface that indicated that it has been in development since 2004.  Sour Usher zeroed in on the fact that its earliest origins were as a short film for a Food Network competition.

Sour Usher:  Can you believe this?  They’re staging a cooking show!  I know I’m not going to like this.

I thought:

Me (defiantly):  This is one of the most respected off-Broadway theater companies in the country.  We’re seeing this play for free.  Give it a chance.  It’s not like we’re witnessing an execution.

I said:

Me (weaselly):  Well, that sounds different.

When the house opened and we admitted audience members, the star who doubles as co-author took the stage.  She started cooking.  Sour Usher admitted that whatever it was that she was cooking smelled good.  She insisted that it was gingerbread, but we later learned that it was eggplant for baba ganoush.  Small difference.  The House Manager seated us together.  Sour Usher groused about her seat, even though we were in the fifth row and had a perfect view.  She resented not being seated on the aisle.  At intermission, she refused to applaud declaring:

Sour Usher:  There’s nothing in this play for me.  It’s all cliché, predictable, pointless.  It’s too many stories happening at once and not a single one interests me.  When it opens, the Times will kill it.

I thought:

Me:  Like the way they killed Once?

I said (this comment slipped out like an involuntary fart):

Me:  You really think that?

She looked at me and sniffed.  Maybe I did involuntarily cut a silent-but-deadly.

Sour Usher:  You like this?  [disgusted] You did applaud.

I thought:

Me (defiant): I applauded because I’m entertained, I think it’s a novel play that’s well staged and I’m interested in what happens next.  Is that criminal?

I said:

Me (weaselly):  I applaud out of habit.

I know that Sour Usher thinks I’m an idiot, and possibly I am for not having the guts to say exactly what I think to her.  She’s one of those difficult, critical know-it-alls.  Arguing with her is pointless.  I save point-full bickering for women that matter that let me see them naked.  I wonder if Sour Usher even likes theater.  I thought that it was possible that the only thing she really likes is eating for I saw her inhaling a muffin at intermission.  I asked:

Me:  Is that gingerbread?

Sour Usher (mouth full):  No.

Me: What is it?

Sour Usher:  Terrible.

I should have known.

“Venus in Fur” debuted off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company in 2010 before transferring to Broadway last fall. It’s received Tony award nominations for Best Play and Best Actress (Nina Arianda).

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60 responses to “Lame Adventure 313: What Do I Know?

  1. Well, at least Sour Usher gave you a good blog post. She’s an interesting character, and you’ve captured her well. Plus, it’s fun learning more about your ushering. What a brilliant way to see plays! Sour Usher may think you’re an idiot, but does she know you ARE a lame-adventurer?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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    • You think a four-eyed, yellow-bellied, spineless coward like me that cannot fathom the courage to anemically utter, “This play may not be the second coming of Death of a Salesman, but I still think it’s got infinitely more merit than any episode of Punky Brewster,” would dare reveal to Sour Usher that I’m the mastermind behind Lame Adventures — and I’m inspired to share her rancid personality on line? The next time I see her I’ll probably hide under a seat … Or not. Glad you enjoyed this one Kathy!

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  2. oops–meant to add–that she’s the “lame” to your “adventure?”

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  3. Wow, what a pill. What’s with people like that? You could tell them they’ve won a million dollars and all they would do is complain about how much tax they’re taking out of that million. What exactly is she even there for, then, if she hates the theater as much as she clearly does? I haven’t seen Once but every person I know who has seen it says it’s fantastic. Sour Usher needs to get laid, and fast.

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    • My sentiments exactly, Madame W! Do you know Sour Usher? Was she your dreaded 8th grade math teacher? Once is a lovely musical, but if you can’t make it to the theater, the film is rather charming, too.

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  4. The “sour ushers” in our life give us great blog fodder and make everyone else shine brilliantly like the foul-smelling cab driver on the way home perhaps…. 🙂
    I know a few of these eeyores and they hate me because I am “Susie Sunshine” and they want to rain on everyone’s parade…
    ….skips away whistling some silly tune…..

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    • I’m not exactly a walking ray of sunshine myself, but I’m not an ingrate whenever I score free entertainment. Even if I thought I was watching Hell on Earth (and I have seen some stink bombs explode n the boards) I resist blathering about how much I hated that show until later — when I purge myself about it to my friends.

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  5. Sour Usher. Huh. Talk about a turd in the punchbowl.

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  6. Maybe she’s secretly writing her own play, LA, and slowly trying to get word out that hers will be better than all of the others. Or maybe she’s missing the point just a tad of the privilege and opportunity she’s been given. You’re not forced to volunteer, are you? 😉

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    • New York’s martinet mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has yet to force Gotham City residents to volunteer usher but please, Tom, DO NOT give him any ideas! I did not get the impression that Sour Usher is a scribbler herself, just an accomplished whiner with a yen for gingerbread.

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  7. Sour Ushers…I agree with Susie on this one. I got sour bank clerk, sour supermarket cashier, sour DMV personnel. They all make for good blog posts, making you and everyone else look muy awesome 🙂

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    • You’re right there Guat! The sour DMV person that operates the license photo camera is surely a direct descendant of the Marquis de Sade. I did not win any point with her when I pointed out, “If 50’s the new 40 and 40’s the new 30, can I shave off 20 years on my license?” If she could she would have taken my picture with an AK 47. Hey, thanks for commenting!

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  8. Snoring Dog Studio

    Sour Usher is the reason why Broadway shows fail. Her negativity infuses the atmosphere and makes enjoyment impossible. She needs some sweetening up. Or murdering.

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    • After intermission Sour Usher noticed that some audience members did not return. Since she was unhappy with our seats she wanted to take two on the aisle in the row behind us, but I saw the ticket holders, a mother with her daughter (the kid was around 11), returning. I said, “We can’t do that. Those seats are taken.” Sour Usher told them to take two other seats. I wanted to die on the spot. The mother was cool about it.

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  9. If Sour Usher loves to stuff her face so much, you’d think she would have *loved* a show about food. At least when she was chewing, she probably wasn’t talking. Unless she’s one of those.

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  10. omg I HATE Negative Nancies!!! Such a drag on what could inevitably always be very enjoyable experiences. Thanks for another enjoyable – although eye-roll-inducing – post!

    And also ps – brava to you on getting into off-broadway ushering! I’ve managed to sign up to an email list for a little theater by my house but haven’t had much luck finding other ways to get involved with other theaters.

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    • Negative Nancies — peers of Debbie Downer! Jessica, if you live in NYC or the Tri-state area volunteer ushering off-B’way plays is pretty easy. Just go to the theater’s web site and look for their ushering policy. For example, check out the Atlantic Theater Company’s policy:

      http://www.atlantictheater.org/usher/index.aspx

      They’re the first theater company I started volunteer ushering for and they’re great. If you don’t live in NYC, just call or email your local theaters and ask if they use volunteer ushers. Good luck!

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  11. Sour usher is my mom.

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  12. And to think that Sour Usher is in the form of others at volunteer events … plus are also sour co-workers, sour neighbors, sour _____.

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  13. Sour usher sounds like a lot of fun. Perhaps you should invite her for dinner, or name a child after her or something – even though she would probably hate both.

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    • Yes, Terri, she was/is quite a grump. I don’t think I’ll be inviting her over to break bread in my sanctum sanctorum in this lifetime. Thanks for visiting Lame Adventures-land!

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  14. Have you consulted any statisticians regarding the probability that S.U. owns a computer and Googles the word “lame” and reads about herself? I guess it will depend a lot on LA’s rating among various search engines. Just wondering…

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    • No, I have not considered that possibility but odds are good that if S.U. somehow found this site since she loathes humor and thinks I’m an idiot I doubt she’d linger. Therefore, I don’t think she’ll be offing me in a drive-by shooting anytime soon.

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  15. I like blueberry pie and muffins. But on the liquid refreshment front I, too, have been disappointed. Johann’s claims to the contrary, Gevalia dropped the ball with their blueberry flavored coffee.

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  16. Was thinking you could talk to your friend who helped you design your masthead and have him/her substitute random persons zooming across Central Park much the same way in which Google alters its appearance to commemorate this or that. Just another layer of protection. Think of it as something akin to a cyber condom. Much like the plausible deniability we employed when we mined Nicaraguan harbors in the 1980’s

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    • What? No response to what (admittedly not iced tea spewing funny) I thought was one of my more thoughtful posts. I trust it merely fell through the cracks amid the flurry of witty bon mots. I was hoping not to have to resort to referencing vaginaplasty so soon. But I guess I just did. Damn. BTW just turned T-13 today. Celebrated with my own LA taking our Cavalier (dog not Chevy) to the groomer at 88. Riding on the 8:35 from Glen Ridge. What I like to call The Slacker Special.

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    • A “cyber condom”? Plausible deniability sounds like a government agency or a music group or maybe I could use it as the title of my autobiography?

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      • As a faithful employee of the USG for over 25 years I can say that the phrase Plausible Deniability is not so much an agency or department as it is an ethos. As we used to say at my former place of employ: Admit Nothing, Deny Everything, and Make Counteraccusations. Almost as famous was my unit’s seal which depicted 2 vultures with caption that read: To hell with waiting for something to die. Let’s go out and kill something.

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  17. Lol. If she doesnt even like muffin, I believe it is time to part ways 🙂

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  18. Due to aforementioned aging I cannot be sure but didn’t Aerosmith discuss this subject in Walk This Way? Just checked http://www.Lyrics007.com. Yep, that’s what I thought.

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  19. I was someone else in my younger days. I’ve mellowed considerably.

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