Tag Archives: ushering

Lame Adventure 323: One of Those Days

As I have mentioned in earlier tales, I like to volunteer usher off-Broadway plays.  In return for my services I get to see theater for free. My most recent ushering gig was for a musical at a respected off-Broadway playhouse.  The audience was replete with jerks.  It would be easy to blame the heat and humidity but this theater’s temperature is set twelve months of the year at Freeze Your Ass Off level.

Approximately ten minutes before curtain a male-female senior citizen couple that looked like they held post-graduate degrees in the Department of Equally Unattractive Toads approached.  They were either married forever or siblings.

Me:  May I see your tickets please?

Senior Citizen Man:  Go fuck yourself.

He brushed past me followed by her and they headed straight for two front row seats.  I resisted the urge to croak like a frog.

Cute lizard since I don’t have a shot of an ugly toad in my library.

Soon after it was discovered that a seat with a number belonging to a woman with a ticket had been double-booked and removed to accommodate a wheelchair bound chap.  She was understandably perplexed.  The House Manager offered to relocate her to an empty seat next to two elderly gay men, but they pitched such a fit it gave the impression that he had suggested she sit on them rather than next to them.  He repeatedly tried to explain the situation but they were livid.

Often, it’s usual to commiserate with co-ushers about audience members with the social skills of tree stumps, but I was coincidentally working with a mute, gum-chewing middle aged guy devoid of any signs of possessing a personality gene.  If the chemistry between us could be illustrated, it would be a flat line.  In fairness, maybe he had just quit smoking and was chewing nicotine gum.

My co-usher as shown in the animal kingdom.

The House Manager had instructed us to stand in front of the stage during intermission because the footlights were highly calibrated and very sensitive.  If touched they could go instantly out of whack.  He instructed my co-usher and I to stand watch at opposite sides of the stage.  As soon as we reach the stage I see a morbidly obese man leaning on my side of the stage.  I think:

Me (thinking):  The portrait of the story of my life.

I approach the man:

Me:  Sir, theater management has requested no leaning against the stage.

Man:  Why?

Me (what I want to say):  Why?  Because your BMI is a liability, and we don’t want the lights knocked off their axis by your wide load!  That’s why!

Me (what I say):  The lights are computer controlled and any contact with them risks nullifying their highly sensitive calibration.

He moves.

Meanwhile my gum-chewing co-usher is staring into space possibly fantasizing about lighting up.  He’s completely oblivious to the three women on his side of the stage parked against it.  I approach the women and ask them to move.  They do.  My co-usher extinguishes his imaginary Marlboro.  I give him the stink eye.  Upon seeing me return to my station the three women resume leaning on the stage, but this time Dudley Do-nothing finally takes his mind off his chewing and tells them to scram.

As intermission is ending a woman asks me:

Woman:  How much longer is this?

This, a sure sign that she hates the show, but I’m not too keen on it, either.  Maybe I should ask her for her number?  Possibly she lives in digs with air conditioning?  I repress my inner pimp and remain professional:

Me:  An hour.

She’s visibly upset but resists telling me off.

After the show, my co-ushers and I do a quick sweep of the theater. Fifteen minutes later, I bolt, grateful that this annoying gig is over. I zig and zag through the dense crowd filling 42nd Street to my uptown subway.  Even though I’m subject to a three-minute wait and the platform is hotter than the Sahara, I can still feel the residual chill from the Arctic-like temperature in the theater.  I don’t feel like I could collapse from heat stroke with a thud.  The express train pulls into the station.  It’s not terribly crowded and although I could grab a seat, I let other passengers do so instead.  I only have to travel one stop.  Life is good!

Free as this butterfly!

My thoughts return to my favorite sports, eating and sleeping. I absently move my right foot. It feels glued to the car’s floor.  That’s when I realize that I’m standing on a huge, soft sticky wad of gum.  It was definitely one of those days.

It smelled like spearmint.

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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).