Because the best characters really are in the audience.
By Annissa Omran (Writer/College Student/Usher)
(Palais Garnier, theater perfection embodied)
I recently had a very interesting series of run ins with patrons at the theater where I work as an usher and I think they deserve a little more attention than the usually brief segment Close Encounters of a Patron Kind.
This past week I worked double shifts to accommodate the final six-day-stretch of a show that has been in town for almost a month. I, being no stranger of repetition, absolutely love the chance to watch a show more than one time. It gives me the chance to see different parts (as an usher we can only partake of the show while patrons are seated, after tickets are counted and holds are observed) and it provides me with the opportunity to appreciate swings and full cast members alike.
As a result of such long term exposure to a series of rambunctious audiences, I happened to rack up a nice little medley of encounters that I now present to you for your reading pleasure:
A woman rushes up to me, her hair wild and her dress askew. She holds the hand of a shrieking five year old with blonde pigtails and a pink tutu.
Two boys, both between the ages of six and eight trail behind, hitting each other with what appear to be plastic light sabers. The woman yells over her shoulder at them to knock it off or she’ll “go back there and show them the dark side”.
Perched upon one hip, a toddler sucks contentedly on a pacifier; her bright eyes staring inquisitively back up at me as if to ask “Ma’am, I apologize for the circus that has raised me”. I asked the harried lady what I could do for her.
Mom Zombie: Please tell me there is a place where I can get booster seats.
Me: Of course, they are available at guest services in the lobby.
Mom Zombie: The lobby?
Me: Yes ma’am.
Mom Zombie: Guest Services?
Me: Yes, that’s right.
Mom Zombie: That place up those steps, back through those doors, down the hall, up the stairs and across the room?
Mom Zombie: (smiles manically at me and then turns to children) Kids, mommy’s just going to have to tell you what is happening, instead.
As I walk up and down one of the side aisles of the lower orchestra, handing out playbills, I overhear the conversation of two elderly women, speaking at the top of their lungs. They have just found the insert with the list of next season’s Broadway Tour selections.
Lady 1: Oh Ruth! They’re having Chicago back! We have to go!
Lady 2: That’s a marvelous show. And that Richard Gere – you could eat off that tush.
Lady 1: And they’re going to have Book of Mormon.
Lady 2: Book of Moron? Why that sounds insulting.
Lady 1: No “Mormon”, like Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney.
Lady 2: Yes “moron”, I heard you the first time.
I’m closing the doors at the top of the second act, preparing for the twelve minute hold we’re about to have when a 20-something woman walks up. She is wearing a tight bandage dress, crazy dark make-up and sky-scraping heels that resembled orthopedic weapons more than actual shoes. I reach her just before she reaches the door and I warn her about the hold that she is about to be caught in.
Spiky-heels: I’m going to the restroom.
Me: That’s fine, but once you leave you can’t come back in until the twelve minute hold is up.
Spiky-heels: Why not?
Me: The show sets the rules. It has something to do with the lighting in this scene.
Spiky-heels: There must be something you can do about that.
Me: I’m sorry, there really isn’t.
Spiky-heels: Ok well then make them hold the show.
Me: I’m sorry?
Spiky-heels: You can do that, you work here.
Me: No, ma’am, I’m just a volunteer, I –
Spiky-heels: Exactly. You’re a volunteer. The theater isn’t paying you to argue with me – go tell them to hold the show.
It is a different day and a couple, possibly in their early 30s, is last coming in through the doors at the end of intermission. She is wearing a very nice wrap dress a la Kate Middleton and an enthusiastic I-love-theater-so-much smile on her face. He is wearing a casual polo and pants and a frown that says I-would-rather-be-eating-a-bowl-of-nails. They stop right before entering and he stops her, speaking gently.
Husband: Honey, I don’t think I feel that well.
Wife: Oh my God, is it serious?
Husband: Yeah, I think it is pretty bad.
Wife: (looking at the door reluctantly) Well I guess we could leave…
Husband: (sharply) No! No. Go watch the show. I’ll just sit here and rest.
Wife: Are you sure about that?
Husband: Yes, of course. (Gesturing over to me) That usher over there will make sure I don’t die, right?
Wife: Alright then. Relax and I’ll see you after the show.
Husband: (Waits till wife walks in. Proceeds to pull laptop out of bag and pull up basketball game)
Husband: (Looks sheepishly at me) Please don’t tell my wife. If I had to hear one more witch sing about the colors pink and green I would have gone all Van Gogh on myself.
ANNISSA OMRAN is currently a college student and eternally a writer. An old movie aficionado, her interests include show tunes, singing loudly, and singing show tunes loudly. She also provides a (dramatic) running commentary on the life of a young writer.www.annissaness.tumblr.com
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