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Posts Tagged Front of House

STUDENT MATINEE FRONT OF HOUSE STAFF: the show before The Show

It was in the fall of 2014 when I sought a job that would match the year-round schedule of my daughter’s new school. I was doubtful that such a job existed when my sister spied and forwarded this job posting to me:

Open Positions – Daytime Usher: Help us to bring live theatre productions to junior and senior high school students as a daytime Usher for daytime weekday matinees at Park Square Theatre in Downtown St. Paul.

I almost didn’t apply, not wanting the hassle and expense of parking downtown. But why not just take a look? My background did include customer service and working with students. I’d even been a regular theatre-goer before motherhood and, in fact, was a Park Square subscriber for a season before giving birth.

My interview went beyond well. We were a good fit. And not only would I have the flexibility to work around my daughter’s school schedule, but it dawned on me that I could park and ride to work on the light rail. The job even came with the perk of free tickets to all the plays, reinvigorating my family’s theatre attendance.

The House on Mango Street was the first student matinee performed on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

Adding to my excitement was the prospect of being a part of Park Square’s new phase. The just completed Andy Boss Thrust Stage would open that fall, with the potential to expand their teenage audience from 25,000 to 35,000 students each year. They needed more Front of House staff to be able to service two shows running on two stages.

Our Student Matinee Front of House pre-season training introduced us to the Education Program’s “Evening of Theatre During the Day” concept for school groups. Basically, we give students the same amenities as our evening and weekend audiences but at a lower cost. The students get reserved seats, an unabridged program and the service of professional ushers–all that create a special outing to see a show. The Front of House staff set the initial tone for the “evening”; we’re part of the show before The Show. We even dress up for our roles: black pants or skirt and white top with permissible pops of color.

As an usher, I’m officially under the supervision of a house manager but, in reality, I work in partnership with her/him. The house manager and ushers also work in conjunction with the stage manager. Together, we aim for seamless service and a superior audience experience.

The ushers carry out many varied tasks. Pre-show duties include greeting buses, helping groups cross the street and into the lobby, tearing tickets, handing out playbills and directing patrons to their proper seats. During the performance, two ushers stay inside with the school groups while two ushers remain in the lobby to set up concessions. During intermission, the outside ushers sell snacks and beverages; one of the inside ushers come out to monitor the bathrooms, returning inside once intermission is over. While the play continues, the outside ushers do a post-count of concessions to check against the house manager’s money count, clean the lobby and throw out trash. An usher checks on bus arrivals and helps patrons cross to their buses post-show. All ushers pitch in to leave the theatre and lobby clean and, if necessary, set up the lobby for the nighttime performance. The house manager stays to complete reports and lock the doors.

While our Front of House duties may sound somewhat straightforward, true to the nature of live theatre, our workdays are open to unforeseen surprises. Snow may delay a group’s arrival; an actor may wake up sick, causing a scramble to bring in the understudy; once all the water in the building got shut off. Another time, Romeo accidentally slid his sword next to a student, who picked it up despite my whispered instruction to let it be. Medical emergencies arise; a section gets rowdy; a chaperone losses his temper. High drama can happen offstage, too. Front of House staff learn the art of letting go–but not letting it go to heck.

And how do we watch the same play over and over? The performance is actually different each time, depending on the synergy between the actors and audience members. As the house manager says in her/his pre-show announcement: “It’s you being here, creating and working with the actors that creates theatre.” Plus who says we’re just watching the play? We’re also watching the students react to the play. That gives us an added perspective. Students are generally less inhibited than adults to show how they feel during the play. I recommend sitting through The Diary of Anne Frank or our new adaptation of Hamlet with them to see what I mean.

If we’re lucky, a pre-show Build A Moment (a presentation by professional theatre artists to explain how a particular scene was created) or post-show discussion is scheduled for the day. Then Front of House staff can opt to come earlier or stay later to watch these fascinating events. We get to learn along with the students.

One thing that I’ve learned is that what Park Square offers through its Education Program travels well beyond our walls. We can be a student’s first exposure to professional theatre, first time to see themselves truthfully portrayed on stage or initial spark to a lifelong love of theatre. Comprised of hundreds of students from a number of schools, an audience may witness acts of racism, privilege, empathy, kindness and generosity in our theatre. All that becomes part of the learning experience that goes back with them as well. Theatre reflects humanity, both on and off the stage.

I’d say that a big responsibility of Front of House staff is to pay attention. Pay attention to what’s happening on the stage and all around us, how the program interconnects to the organization’s mission as a whole and how our role fits and matters in the bigger scheme of things. To care about doing this is the key to Front of House longevity. You need to be inspired, too.

If you would like to consider joining the Student Matinee Front of House staff for Park Square’s upcoming season, don’t hesitate to email a cover letter and resume to kunik@parksquaretheatre.org or contact PerformanceManager Jiffy Kunik at 651.767.8489 (or via email) with any questions. 

Jackson Smith: October’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Jackson Smith and his many hats Photo by T. T. Cheng

Jackson Smith and his many hats
Photo by T. T. Cheng

Our October Front of House Employee of the Month, Jackson Smith, wears many hats at Park Square Theatre. Though hired as the Accounting Associate in September 2015, Jackson has also readily switched hats when needed to work for Front of House as a bartender, ticket agent and house manager. He has even at times donated his personal time and talents on behalf of the organization.

Smith’s newest hat to put on is that of recently promoted Finance Coordinator. Finance & Operations Director Sheri J. Zigan enthusiastically declared both his award and promotion as “well deserved recognition to the one I call my lifeline!!!”

In May, we featured Jackson in the blog “When Passion and Practicality Collide: The Journey of Jackson Smith,” introducing readers to an inspiring young man, bitten by the theatre bug from childhood then, later in life, steadily following a call to Theatre Finance. It is heartening to know that, with Park Square Theatre currently looking for a Finance intern, that intern will be mentored by this young “old soul” who, with hard work and persistence, continues to make big dreams a reality–his and ours.

With great enthusiasm, we at Park Square Theatre give Jackson Smith a standing ovation.

Which hat does Jackson have on now? Photo by Connie Shaver

Which hat does Jackson have on now?
Photo by Connie Shaver

(Note: You can still access “When Passion and Practicality Collide: The Journey of Jackson Smith”  as the May 21, 2016 blog post.)

Jiffy Kunik: September Employee of the Month

Park Square’s Employee of the Month for September is none other than the indefatigable Jiffy Kunik!  Jiffy began her distinguished service at Park Square in 2014, working as an usher in the Education Department. She soon proved her worth and shot up the ladder to serve as a House Manager for the student matinees.

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Before long, an opportunity arose at the theatre in the Finance Department, where Jiffy was able to shine in yet another role. Having personally worked with her for over a year, the one thing I can say is that Jiffy’s great talent is being able to dominate any challenge given to her. On countless occasions I have seen her turn around an otherwise hopeless situation, whether it concerned an upset patron or a new-hire trying to navigate the ticketing system. She just has a way of making you feel like everything is going to be okay, and that, I believe, is the mark of a great leader.

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Her attention to detail, loyalty and deep commitment to Park Square is evident day in and day out. You’d be hard pressed to not find her around putting out some fire or another! Don’t worry, you’ll know it’s her from the smile she’s bound to be wearing.

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James Vincent: August’s Front of House Employee of the Month

Ticket Agent Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Ticket Agent Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Our Front of House Employee of the Month is James (“Jimmy”) Vincent. He began working at Park Square Theatre in October 2015 as a bartender, then soon became a ticket agent, house manager and usher as well. Whenever productions are simultaneously running on both the Proscenium and Boss stages during the evening and weekend, Vincent will now also act as Lead House Manager for one of those stages. He has become an all-around invaluable employee.

Bartender Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Connie Shaver)

Bartender Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Connie Shaver)

When not at Park Square Theatre, Vincent is an actor and model. His dad first planted the idea of his pursuing acting during a father-and-son bonding moment of watching the entire first season of The Office. Ironically, Vincent soon after landed a role in his high-school musical, The Music Man. He got–as he put it–“further sucked into” theater by helping with behind-the-scenes work, such as set construction. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Performing Arts (major) and Media Production (minor) through Northern Michigan University, landing many roles in college shows, such as Danny in Grease and, his personal favorite, Kyle the UPS Guy in Legally Blonde.

After college, Vincent lived in Los Angeles before moving to Minnesota. He first worked full time for Northern Brewer Shipping Warehouse in Roseville before finding part-time jobs at both Park Square Theatre and History Theatre. Switching to theatre work has enabled him to focus on his profession of choice, auditioning, continually honing his craft with classes and being amongst his peers.

Model Jimmy Vincent (Photograph by Chris Gault)

Model Jimmy Vincent
(Photograph by Chris Gault)

Modeling has been a newer part of Vincent’s career path. After signing with an agency, he started appearing in print ads and commercials for products such as Hormel Chili. Vincent hopes to eventually become a full-time actor and model.

Audience Services Director Amanda Lammert describes Vincent as an “old soul” who is “a loyal friend and very close with his family.” He recently took a special trip to Decorah, Iowa, to attend the 40th anniversary of Nordic Fest with his grandmother, a ribbon-winning artist in Norwegian rosemaling. He also just attended the wedding of his longtime friend, the owner of Foggy Bottom Boys Dairy, from his past roots in Northern California.

Farmhand Jimmy Vincent

Farmhand Jimmy Vincent

Park Square Theatre is pleased to have the multi-talented Vincent in our midst.  We appreciate his excellent service on behalf of our theatre patrons.

Sarah Bauer: June’s Front of the House Employee of the Month

Sarah Bauer

Sarah Bauer joined Park Square Theatre in September 2015.  She usually works as a bartender but also serves as a house manager.  Bauer is often complimented by patrons for her wonderful customer service so it isn’t surprising that she was named Front of the House Employee of the Month for June.

Bauer learned of the opportunity to join our Front of the House staff from a friend who loved working for Park Square Theatre.  She quickly applied by sending her resume and correspondences via email while vacationing in Turkey and Greece and interviewed as soon as she returned to the United States.

Bauer has much theatre experience.  She has been a stage manager for 18 years, starting in high school.  She went on to get a B.A. in Theatre before moving to Minneapolis in 2004 to work in theatre, then taking some time off to get a M.F.A. in Creative Writing before returning to stage managing.  Bauer has been working very steadily in theatre ever since and currently helps run the Front of the House operations for Gremlin Theatre, where she is Resident Stage Manager; she has been with Gremlin since 2009.  She is also a venue technician for the Fringe Festival and works at other theatres throughout the year.  Bauer thought that working for our Front of the House would give her the opportunity to see how a larger theatre runs its operations.

Regarding her work at Park Square Theatre, Bauer says, “I really like seeing people come in excited to see a show.  When they’re really anticipating it, they’ll chat with me while I’m making their drinks and I always ask them at intermission if it’s living up to their expectations.  It’s fun to hear different reactions each night.”

We appreciate Bauer’s hard work at Park Square Theatre and look forward to her continued enthusiastic presence through the next season.   A toast to Sarah Bauer!

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