Front of House staff are essential because they are the first people to greet our patrons when they arrive at the theatre. Indeed we know many of our customers so well that we think of them as friends.
It is our role to ensure that all goes smoothly when the audience arrives for a performance and this begins in the foyer. Here, after a cheerful greeting at the door, our team members are available to sell sweets, to give out programmes and to hold tickets which are waiting to be collected.
Next it is up to the auditorium where our stewards collect tickets. Ah, tickets; all does not always run smoothly! However our new ticketing system provides us with a list of all tickets sold, together with names of purchasers. This means, when there is doubt about who is the rightful occupier of a seat, that we can establish who has actually come on the night before the one for which they have booked or even for the wrong show all together. Occasionally we need to wait until just before the performance begins to seat patrons who have misplaced their tickets. During the pantomime run there was an afternoon when 40 people arrived without a ticket between them. All was happily resolved. You may wonder why we retain all ticket stubs; it means we know exactly how many people are in the auditorium so that we can do a head count in the car park in the event of an evacuation. Last but not least is our unsung hero the first aider, who sits in the auditorium for every performance. If there is no first aider, there can be no show!
As you can imagine, all of this requires careful organisation and cheerful and helpful volunteers. Our ideal number for each evening is a team of seven with an eighth member to act as FOH manager. A quick calculation will tell you that we need 56 people for the run of a week’s production. In fact, however, several of our helpers do more than one evening of duty and willingly take on someone else’s role. Nor does being a team manager on one evening preclude you from being a team member on another. It requires a minimum of four people for a show to proceed. We are all very flexible – especially when there’s ’flu in the air!
Our volunteer workforce is managed by two overall co-ordinators. They are always on the lookout for new members and first aiders and attend Tuesday Connections (our regular meetings to attract new members to the theatre) to see who might like to join us. Planning starts before the season begins to make sure that all is in place for each production – both those of the LDS and of visiting artistes. Quarterly FOH manager meetings ensure that teams are organised and that we’re up to date with health and safety procedures.
As an FOH member you do need to be prepared for the unexpected. At a Queen Tribute Band performance their special effects (being prepared during the interval) were so spectacular that they set off the fire alarms, thereby automatically summoning the Fire Brigade. FOH managed successfully to evacuate everyone – with or without their interval drinks! On another occasion, shortly before Christmas, a time of peace and goodwill, I was about to relax after the interval when my attention was drawn to the street outside. There I saw a man and woman exchanging blows, this escalating to the use of an offensive weapon (a broken pool cue I believe), so that I was obliged to dial 999. This was followed in no time at all by the arrival of blue flashing lights and the miscreants were apprehended. All this and the audience watched the show happily unaware. We do see life!
FOH teams welcome members of all age groups; some of us are retired, but many are not. Indeed one of our number stayed faithful to us until she was 92, helping to sell programmes and coffee. Her historical anecdotes of past years at the theatre were fascinating. A prerequisite for joining the team is a sense of humour combined with a benign smile. It’s essential to have patience and to stay calm. Do you think you have these qualities? Would you like to put them to the test? It only requires one night a week when a show is on. We are happy to welcome new team members of all ages so do get in touch. You’ll find us by ringing the theatre manager on 0116 2551302. Come and join in the fun!