As a house manager, patrons often ask me “When does the show begin?” I look at them matter-of-factly and reply, “Why…the show has already begun!” The reactions I get vary. Some glance at me with a puzzled look, while others resort to shear panic. I then explain, “On paper, the show begins at 8pm but technically, the show began the second you pulled into our parking lot and met our valet attendant.” After the rush of adrenaline wears off, the patron chuckles or issues a sigh of relief and walks in the direction of the theatre.
My response is not meant to be sarcastic, rude, or even comical, but to introduce theatre as a fully immersive experience with the show acting as the cherry on top of the cake. Before a patron can enjoy a performance, they must undergo several steps:
1. Park the car.
2. Pick up the tickets at the box office.
3. Grab a refreshment from the concession stand.
4. Visit the restroom.
5. Find their seat with the assistance of an usher.
If a patron makes it to their seat with smooth sailing, they will be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the show. If a patron experiences a bumpy road along the way. i.e. a rude valet attendant, an unknowledgeable box office representative, unsanitary facilities, or an usher that ignores them, they will be less likely to enjoy the show, which can affect the most important form of advertising…WORD OF MOUTH! If a patron has a bad experience at the theater, they are more likely to talk negatively about the show to their friends and family which, can impact ticket sales and hurt a company’s profit margin. Ensuring the entire front of house staff knows good customer service practices and is fully trained on the show’s important details will only add to the show’s success and encourage repeat business to the venue.