The ups and downs and ins and outs of being an usher with staci b. | Backstage | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The ups and downs and ins and outs of being an usher with staci b.

click to enlarge staci b. - CP PHOTO JOIE KNOUSE
CP Photo Joie Knouse
staci b.

staci b., Friendship

Volunteer usher at PICT Classic Theatre, City Theatre, New Hazlett Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Texture Contemporary Ballet

How did you get started?

Back when I was in high school, my mother was friends with the volunteer coordinator at the [Pittsburgh Public Theater]. So in the '80s, I was seeing Leonard Nimoy in I think it was Twelfth Night, I got to see Sylvia Sidney and Judith Ivey in ‘Night Mother. At 16 or 17, I had no idea what I was seeing; now, as who I am it’s like, “Holy crap.” 

Were you a fan of theater?

I was weaned on PBS, and my mother was a huge theater fan; she’s the one who got me into it. 

What are your duties?

Be the face of the theater company and keep that in mind at all times. If you ask somebody not to take food or beverage into the theater, how you do it creates a perception of the theater company. A lot of people don’t know you’re a volunteer. 

Take tickets, show people to their seats, hand out programs. Sometimes there’s pre-work, programs need to be stuffed with flyers — we’re really pretty good here in Pittsburgh about promoting each other’s work. You’ll find a PICT flyer inside a Public program. 

Keep an eye on things. If there’s an emergency, take a leadership role in getting people out of the theater. In all my years, that’s never happened, but we’re all informed about the emergency exits so that should something happen we would be able to take charge [of].

How do you learn to do it?

If you have a brain and are paying attention, it’s not rocket science. Each theater has its own specific policies, so they’ll remind you of those. You usually have to be there an hour and a half before the show. They always have a group meeting prior to opening the house doors, go over trivia about the show, what it was like when it was on Broadway, how the show came together, who’s directing it, and all that kind of stuff. Obviously, we’re all theater hounds or we wouldn’t be there, so that’s kinda cool to get to hear some of the backstory

Do you get to have those conversations with patrons?

[With] most patrons, it’s a quick thing: show me to my seat, give me my program, let’s call it a day. But others like to chat, and it’s nice to have some of that trivia fresh in your mind to share. 

Do you have a theater background?

I got into doing improv and acting when I was in New York, and then in Tampa even more — which is bizarre. But that’s what happened. I have an MFA from Point Park in Writing for the Stage and Screen. I’m a member of the Dramatists Guild. I went and got a master’s degree, and now I’m all about writing the essay and on my fourth novel. 

When you’re there as a patron and volunteer, are you also there as a writer?

I can’t leave it out of the room. I’ve tried. And as an actor too. 

Do you have ongoing relationships with people?

We have, “Hey how are you? How have things been?” For some of them, there is that kind of relationship, but most of the time, they just bought the tickets, and this is where their seats are, as opposed to them being season subscribers.

Is your favorite part watching the shows?

I would say interacting with the patrons and getting to see the show are probably tied for the top. I enjoy seeing the people; I enjoy being around them. I won’t go so far as to call it family, but it is of sorts. 

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