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The Secret Lives Of Ushers – Paramount Theater – Seattle, WA

The rhythm of a large theater that hosts everything from touring Broadway shows to heavy metal bands, mosh pit included, dictates the lives of the ushers. Typically, the doors open an hour before the show with actual seating taking place in the 30 minutes before show time. This wait period is called holding the house and gives the stagehands, sound people, and performers one final opportunity to get everything just so.

This means that the ushers have 30 minutes to get everyone that made it to the theater on time seated correctly. This can be a very challenging process depending on the type of audience attracted to a given act.

Some shows have a culture where it is fashionable to hang out in the lobby during the opening acts and then at the last possible moment head into the theater for the headliner. This is called late seating and requires that the ushers take each party to their assigned seats; typically, the lights are down in the theater at this time with the show in progress.

If the people who were seated earlier spontaneously decide to upgrade their seats, the ushers are now faced with getting the interlopers back to their assigned seats while seating the proper party in those seats. This typically occurs when the band is playing at 100 decibel or in the second row on the main floor during a quiet part of a play.

Then comes one of two things, the big wait (Broadway) or the big busy (rock shows). The types of things that can occur are directing people to the restrooms, to dealing with people who have had way too much time to party, or in the most extreme cases dealing with somebody having a heart attack.

After the show ends some ushers will cover one exit or another while other ushers will go through the entire theater looking lost items. Eventually they all end up near the front doors where they are “cut” for the night. Somewhere in that word is poetry.

The quality of these shots are abysmal – a direct consequence of the snagging a shot on the fly in lighting conditions that are anything but friendly. Still they do capture something about the secret lives of ushers.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.

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