Many people interested in theatre find themselves working Front of House at a theatre. I myself have worked front of house at two West End shows in the past, and it is something out of work actors find themselves doing too. Front of House work consists of many different components and is different most nights. Just a few ideas of things that a front of house team member might get up to are auditorium work, ice cream/sweets/drinks sales, bar work, giving directions, checking tickets, escorting latecomers to their seats and many other bits and bobs.
Front of House, like any customer service job, is a minefield of obstacles. You are regularly confronted with people who have never been to the theatre before in their lives and have no idea how to behave. Faced with this knowledge, I thought I would put together a guide of the best ways to keep Front of House staff on your side.
1) Thou Shalt Not Sit Where You Want.
See that number on your ticket? That’s where your seat is. If you don’t know where that is do ask a Front of House person – that’s what they’re there for. Don’t just wander into the theatre happy as Larry and sit wherever you please. When you are directed to the correct seat, don’t be surprised when it’s at the back when you’ve paid fifteen pounds. Nothing comes for free nowadays and good views in a theatre are generally expensive.
2) Thou Shalt Be Polite
Your friendly neighbourhood Front of House people are there to help. If you don’t need help, politely decline if it is offered. If you do, do not demand it. Ask politely.
3) Thou Shalt Realise What Is Out Of Front Of House Control
Bought your ticket from a man in Leicester Square? Sitting at the back even though you paid £70? Common sense would say that it’s not the fault of the Front of House, or indeed the theatre. Bear that in mind. If you have an issue with a third party bought ticket, best to take it up with the third party! Lead actor not on? Not Front of House’s fault – by all means ask who to talk to but don’t shout and scream about it.
4) Thou Shalt Not Whine About The Price Of Ice Cream/’Sweets/Drinks
Again, Front of House just sell the stuff – they don’t price it! Everyone knows theatre confectionery, drinks and ice cream are expensive. Either buy it and don’t moan or don’t buy it. Simples!
5) Thou Shalt Be Aware The Actors Are People
I once had a situation where an actor corpsed on stage due to another actor falling over. It was funny. Somehow, though, some audience members were disrespectful of the fact that the actors were humans and preceded to shout at anyone nearby for a refund. I was always taught you get what you want by being polite…
6) Thou Shalt Follow Instructions
Assume that when a Front of house person tells you to do something that they are doing it for a reason. It makes everyone’s life easy. Also, don’t assume that because a Front of House person is telling you to do something that they made up the rule. Chances are there is a higher power involved!
7) Thou Shalt Keep Thy Children Under Control
Front of House are not babysitters. Keep your children close and well behaved.
8) Thou Shalt Leave The Camera In The Bag
There is nothing worse as a Front of House person than having to clamber across a row to stop someone taking pictures – especially someone who has been told several times not to. Just… don’t!
9) Thou Shalt Shut Up
Front of House don’t want to tell you to be quiet. They are not school teachers. Have some respect for the actors and your fellow patrons and shhhhh!
10) Thou Shalt Look Under The Lid
There you will find the missing piece – the ice cream spoon. It’s under the lid.
If you follow these simple rules Front of House staff will appreciate you being a good theatregoer. There is nothing greater than a nice audience when working Front of House, and the more nice audience members are out there, the easier it will be for everyone.