Tuesday, July 17, 2007

“You Must See Every Show!”

posted by A.J. Fucile
Flynn Box Office Manager

“You Must See Every Show!”

I hear that a lot. As manager of the Box Office, I do tend to work a lot of shows—but seeing them doesn’t go hand in hand with working them. That said, I am exposed to some interesting moments that I otherwise would not experience as an audience member. And even when I’m not personally interested in the performer on stage, I always appreciate the unique point of view.

The toughest shows to work sometimes are the ones that you would prefer to see as an audience member. But these shows do have their rewards. My favorite example is Trey Anastasio at Memorial Auditorium a few years ago during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. With Phish recently returning from hiatus, Trey’s solo activities were generating all kinds of excitement, and I was particularly curious to check out his band firsthand. But of course, the Box Office had its hands full with the sold out show, making sure there were no ticket issues and that all guests to the event were taken care of properly. Sometimes this is challenging (when someone receives the wrong tickets) and sometimes it's rewarding (meeting Martin St. Louis, UVM hockey star and NHL Stanley Cup winner). By set break, I hadn’t had the chance to hear any of Trey’s show, and needed to prepare some settlement items with the promoter and tour manager. So I found myself in the dressing room reviewing numbers. And that, of course, offers a window behind the scenes. I was sitting at a table with the tour manager when the band left the stage to come back for their break. I got to see Trey greet Jon Fishman (again, Phish had just returned from hiatus, so this was particularly exciting to witness). I got to hear the band chat about the set they had just played—what worked, what didn’t, what they might play next set…. For most shows that require a high level of detail, I’m lucky to be able to watch the encore. In the case of this Trey show, I was lucky enough to watch the encore from the side of the stage, as Trey and Jennifer Hartswick played a cover of The Beastie Boys’ Root Down. They each had microphones in hand and were facing off center stage. From my vantage point, Trey was almost looking right at me. If I didn’t work here, how else would I ever have been able to witness this?

And then there are the shows that are hugely popular but may not appeal to me on a personal level. I’m always tickled by people who are so excited about the show they are going to see that they expect I am equally excited. The theater seems an extension of my office at times. It’s almost literally right outside my door. So, after a good eight-hour day, even when the show is one I might have an interest in, I usually prefer to go home, as opposed to stay at the theater another few hours, only to go home, sleep, and come right back in the morning. (You need the change of scenery.) A good example is this past weekend’s two James Taylor shows. One of our regular volunteer Spirits saw me and said, “Aren’t you so happy to be here?” I thought about it, and said, “I’m not unhappy to be here. But on a Sunday night, I’d probably prefer to be with my wife for the evening.”

Later that evening, the promoter requested that I go back to the dressing room to ensure there was no question with the settlement figures. I had to walk past the side of the stage, and paused a moment to see James Taylor working this elaborate contraption that I heard him refer to as a “drum machine.” Even though I’m not personally a fan of his music, I did find him to be a great entertainer. And that’s one of the benefits of this job—seeing performers you might not otherwise choose to see on your own, and being surprised by it.

Another example of wanting to see a show, but not ending up being able to, would be when B.B. King was here at the Flynn about five or six years ago. I had never seen him before, and I had every intention of watching the show after I got out of work, went home, ate, and then planned to come back. The problem was that there was a bit of an ice storm that day, and I spent most of it on the phone talking to customers, explaining that the show was not cancelled; the performer was here, the power was on, the roads were open, and the show would go on. (This was not always good news for those that lived a fair distance away and did not want to deal with road conditions.) So, after eight hours of frustrated customers, I decided I would have to wait and see B.B. the next time he came to town. (Which I did, about three years later.)

Sadly, I only see maybe one or two shows start to finish on our stage each year, and I happen to have graduated with a theater degree! But my degree continues to benefit from my arts education here at the Flynn. While I may not see every show, I do tend to step into the back of the theater for a few minutes when something comes through our doors that I am not familiar with. For instance, I have a much better appreciation for dance companies now than when I started work here—at that time, Twyla Tharp was not a name that meant anything to me. It does now. As do so many other touring theater productions that I am happy to be acquainted with.

I do sometimes quietly yearn for the day when I am just another member of the audience and can take my family out to the theater for a night out, including a dinner before the show and the ability to leave whenever it might suit me. But I still have a lot of shows to see in the meantime....

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