05 August 2007

Adventures in House Managing

And here I thought finding a tube of Vicodin in the theatre was going to be my exciting house managing experience this month . . .

Last night, like most Saturday nights, I was working. House managing at the other theatre I work at, not the one I'm at all the time. The show is a kid's version of Sondheim's Into The Woods (I think the only difference is that they only do the first act, but I'm not really sure). All of the actors are kids and the audience is made up of their friends, family and other families with kids. Y'know, a kid's show.

I hate kid's shows.

Now, more than ever.

Normally, the worst part of the kid's shows is (you guessed it) the kids. Kids are a problem because, well, they're little and they get in the way, but also because they're much harder to wrangle than adults are. It's harder to get them to sit and stay in their seats. It's also harder to keep them from bringing candy into the theatre (a big no-no). And, of course, parents with little kids are always late and generally don't buy tickets in advance. Yesterday was no exception.

Since our audience was almost entirely teen-agers or parents with little kids, that meant none of them had the forethought or willingness to make life easier for everyone by purchasing their tickets in advance . . . because of that, a show that was supposed to start at 7:30 actually started at 7:50.

This has happened exactly twice in my long and illustrious career as a house manager: Once a couple of months ago when the entire sound system was fried and we had to set up a new one (and by "we" I mean other people who know things about stuff) and last night. There wasn't anything I could do about it, but sit back and try to keep the people calm. So it goes.

Just as we were selling tickets to the last couple of people in line, a young floppy haired fellow came in. He was tallish and thin with Crocks on his feet and on his face he wore the unholy spawn of Elton John's and Bono's sunglasses. We sold him a ticket, but I did make sure to tell him that normally if he showed up 20 minutes after the show is supposed to start he'd be out of luck. I told him it was very unusual that we were starting this late and he assured me that it was unusual for him to show up that late. So, okay, I get him into his seat just as the show is starting and everything seems to be copasetic.

Turns out, the fun was just beginning.

Here's what happened: Just as I was wrapping up my tight 10 minute intermission (actually, I was ready with 1:32 left to spare) one of the ushers grabbed me and said "Someone just told me there's a guy passed out in there and they think he's drunk."

Now, I've had drunk people in the theatre before (often actors) and usually it's not a big deal. Passed out is a new one for me. I said to the usher "Oh fuck. Where is he?" She brings me into the house and shows me to him. Luckily, our drunk is right near the door because, you guessed it, it's our floppy haired friend who bought his ticket at the last minute.

So, I walk over to him and tap his shoulder "Sir? Sir?" Nothing. I shake his shoulder: "Sir? Sir?" Still nothing. I can see that he's breathing so I've got that going for me, but otherwise he's totally unresponsive. I've seen plenty of drunk people before, I've even seen people passed out before but this guy was (almost literally) comatose. Shit. I walk around the other side of him and see half a bottle of Heineken sitting next to him. 'How the hell--?'

Now I'm less worried about him and more pissed off.

One of the other ushers comes up to me and says she knows him; she went to high school with him. "Alright, help me wake him up." She kneels down next to him and really gives him a good shake. Doesn't even change his breathing. Meanwhile, all of the kids around there are freaking out (and many of their parents) so I say, "we've got to get him out of here. Help me carry him."

I lift this drunken waif out of his chair and only once I've gotten one of his arms slung over my shoulder does he wake up at all. He mutters something and I start moving him out. On my way out the door, I turn to the crew and say, "Go ahead and start the show."

"Alright, good idea."

"Not you," I tell the drunk.

So, we're moving out to the lobby and he's starting to make more noises. While I'm relieved that at least he's awake-ish, I'm filled with the knowledge that this dumb ass will likely puke all over the carpet or, more likely, me. I hate him even more now. Luckily we get him plopped down on a bench in the lobby without any regurgitation happening.

Priority One: Make sure he's okay. He tells me he's fine, I offer and ambulance, he declines. I explain to him just how not fine he appears to be. No really, he tells me, he's fine. How much has he had to drink? Three beers. Which means he's either a lightweight or he's not counting the other things he's been indulging in. Alright, can I call you a taxi? No, he lives just around the corner. Is he sure? Yes, he's sure.

Priority Two: Kick his ass. "How old are you?" He starts to get mad. 21, he tells me. I ask for his ID. Yup, he's 21, as of a month ago. "Where did this beer come from?" "My pocket. I got it at the fucking beer store." I skillfully avoided swearing at him until this time. I wanted to seem professional or something. But once he's introduced it into the conversation, all bets are off.

"What the fuck are you doing bringing a beer into the theatre? For a fucking kids show?"

"I do it all the time, I thought it would be okay," he says.

"You show up drunk to a goddamn kids show, you pass out in the theatre, scaring the shit out of a bunch of little kids and you think that's going to be okay? We don't even allow water in there, why the fuck do you think it's going to be okay to bring in a beer?!" I'm not yelling, instead I'm getting quieter, more intense. In my head I'm a badass and he's too drunk to know any better.

"I dunno. What's the big deal?"

What's the big deal?

"Get the hell out of here. Just get the fuck out." I'm using my big man voice and pointing dramatically at the door, the way my dad used to when he wanted the dog to get out of his chair.

Drunky McDrunkerton staggers to his feet.

"Can I at least have my ticket and one of them booklets?" I hand him a program and tell him that he has his fucking ticket. "Are you going to be here tomorrow for the-- this show," he says, gesturing to the other show on the program (its summer rep so there are two rotating shows).

"No, and you shouldn't be either."

"I'll be here," he says defiantly.

"If you ever show up drunk here again I will call the police. Now, please, get the fuck out of here." He staggers out the door and into the street where he is immediately hit by a car.

Okay, not really, but wouldn't that have been a kicker?

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