Footlights Blog

Open the House Already!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

By: Lawrence Boomer

Have you ever wondered why some theaters turn their lobby into a holding pen? (They know who they are…) Anticipation is great, of course, but what’s the point of refusing to open the auditorium or “house” until right before curtain? By that point tiny lobbies can reach the population density of Calcutta at noon.

Worse, if there’s general admission, there’s the possible risk of a stampede as the penned-up audience rushes to get the best seats. (This is especially possible with rock musicals…)


Of course, it also ensures that the show won’t start at curtain time. So, in effect, the good patrons are punished for their punctuality—while latecomers get rewarded by strolling in at the last minute as if the curtain was held especially for them. Which they probably believe…


It’s up to the house manager to get the cue from the stage manager to open the house for the paying public. Sometimes there’s a reason, good or lousy, for delaying that group entrance. If it’s opening night and the designer has worked down to the wire, the paint may not be completely dry on the set. Or the script may require actors to be stationed on the set in mute and frozen postures, so, understandably, the stage manager doesn’t want to prolong their agony.


But those are the only explanations I can accept—certainly not that the concession stand needs to sell one more beer. Like a church—and the theater is a temple!—you should be able to enter early and compose yourself for the marvelous make-believe to come. It’s a bad start to be aching from standing, then breathless from rushing in.


Drama demands dignity: Stage managers shouldn’t treat audiences like they’re a necessary evil, to be delayed as long as possible. Of course, we’re the reason for it all and we shouldn’t be discouraged from our delight.


What do you think? Does this ring a tiny bell or what?


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