Guidance for House Managers

Introduction & overview

What’s involved in being House Manager?

  • Why we need one – As we perform in so many venues right across the South of England it is impossible to take a House Manager with us. A small scale touring company like ours just can’t afford to pay someone to do it, not only wages but accommodation and travel. Besides we have some fantastic and really bright supporters who like to help their communities have great theatre come to their villages. And it makes a huge difference to us, especially in the complicated time we are living in.
  • Help for you isn’t far away – Basically you will be in charge front of house, that is ‘audience side’ – and you aren’t on your own. Backstage there will be Rowan, the Tour Manager for the company, and another actor with the designated responsibility to liaise with you, the Actor FOH Manager. When you arrive go back stage and ask Rowan who it is. If there is anything you are unsure about just ask.
  • Your team – During these Covid times there will be four other stewards – a ‘Ticket steward’ & three ‘Site stewards’. The former’s job is a little bit complicated because it involves checking the bookings and getting the paperwork right. You don’t need to know all that yourself unless you want to. Click here for Ticket steward guidance. The ‘Site stewards’ have a fairly easy job, basically guiding people round the site so we can meet Government regulations and proper safety protocols – and selling programmes. We want to push up programmre sales in future. We need the money! It’s important you check the guidance for this because you’ll be the one telling them what to do on the night! So click here for Site steward guidance.

The routine on the night

When you arrive

  • Timing & first things to do  – You need to get there at 5.15, that is 30 minutes before the public are let in, but some venues start earlier. Check our marketing for times or with the local organiser (who might be you!)
  • Check in backstage with Rowan – He will tell you who is looking after front of house & who will have the BBB (‘Big Black Box’) which you need to give your Ticketing steward & the Pole! See below. Check with Rowan about when you can open the House, when the show is about to begin, when the second half is about to begin and when you are ready to leave at the end of the evening.
  • Check the gates – Ensure that the ‘gates’ (See below) are across the entrance to the Booking tent, the Entrance gate & the Exit gate, to indicate the audience space is not yet open. Rowan will tell you when to open them.
  • Meet with your team – Make sure they are all there, give them their ‘bibs’ and tell them what to do. The Ticketing steward should know most of what he/she has to do if they’re read the guidance!

Covid arrangements for 2021

  • The Booking tent – For this summer we will have our Booking tent standing quite separately from the ‘arena’. The public will then have to queue and go into the Booking tent first – one group at a time – to be booked in by the Ticket steward and then go to a separate Entrance gate in the fence where the booking tent usually is to enter the arena. To get out again they will have to leave by a separate Exit gate.
  • Social distancing – All this is to avoid the usual pinch point in the booking tent which would force everyone to be too close to each other. With a bit of luck Covid requirements will have changed & one metre social distancing will be enough, or even none (!!). For the moment, of course, it’s two.
  • The stewardsSteward 1 should be guiding the queue into the Booking tent, Steward 2 controlling the Entrance gate & Steward 3 controlling the Exit gate. Point out where these are.

What you have to do when the public arrive

  • You are in charge! And will need confidence, calm and an air of authority – ‘an obvious presence’ in the arena. There will be a House Manager bib. Some people have said they would like to dress up! Why not? We want the night to be fun & lift some of the gloom. It’s up to you.
  • Stand in the arena until Steward 2 who will be at the Entrance gate indicates that a group is ready to go in. Take one group in at a time to their seating position. Their hands should have been stamped or some (who have an aversion to hand stamps) should have passes.
  • They must sit where they are put otherwise we won’t be able to do the requisite social distancing. If  people want to sit at the front they’ll need to come early & be at the front of the queue.
  • Seat them in groups from the front to the back, from the middle outwards and each side of the aisle in the order they come. It could be left or right first; give them a choice.
  • The stage will be in a ‘semi-thrust stage’ position, that is, with the audience wrapped round on three sides more than usual with long rows. Pete Talbot will direct the show so ‘front on’ action can be shared out on three sides fairly. We will try to avoid it being 100% ‘side on’ experience for anyone.

Getting them seated & the pole!

  • You will have a two metre pole to measure out distances on the ground.
  • The groups should be in bubbles, so can sit naturally as they come & not too spread out but about a metre per chair or rug. A normal sensible spread. Then measure two metres with the pole (unless restrictions have changed) before you seat the next group. Your backstage contact will show you how long the rows should be.
  • There should be no additional rugs on the ground, except what they are sitting on & NO PICNICS ON THE GROUND! The footfall in aisles must be absolutely free.
  • When you start a new row there should be a two-metre gap – from the back of the row to the knees of the people on the row behind. At most venues you will end up with five or six long curving rows.
  • Try to avoid using the pole for hitting annoying members of the public, for example, the blue rinse brigade who may wish to sit just where they like.

Tables

  • Note that NO TABLES will be admitted into the arena.
  • People can eat with food  ‘on their laps’ or a couple of bags tucked in at their feet but with no picnic areas set out on the ground.
  • Movement around the space and in aisles must be absolutely unhindered.

High backed chairs

  • Some people bring chairs that have very high backs making it impossible for the people behind to see.  They are not allowed!
  • If they don’t have an alternative we do have a few spare chairs in the van and will be put out in the Booking tent.

Exit gate

  • Point out the Exit gate & tell them they can go out that way but come in through the Entrance gate.
  • If they want to buy merchandise they can go back to the Booking tent at the interval if they combine it with going to the loo or the end via the Exit gate.

At the interval

  • The first half is normally about one hour & ten minutes. When the first half comes to an end announce to the audience that there will an interval of 20 minutes & that they should restrict going out unless they need to go to the loo & if they do then respect social distancing.
  • Ask them to have picnics on their laps only.
  • Tell them that merchandise is on sale in the booking tent but should wait until after the show unless they can combine it with going to the loo & that they should pay with a cheque.
  • Finally, tell them that at the end of the show they should wait in their seats until they are let out group by group.

End of the show

  • Until the show is on the road it’s impossible to know when it will finish, but it’s normally between 9.50 & 10.10.
  • Once the bows are over remind them to STAY IN THEIR SEATS.
  • Let the groups out two at a time, leaving a brief gap between them, using both the Exit & the Entrance gates.
  • It would be really helpful if you can help tidy up the Booking tent and get everything back where it should be before you go.

Finally

Thank you so much for doing this! We are eternally grateful. If you have any questions email Pete on therudes1948@gmail.com

Pete Talbot, Artistic director, The Rude Mechanical Theatre Co

To go back to the Front of house Volunteering page Click here