Introduction & overview
A really important job for volunteers
- A key job for us – So many of you support us by providing Front of House teams and we are so grateful. It is a really important job & without your help we simply couldn’t function as a touring theatre company. There are usually about fifty performances all needing at least two people to run front of house & ideally four. We don’t always get four nor even two to be honest & often rely on the same fairly small group of people, so we are trying to persuade more people to sign up. It can be a nerve-wracking & complicated job so we have thoroughly studied how we can make it easier & changed a few things.
But why do we need a course?
- It can get complicated – Having sometimes hundreds of people pouring in through our small front of house tent can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it before and, even for those of you who have, remembering everything isn’t easy.
- The reasons – One reason it’s complicated is that there are several different ways of buying tickets. We will look at these in detail in Session 2 of the course. The reason we do it is to cater for different people’s preferences. Some people are happy to buy online. Some people are rattled by it, especially when they see the transactions are being done through Paypal, which they are nervous about. Some people want to buy tickets over the counter from a fellow human in their own village & some people prefer to wait until the night & pay on the door – and some people take advantage of large group offers. We have thought about this a lot & wondered at times if it is worth the trouble but have come to the conclusion that it is. We don’t want to make it hard for people to come.
- So, the course – Hence, to make it easier for you to understand it all, we have decided to provide this course so you know in advance at your leisure what’s going to happen & don’t get thrown into confusion on the night. Many of you are ‘old hands’ but it’s always worth making sure you know what’s what, especially as we have introduced some changes.
The course is easy!
- Three sessions (including this one) – It’s divided into three sessions & so you don’t have to do it all at once & only involves reading & thinking it through. There’s no homework to be marked! Just a commitment to read it & think about it at a time when you want.
- There are some! – We know the people who commit to it are bright people so it’s a good mental challenge which can’t do any harm. But being there on the night is fun if you can relax & enjoy the atmosphere. You’re part of the team supporting The Rudes & you get in for free! It may not be for everybody, but if it’s your kind of thing then you will enjoy it.
The routine on the night
When you arrive
- Timing – You need to get there 15 minutes before the public are let in & ensure that the rope (See below) is across the entrance to the front of house tent to indicate the audience space is not yet open. This will usually be 5.45 with the public allowed in at 6.00 & the show starting at 7.30. There a couple of exceptions: Whitstable & Michelham Priory start at 7.15, & there may be others, so at those venues you need to arrive by 5.30.
- The first thing to do – When you arrive set out the front of house tent with two tables on opposite sides of the tent for two queues – Make sure there is room for people to get past each side of the pole – & the two signs indicating which queue is which. This is new! The cast may have done this already if they have time.
- Merchandise – They should also have put out two Really Useful boxes of merchandise (See Session 3 for more details.) These should be displayed ready for customers when you finally let them in. There will be more details about this in Session 3 of the course
- The Big Black Box – Then go to the actors’ tent backstage & ask who is dealing with front of house. Sometimes Glenn Overington (our Front of House manager) or Pete Talbot (the director) will be there & will guide you. They will give you the BBB (the Big Black Box). In it will be a green zip up folder with the record sheets (See Session 2), a pile of programmes, a bell, two or more hand stamps, some pens, a cloth to cover up merchandise & a money box with a float.
- The programmes – Count how many programmes there are & record the number on the back page of the record sheets in the box provided (See Session 3). Set out the merchandise & a pile of programmes on Table 1 (See below). Leave yourself room to write on the record sheet & for the cash box. Put the BBB next to Table 2 to your side.
- The two tables – Table 1 is where all the selling will happen, for people who want to buy on the night, for programmes & merchandise. Table 2 is for dealing with ticket holders (that is, they have paid in advance & will have paper tickets of different types). Have two people on Table 1, one selling the tickets & recording the sales on page 1 of the record sheets (We accept cash or cheques made out to ‘The Rude Mechanical Theatre Co’ or ‘RMTC’ , but not cards) & the other selling the programmes & merchandise. Have one person on Table 2 receiving the pre-sold tickets, ticking them off on pages 2 & 3 of the record sheets (See below) & storing them in the BBB . Of course, if there are only two of you, then it will have to be one person per table, but we will try to get three people & ideally four per show.
- The record sheets – The record sheets will be in the green folder; detach page 1 & 4 for Table 1 & leave the other two pages stapled together & keep them on Table 2. There’s more detail about all this in Sessions 2 & 3 of this course, but basically page 1 is for selling tickets & page 4 for recording merchandise sales (among other things).
Letting people in & organising the seating
- At 5.55 pm – check with Rowan (the on the road manager & actor) that the cast are ready & off the stage & if they are remove the rope from the entrance, let people in & start processing them (See Session 2). Before you let them through stamp their hand. This is new!
- Organising the seating – If there is a fourth person they should go into the arena & direct the audience to where they can sit. Ropes on the ground mark off the front behind the gaslights & an aisle down the middle. Leave a space at the front of about a metre & a half for people to sit on the ground & then establish the front row. Try & get everyone to sit in rows & fairly close. Some won’t! But try & be flexible; coax rather than insist. Check to see there are no high backed chairs spoiling people’s view. If there are, politely ask them to sit to the side or the back, or offer them a lower backed chair. We have some spares. Be polite but insist. It is only fair.
- Tables & grouping – Only small tables are permitted. Don’t let groups sit in large circles. One good way to seat larger groups is for them to sit in two rows, half facing forwards & half backwards, then they can turn round when the show is ready to start. Explain this to people if they start making a circle.
- Dogs & babies – Dogs are permitted as long as they don’t bark. Explain this to people as they come in & tell them that they should take their dog out if it wants to join in. Some dogs are freaked out by the white make-up & colourful costumes. The publicity makes clear the show isn’t suitable for babies & toddlers & hopefully people won’t bring them, but, if they do, explain that they must be taken out if they become distracting. Don’t turn people away because they haven’t complied.
- At about 15 minutes before the start – At about 7.15 (usually) ask everyone to turn to the front & into lines if they haven’t already.
Ready for the start
- At 7.25 – Check with Rowan whether the cast are ready to start. If they are ring the bell to encourage stragglers to get a move on. Put the rope across the entrance, cover up the merchandise & programmes with the sheet provided, put the cash box in the BBB & take it to your seat. Two of you need to sit near the entrance.
- About 8.40 – The first half is normally about an hour & ten minutes (so the interval begins at about 8.40). Two people should go back to the front of house tent, remove the rope to allow people out during the interval, uncover the programmes & merchandise & be ready to sell. You could take it in turns to man the table each for half the interval allowing you to go to the loo if you need.
- About 9.00 – After 20 minutes check with Rowan that the team are ready. If there’s a big crowd & a long ‘loo queue’ it may be longer. Liaise with Rowan. When he is ready ring the bell, wait until everyone is back & put the rope back. The play may re-start before this but that’s fine. Put everything back in the BBB & return to your seat with the box.
- Early starts – Don’t forget at a couple of venues everything is 15 minutes earlier.
At the end
- Anyone for 10.00-ish – 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. Remove the rope again & monitor people leaving with your torches.
- Calculate how many programmes you’ve sold – Count how many programmes you have left, deduct from the number you started with & record how many you have sold on the back page of the record sheets.
- Putting things away – Put the record sheets back in the green zip up folder with the cash & cheques & put that & the now empty cash box in the BBB & the merchandise back in its boxes. Take the BBB to the actor who is looking after front of house issues. His or her name is written on the back sheet of the record sheets. This person will hopefully have got the ticket book from the local box office & will ask you to put it in the green folder. There may be more than one book. The local organiser might give you this instead. Fold the tables up and…