Thursday, October 18, 2007

Coffee, Alcohol, Weed and Potato Chips...

posted by brad at 11:11 PM
...these are the substances that test us.

Let me explain. Tonight we had a great crowd going into the show - a capacity of about 85% and a couple of enthusiastic groups to boot. It had all the makings of a fantastic night in the theatre... that's when I knew we were in trouble.

At about 1 minute to curtain a non-traditional looking band of 5 roughneck men came up and checked in for the show. It appeared they had already enjoyed a few cold, frosty beverages before arriving, and they proceeded to purchase more beer and wine from the concessions bar as I was trying to help start the show as house manager. Then they pulled out some of our folding chairs in the back of the house and spread out in our overflow seating area so as to have plenty of room. They were now under surveillance.

As we started the show, we were only missing a party of two in terms of purchased tix not picked up. At about 8:20, near the end of the first scene (which of course sets everything up in the story) a mild attack on the theatre doors began. I raced to open them and see who was on the other side. A lovely young couple in their early twenties entered - it was the two we were missing - and they brought in with them such a strong cloud of residual pot smoke that I almost reached contact high.

Late audience arrivals can be pretty problematic in a lot of small theatres and ours is no different. In general, noise in the lobby has always been a challenge of ours. Despite the fact that the lobby is separated from the theatre space, it is only separated by velour drapes and a short set of stairs. However, the audience always seems to behave as if the velour drapes are a wall of yard thick concrete. They come into the lobby to answer their phones, use the restrooms (what are we in kindergarten, you REALLY can't wait til intermission?), or arriving late, persist to ask in full voice "has it started yet?"

Anyway, I escort the high flying young couple to seats in the back row and they are instantly entertained. The show IS hilarious and visually stunning, perfect for a young couple in love with their bud.

Next, the coffee attacks. The coffee shop I should say. On Thursday nights in the fall season, the coffee house next door plays live music for its 15 or 16 customers. The music is always pretty good - some sort of Latin jazz or percussion, but it ultimately escalates in volume until it is reverberating in the theatre, adding unfavorably to the production's sound design. Before I can get too concerned with the encroaching sounds of Salsa, I hear the single worst noise you can have in the theatre - other than coughing - CRINKLING!

I try to sleuth out where this obnoxious and persistent crinkling sound is coming from. I of course check out the obvious perps - thinking our late arrivals brought a case of the munchies in with them. To my surprise, they are not responsible. No eating or crinkling, just an out of this world open mouthed focus. I move on... and of course, am led to our fellas in the back row. One of them seemed to be snacking on a small bag of chips and was passing it around to the gang, with all of them trying to stick their giant man hands into the tiny bag to find sustenance. I politely shush them, and they are cool with it, but not before having a audible discussion about who's fault it was. At least they were in the back - and they really were enjoying the show as I watched them... they just needed some nachos or a pretzel for this event. Intermission comes, more drinks purchased, assuring a great buzz for the second act.

Immediately after intermission (no walk-outs as far as I could tell) I run over to the coffee house to ask if they can turn the amplification down. They agree, and do. I feel good about this small victory. Just then a young man from our rowdy man group in the back comes out to use the restroom and drops his glass beer bottle on the concrete floor. It exploded into what looked like 10,000 pieces and now I am on mop boy duty. He then spends about ten minutes in the bathroom - I don't want to know why.

Fifteen minutes later, the music from the coffee house grows louder and stays that way for the rest of the evening, until it magically stops for the final ten minutes of the show, which was a real treat for the actors, to not have to deliver lines about the end of the world over the sound of a Latin female jazz/scat artist. To cap it all off, at a key moment in the final scenes a pretty disturbing action plays out between the cannibals and vegetarians. I won't give the full spoiler details of what happens onstage at this moment, but right on cue, one of our buzzed boys in the back row says to his other pals, loud enough for all to hear, "tastes like chicken." And... curtain!


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