Tickets, Please

A theatre box office is an interesting place. The hour before a performance is a frenzy of activity that includes handling the voice mail that has come in since the last time the office was open, selling walk-up tickets, printing will-call tickets, printing tickets for people whose printers ran out of ink or who forgot them at home or who didn’t realize that they had to print the tickets immediately even though there are instructions that say just that.

Those are the easy jobs. It’s pretty simple to make a theatregoer happy when you can reprint that ticket she left on the table near the front door.

But sometimes you have to do difficult jobs when you work in the box office. Sometimes you have to return phone calls and let someone down, because the show is sold out. Sometimes you have to turn people away who show up in person, hoping seats will open up. When the box office is part of a small theatre with no space for extra seating, you don’t get to be flexible there. But I can assure you that the box-office staff and the house manager do their best to find seats to accommodate people whenever possible.

I staffed the box office for 10 out of 12 weekend performances of a community-theatre production these past two weeks. And I did all those things I listed above, and then some. Most of the time it was enjoyable work. But it was Saturday’s final show that did me in.

The show was sold out, and we were able to scrape up a couple of tickets here and there (like when someone realized they really wanted two tickets to Sunday’s show instead of Saturday’s.) So on Friday night when I got a voicemail from someone’s dad with a sob story about how Grandma changed her hair appointment so she could see a show on Saturday that she didn’t even have a ticket for, I got to be the hero of the day. I didn’t have such great news for the mom who called wanting six tickets and telling me a long story about how her child was in the show and she hadn’t seen it yet and she’d promised her daughter that she could bring a bunch of friends but by the time they all got back to her, the show was sold out.

I had two tickets available at that point. The best I could do was to sell her those two tickets and put her on the waiting list for the other four.

At 8:30 Saturday morning that mom called to let me know she only needed three more tickets, and to ask if I had found any yet. I apologized, but promised that I’d put the word out among the moms helping in the green room and the moms selling candygrams and the mom scanning tickets at the door. If anyone heard that someone had a ticket they wouldn’t be using, they promised to send them to the box office.

Box office sq

I never did get those extra tickets. The dad, with Hair-Appointment Grandma in tow, picked up his ticket with a charming smile. Then No-Ticket Mom asked, and was disappointed, about those extra tickets. Suddenly that dad was back at the ticket window.

“Do you see that lady with the three little girls?” he demanded. “She’s going to have to leave here and take them home because there aren’t any tickets for them.”

I apologized (again) that no more tickets were available. I politely refused his request to have extra chairs brought in, and his subsequent demand that the three little girls stand in the aisle during the show. There’s no room for either of those things. But this guy was clearly used to having his own way and did not like hearing me tell him that what he wanted wasn’t going to happen.

It’s not fun to have to say no to someone who wants to watch their child/grandchild/friend perform. But in a small theatre, shows do sell out quickly, and everyone was reminded of this several times before the show opened. And we tried (as we do anytime a show sells out) to scare up extra tickets–we just couldn’t get enough.

Dad, Grandma, Mom and the little girls disappeared into the crowd. I was busy distributing tickets to other theatre patrons and feeling more than a little upset about the way I had been treated over the whole issue, when one of the staff members realized that the whole bunch of them had probably gone into the theatre, somehow making an end run around the person scanning tickets. The grin Dad flashed our way on his way out of the theatre confirmed our suspicions.

I was angry. I don’t like confrontation, and I’d had my fill of it already. I skipped out on the cast party, because I didn’t feel like I could stand there and schmooze with other kids’ parents with a smile on my face. What disturbs me even more is that those little girls were just taught that if someone says you can’t have what you want, you can just go ahead and take it.

No Matter How Small…#MondayBlogs

For the past two weekends, TheKid has been earning service hours by volunteering as a stagehand/cast babysitter at a local Catholic grade school musical: “Seussical Jr.”

Other than driving him back and forth to that school 3 zip codes away, and financing Candygrams for his friends in the cast and fast-food dinner on a double-show Saturday, I had considered myself done. I didn’t have to sell the ‘grams or the soft pretzels; I didn’t have to hang up costumes or fold programs. And honestly, I wasn’t going to go to the show. For all I knew, TheKid was backstage the whole time, “threatening the little kids with a squirt gun” when they got antsy. I wouldn’t see him (or his handiwork) at all.

And then he tells me he’s “in” the show (translation: he runs onstage in one scene and shoots a water gun at Horton the Elephant) so I have to come and watch.

I admit, I was a reluctant audience member. But this show was captivating, and I’m glad I went. The kids did a great job, their Seussian hairstyles were hilarious and fun, and the music was catchy.

Via Flickr (2009), all rights reserved.

Based on everyone’s favorite Dr. Seuss books, “Seussical the Musical” is a mashup of stories featuring the Cat in the Hat as the narrator who gets in on the action sometimes, Horton the Elephant, Yertle the Turtle, Daisy-Head Mayzie, and many others. It’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in Dr. Seuss, but the whole show is in his trademark anapestic tetrameter, and I was thrilled to hear an entire song based on my favorite Dr. Seuss book of all time: McElligot’s Pool!


There were nods to so many Seuss favorites in this show. But the storyline is what really got me.

“Seussical” is the most pro-life musical I’ve ever seen–two pro-life subplots, no waiting!

Based on Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, both these subplots involve the kindhearted elephant who’s “faithful, 100 percent” to the commitments he makes. Horton responds to a call for help from what appears to be nothing but a speck of dust, but he recognizes that there is a whole tiny world on that speck, filled with tiny people and tiny families and they deserve to be protected. He’s ridiculed for this, and some hooligans steal the clover on which he’s settled the speck of dust for safekeeping, but Horton will stop at nothing to save that tiny world.

In the middle of all this, Mayzie, the vain, flighty mean-girl bird, takes advantage of Horton’s helpfulness and takes off for the tropics while Horton babysits the egg on her nest–for almost a year, in all kinds of weather, the whole time worrying about the Whos on that clover somewhere.

Throughout the show, the refrain “A person’s a person, no matter how small” was constant.

If you get the chance to see this show performed, go see it. “Seussical the Musical” features life-affirming messages in a brightly-colored, rhyming package.

Images via Google Images, licensed for noncommercial reuse, and Flickr, all rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS


Small Success: Stagehand Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

It’s so far, so good in the world of this stagehand. I haven’t broken yet, for one.

wizard of oz logo bcfBut I really am a stagehand this week. The Kid is in a show: the Young Performers’ Edition of The Wizard of Oz.

During the week, they perform for primary- and nursery-school field trips. But they’re short on stagehands, so I fill in (as a short stagehand.)

It’s fun to be backstage (and not in the green room where I saw way too many 10-year-old girls taking duck face selfies with their iPhones and posting them on Instagram. In front of their parents, no less. But that’s another story.)


Only one piece of scenery fell down. It was lightweight anyway and it didn’t hit anyone. (And it wasn’t my scenery.)


My only injury was a splinter, and I didn’t even need a needle to remove it. I could have used a nice bath in some Ben-Gay after Tuesday’s shows, though.


I didn’t have to be the one to handle the (real) dog. They had a designated person to walk the dog between scenes.

I’ll be back there for more shows today–and I’ll get my T-shirt today too!

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Wizard of Oz logo via Burlington County Footlighters.

It All Comes Together

At 3:30 this afternoon I will walk into an empty high-school cafeteria. I will unload several hundred paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils from my van. I will tie my apron on, check my clipboard, and fill my cup with ice water I won’t get a chance to drink before the ice melts and it turns lukewarm.

At 5 this afternoon, one hundred high-school students will walk into that same cafeteria and find a full dinner, hot and waiting for them. There will be pasta with sauce and cheese, pasta with sauce and without cheese, and pasta with just olive oil. There will be meatballs, salad, and Italian rolls. There will be dessert and beverages. There will be 15 parents and grandparents with smiles on their faces, ready to serve all this food to the cast, crew and orchestra of the spring musical.

After weeks of planning, fighting with my spreadsheet (I have a love-hate relationship–mostly hate–with Excel), several hundred emails and not a little panic, it’s time for Tech Week Dinners.

Over the weekend, I had several parents contact me out of the blue to ask if there were still any holes in the schedule of volunteers or food. I am happy to say that because of these generous people, who had already donated plenty and offered their help, there are no more blank spaces in my spreadsheet.

Organizing an event of this magnitude that relies completely on donations of food and help is a huge exercise in trust. And, every time, it all comes together. And, every time, I am blown away.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers About Timing

With two weeks to go until Tech Week, I sent out a second long email last night, begging for donations.leaning tower of beverages

There are some nights when I only have 3 helpers (we really need about 10 people) and there are still a lot of food items that we need.

Excuse me while I panic now, over the possibility that I’ll have to finance 600 chicken nuggets, 6 bags of tater tots, 42 cups of fresh fruit, 8 dozen eggs, and 7 crockpots of soup with 10 servings each.

Apparently everyone likes soup, but no one wants to bring any.

Several people responded immediately with a generous list of what they could donate, and I’m thrilled about that.

This morning I woke up to an email that began, “I was waiting for the latest update…” and another one with, “Let me know what else you need. I can contribute more.”

I am trying to balance my gratitude over the generous offers with my frustration that they wanted to wait and see what blanks would be filled in before they offered to fill any.

Frustration is winning. And I can’t let it show, because I am asking people to be generous with their time and donations of food.

My prayer today is for trust:  that in the end, we’ll have what we need. If I had a deeper trust, I wouldn’t be so worried about this right now.


Deer in the Headlights Meets Dinner for 100

Today’s project:  sending a long email to 100 people (at least half of whom I’ve never met) to beg them to donate some food for 7 nights of dinners for 100.

I’m not a professional fundraiser. I’m a Stage Mother. And I do this because I really get behind the high school’s tradition of feeding the cast, crew, orchestra and staff of the spring musical during Tech Week each year.

This van is fully loaded and on the way to one of last year’s Tech Week Dinners.

It’s good for the kids. They get camaraderie, lots of laughs, and a good meal before a grueling rehearsal.

It’s good for the staff. They know the kids will be at rehearsal on time, since they’re required to eat dinner together beforehand.

It’s good for the parents. They know their kids won’t be crossing the state highway that fronts the school to get hoagies or chicken nuggets for their dinner. They don’t have to give their kids dinner money for those 7 rehearsal days. By my estimate, they’re saving at least $50.

Nobody wants the job I’ve taken on, but I love it. There are 3 parts to the job:

  • Plan the menu and figure out how much food will be needed each day
  • Beg for donations
  • Show up and get those dinners on the table

That last is where the deer in the headlights comes in. When 4:00 rolls around and dinner is in an hour, you get that 30 minutes of panic when you wonder if all the donated food is going to show up, and whether all the people who said they’d help will show up, and you run around like a crazy person making 5 gallons of lemonade, baking tater tots and plugging in extension cords for the crockpots of taco meat and having people who never signed up to bring food show up with 100 more meatballs…

But the kids are unfailingly beyond appreciative. They thank us when they show up, when we fill their plates, and before they leave. Some of them come back through the line to say how much they liked something we served that night.

It’s worth every moment of hard work and every panic attack.

And GO!

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

(And this time, it’s not me doing this.)

I got a message from the director of Little Brother’s current show (Little Mermaid, Junior–the children’s production at the local theater this year). The show is double-cast because so many kids tried out AND to allow the kids to rest. This way each child only has to appear in 8 performances instead of all 16. (This mama approves.) Anyway, Little Brother is a member of the Turf cast, but the director wanted to know if he could switch to the Surf cast (cool names!) because the other kid playing Grimsby has a schedule conflict.

LMJBecause the other kid is in another show. A show that opens the same week as this show. So there are conflicts with performances and rehearsals. The other kid had already been cast in this other show when he auditioned for LMJ.

According to Little Brother, there are several kids in the cast who are in the same situation. I got the same impression when I sat around the Green Room on audition night, and it’s only been reinforced by what other parents say as we sit around waiting for rehearsals to end.

These kids are in two shows, each of which rehearses at least twice a week. In addition, they are taking lessons in dance and/or gymnastics and/or voice and/or instruments; they are involved in at least one team sport; some of them are Scouts. WHEN THE HECK DO THEY EAT, SLEEP, STUDY AND PLAY?!

ANYway. These kids are in two shows at the same time. There were kids who didn’t get a part–because other kids (and their parents) thought it was a good idea for their kids to be in two shows at the same time, and there are only so many roles to go around, even with a double cast.

Maybe there are reasons here that I do not see, but I don’t get how this is a good idea.

And I’m willing to bet that these are the same kids who, when they’re seniors in high school, will apply to 25 universities and then wait until May 1 to decide, thus keeping other kids on the waiting list.

When you’re a member of a group, team, cast or ensemble and you double-book yourself, you’re not doing the rest of your group any favors. I wish the parents of these overextended kids would put their collective feet down instead of indulging their kids’ whims (or their own.)

End rant.


best christmas pageant everLittle Brother is rehearsing for another show:  this time it’s the Christmas play at the community theater. He’s playing Charlie Bradley in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Last night he found out what he has to bring for his costume:

  • one church outfit
  • one casual outfit
  • TheDad’s bathrobe

I told him that he needed to check with the director about the church clothes. Normally he wears a golf shirt and khakis to church (then tops it off with his altar-server robe.) I mentioned that the director might have had a button-down shirt in mind when she requested he bring church clothes.

He replied, “If I have to wear a tuxedo, I’m going to flip out.”

Break It To Me Gently

Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for our inability to bring you the Finale that we promised.
–Leading Player, Pippin

In the play, the promised Grand Finale cannot take place because the title character has chosen something better.  Sometimes it works that way in real life, too.

The production of Pippin in which Little Brother was one of a troupe of only 12 actors has had its two final performances canceled–for good reason.  One of the lead characters (the Leading Player) is mourning the sudden loss of a close family member.  The director wisely decided that the best course of action is to cancel the remaining performances, out of love and respect for this actor.

There are times, and this is one of them, when the show must not go on.

A cast of 12, as you can imagine, gets pretty close-knit after three months of rehearsals.  Most of the actors have known each other for quite a while already.  Definitely, the right thing to do is to close the production and focus on supporting this actor in his time of loss.

This is not the Finale we were promised.  It’s not the semi-happy ending you expect for a musical comedy.

The hard part is still ahead.  One actor has to get through this time of grief.  The others will grieve for him.  Cast, crew and band alike will miss the opportunity to celebrate a spectacular Closing Night.  It’s not the way they want to say goodbye to each other.

It will be difficult all around.  Little Brother doesn’t know yet; I’m putting it off until after school.  I didn’t learn of the cancellation until it was almost bedtime last night, and I figured that it would be better not to try to send him off to bed or school right after hearing upsetting news.  (I did tell him that the actor had a death in the family, but that’s all he knows at this point.)

Little Brother invests himself very deeply in the cast of a show.  I’ve seen it happen with The Wizard of Oz and MAME.  Even with this show, after opening weekend was over and there were no more rehearsals, he was sad that he’d have to wait Five Whole Days to see everyone again.

This afternoon I’m going to have to disappoint a little boy.  That’s nothing compared to what one actor is going through, but for a nine-year-old, it’s still a pretty big thing.  I hope that I can help him put aside his own sadness at closing the play early and focus on someone else’s sadness.

When we discussed the question of whether Little Brother would be allowed to audition for this role (the theatre is quite far away and it would be a huge time commitment) my husband observed that being in a play would be a very enriching experience.  At the time, we believed that all it would mean for Little Brother would be growth in confidence and exposure to culture.  We did not expect–surely we should have, but we didn’t–that it would also prove to be a time in which he would learn important life lessons.

Rivers belong where they can ramble,
Eagles belong where they can fly.
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Gotta find my corner of the sky.

In your kindness, remember S. in his time of loss.


I’m a mom.  Multitasking is my superpower.

This weekend, though, I am being forced to be single-minded.  I’m substituting for the light tech at Little Brother’s play.  Fortunately, there’s a high-tech light board that just requires me to push a button labeled “Go” for each cue.

This task requires an amazing amount of focus, as I learned during a rehearsal when I missed several light cues because I had gotten caught up in the play (that I’ve seen three times a week for the past two months…there are no surprises here anymore!)  So I can’t really watch the action on the stage; instead, I look at my copy of the script, following the action by listening instead of letting my eyes get distracted.  It’s easier to stay on track that way (Big Brother taught me that trick; both my Big Kids have run lights before, either at school or for community theatre.)

All that focusing can be a good thing.  It’s certainly something with which I’m completely out of practice.  There are always so many things going on at once; even when I’m the only one home and I’m working here at my desk, I’m keeping an ear out for the dryer’s buzz.  I’m reading several books at any given time.  Right now there are 10 browser windows open on my computer.

There’s a fine line between multitasking and being scatterbrained.

Many times, multitasking can’t be avoided–and in most cases, I’m pretty good at it.  But I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had this week to really practice paying attention.