When I was a kid, I always wanted to be on Broadway. Even with very minimal talent and no training, somehow I found myself onstage on the Great White Way.
Okay…maybe not onstage exactly. No, not even backstage.
I am a lowly Broadway usher. Living the dream. Also, my six-year-old self is totally peeing her pants in excitement.
I found my first job as an usher through sheer dumb luck (I can accredit most of the wonderful things in my life to sheer dumb luck). I learned later that it is actually very difficult to get any job, even one as a glorified waitress, in a Broadway theater. At the time, I was working full time as a receptionist at a news and broadcasting talent agency when a coworker asked me if I wanted to work at a theater. In the three months that I had been living in New York City, I had become obsessed with seeing every single Broadway musical running. I spent many mornings waiting in line for hours for a rush ticket to see a show, and many nights hanging out a little too much at stage doors. I was becoming a fanatic.
My coworker had a friend working at Spider-Man—the very musical I had vowed never to see out of terror that the superhero/musical combo would ruin theater for me forever. But I thought…why the hell not? And, I’ll be honest; I was crazy pumped about being able to work in a theater.
I got the job. I’m pretty sure the house manager saw my crazy I-love-theater-don’t-kill-my-dream eyes and knew that if he didn’t hire me, I was just going to stalk the theater relentlessly until he did.
For almost two years, I worked practically seven days a week. I kept my full-time office job and worked weekends, as well as some weeknights at Spidey. In that time, my coworkers became my family. Together we braved the crowds of tourists that poured into the theater nightly with their ridiculous questions (Can I bring pizza into the theater? Where do I get the 3-D glasses?) and their frustration at the price of bottled water at the concession stand.
So, what’s it like being an usher?
I’ll be honest. It’s not a glorious job. Especially at a show like Spider-Man where ushers had to crouch in the aisles to make sure no one decided to stand up mid-flight and get squashed by Spidey as he landed.
My average day as an usher looks like this: I put my hideous uniform on (see above). I take you to your seat, I tell you where the bathrooms are when your kid is about to pee his pants, I ask you not to take pictures, I threaten to call security when you refuse to stop taking pictures, I call maintenance when your kid barfs up Olive Garden and Skittles all over his seat—and then the show starts. Then I watch you watching the show because if you even think about pulling out your camera to take a picture, I will shine my flashlight in your face and then give you the stink eye for the rest of the night.
I won’t lie and say I loved my job all the time, but I loved it more than I probably should have. Now that I am stuck at a desk full time, I miss my life in the theater. Spider-Man closed early this year and it’s been a difficult time adjusting to life without the show.
Occasionally, I get called in to work another show as a sub usher. But until my home theater opens up again with another show, sub work is all I can do. It puts a little extra money in my bank for the day I decide to leave New York and begin my life as a traveler, and I get to spend my evenings in a place that I love more than I can explain—the theater.