A Guide to Volunteer Ushering in New York

News   A Guide to Volunteer Ushering in New York
Playbill On-Line has joined forces with Camp Broadway and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University during the 2002-03 season to create opportunities for four high school student journalists, covering Broadway news for Playbill's teen readership. From September 2002 until May 2003, four students who were selected for the program will be responsible for writing an article every other month. One such article appears below.

For many students like myself, it is often difficult to come up with the money it takes to go to the theatre. And as an aspiring actor, I find it necessary to see as much theatre as I can in order to learn as much about acting as possible.

Many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows have special student discounts, rush tickets, or standing room tickets available for prices ranging from $15 to $35 dollars a pop. These “cheap” tickets can, nonetheless, add up to big bucks-so if you are still strapped for cash, there may be some other ways of avoiding those ticket prices. One is volunteer ushering. If you don’t mind doing a little work before the show, this may be your best bet.

Most of the theatres contacted for this article require potential ushers to call the theatre at least a week in advance to reserve a slot. Many of the companies schedule volunteers at the beginning of a show’s run, and then don’t accept ushers until the next show. In that case, it is suggested that you call to put your name on the list. The theatre will then call if any openings arise during the run, or to schedule you for future shows.

Following is a partial list of theatre companies and theatres that accept volunteer ushers, and their requirements and contact information.

Primary Stages
Contact: the Box Office (212) 333-4052
Ushers are chosen on a first come first served basis. Century Center for the Performing Arts
Contact: Ron Maranian, House Manager
Phone: (212) 982-6782 ext. 11
Ron says that ushers must be able to walk up and down steps and must have a very personable nature. “An usher at our theatre is an extension of our theatre” Mr. Maranian says. When a patron is greeted by a nice, happy, polite usher, that patron ends up having a better theatre experience at the end of the evening, Maranian added. Century Center’s dress code for ushers is all black, and the theatre provides an usher’s jacket. Mr. Maranian says that if there are seats available, ushers can find one and watch the show. However, if it’s sold out, volunteers have the option of either standing by the door and watching, or returning when there are seats available. Century Center uses only two ushers per performance.

Signature Theatre
Contact: the Box Office (212) 244-7529
Call 3-4 weeks prior to the first preview of a show. Volunteers are put on a mailing list and are called on an as-needed basis, or scheduled for certain days during a show’s run. Volunteers should only sign up once. Ushers usually arrive at the theatre about an hour before curtain time for a brief orientation, and are required to wear the standard all-black attire. All Signature shows at the Peter Norton Space have volunteer ushers, however at other spaces, volunteers are not used.

John Houseman Theatre
Contact: Administrative Office at (212) 967-7079 M-F 10 AM-6 PM
Volunteers interested in ushering should call the office and give their name and phone number to be put on the list. Ushers will then be contacted when there are spots available.

Roundabout Theatre Company
For shows at the American Airlines Theatre: Volunteers should go to the Box Office at 277 West 42nd St. (Between 7th and 8th Avenue) Box Office hours are Monday through Friday 10 AM-6PM Once at the Box Office, sign up in the “Ushering Book.”

For Cabaret:
Volunteers should go to the Box Office at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St. (Between Broadway and 8th Avenue) Ushers can sign up in the “Ushering Book” between 5 PM and 6 PM on Saturday.

Dress code for all Roundabout productions is black and white.

45 Bleecker Theatre
Volunteers should call (212) 253-7017 to sign up. However, there is currently about a month wait to usher. When selected, ushers generally arrive at the theatre one hour and fifteen minutes prior to curtain, dressed in all black. Volunteers can watch the show, and if it is sold out, there are seats for “late seating” available to ushers.

New York Theatre Workshop
Volunteers should contact Elizabeth Levy by email at elizabethl@nytw.org The administrative offices’ phone number is (212) 780-9037. However, the preferred form of contact is by email.
Ushers arrive at the theatre one hour prior to curtain, dressed in all black or black and white. They stuff programs, take tickets, and seat patrons. Following the show, ushers assist in the clean up. Volunteers can watch the show from stools in the back if there are no seats available. NYTW uses six ushers per performance.

In addition to this list, you should check out the Playbill Online “Casting and Jobs” link on the homepage, which frequently lists ushering positions.

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