Nazi usher or just doing her job?


I took my mother to see Burn the Floor yesterday afternoon. We had a lot of fun watching 20 mega-talented dancers swing their hips to some classic numbers. Nothing revolutionary, just glittery, guilt-free entertainment.

But the real show was occuring in the aisles.

While taking our seats in the right-hand mezzanine, I couldn’t help but notice an usher who was arguing with an elderly couple. What I gathered was the usher asked the couple if they needed help finding their seats, and the wife said, “I think we’ll figure it out,” to which the usher, quite literally, yelled back, “No, ma’am, I think we should figure it out NOW so we don’t have problems LATER!”

They ignored her and took their seats, which was met by an exasperated sigh from the annoyed usher.

Then, at intermission, she noticed that another couple behind us had moved over a few seats to get a better view (while the house was full, there were several empty seats near the aisles). She marched on down to the couple and sternly told them they must go back to their assigned seats. I felt embarrassed for them.

During the second act, my mother became the next victim. She wanted to follow along in the program to see what numbers the dancers were doing, so she took out her phone and inconspicuously held it in upside-down in her lap so the glow was only on her program — just for a few seconds.

And guess who ran over and loudly demanded she turn off her phone? Yup.

Now, let me be clear in saying I don’t necessarily agree that my mom should have used her phone as a program flashlight — I know I’d be annoyed if it were some woman in front of me doing the same thing. But the way the usher reacted was … excessive and aggressive. As were all her actions yesterday afternoon.

However, everything she did was probably by-the-book. And I applaud the fact that there are still people who take their jobs seriously — especially in the theatre where people seem to treat the experience like they’re watching a movie in the family den.

So: I’m torn. Was this woman being a nazi usher, or just doing her job? Have you had any experiences with a particularly overbearing usher?

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8 Comments

  1. Unless the usher was doing medical experiments on Mamma Chitheatreaddict.com, then Herr Usher was doing her job and should be thanked for those other patrons who were being thought about and acted upon. There is, of course, a perhaps more diplomatic way to get the message across, but the end result is ultimately good news. And, unless it’s a classical concert or chamber music where the lights are generally kept at a reading level, performances with the house lights off should be watched or listened to and reading or otherwise futzing about should occur before or afterwards. That’s why the lights are out, Marys!

    • Ushers have it tough, and I bet if I did her job for more than a week, I’d be that bitchy usher yelling at all the candy-unwrapping, seat-swapping, camera phone glowing riff-raff.

      So, I empathize. But that’s why I’m not in customer service.

  2. She may have been doing her job, but she could have handled these situations with a lot more grace and respect than she did.

    There’s a certain lack of decorum in the audience these days, but the way to fix it is not scolding patrons like they’re misbehaving children.

    -D

  3. I think she has displayed a lack of judgement. Firstly, regarding the couple that moved during intermission. I never had any problem occupying an empty seat after intermission. If they didn’t show up for the first act, they will not be there for the second. There is no wisdom in not letting them take these seats. Pure power trip.

    And regarding your mom using her phone, whatever little annoyance or disturbance that may have caused anyone, the usher probably magnified it by causing a scene and speaking during the show. If she had left it as it is, it would have probably been a quick flash light and it would have been over with.

  4. I don’t believe I could be an usher without totally losing it on people.

    I am currently working on a show out in the suburbs, and I have NEVER encountered such ridiculously encouth audiences. Talking to each other (or worse, saying things to the actors). Loudly discussing the plot, cell phones going off, and people throwing away trash in a garbage can that is ON THE SET and a MAJOR PART OF THE SHOW.

    I’d be punching folks. But, like Bob, this is why that is not my job.

  5. I wish this usher lady had been in attendance when I went to see Joffrey’s Nutracker back at Christmastime, as some dumba$$ in the balcony decided to talk through the entire second act. Not on the phone, not to anyone, but just talk.. out loud. Yet, in that case, there were no ushers anywhere to be found.

    Audiences can be incredibly rude – and it takes a special person to balance handling the situation with not making a situation worse. Clearly, your Usher was giving it a shot, but not blessed with those special skills.

  6. I would NEVER have done that during a play or opera, but this show was like a dance recital. One of the routines in the first half I really liked, and I NEVER knew what the name of it was, and I was frustrated. The 2nd half I was trying to descretely read my program to see what dance it was. Why the hell hand out a program if they don’t tell you what the routines are?

    Anyway, I was mortified. There was no one sitting in the three empty seats on my right to the aisle. Bob was to my left and I was bent over trying to read the program with the light from the phone face down on the program.


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