An excerpt from a speech at a luncheon honoring FST's ushers and volunteers...
But here’s the thing, and this is the real reason we are breaking bread together today. None of these shows would have achieved their effectiveness and success and impact… without all of you. As the director of all those shows, I’ve been in and out of our venues and lobbies, I’ve shook many of your hands, and shared quick stories and even hugs. From you I’ve gotten feedback on the work, and direct accounts of audience response. But I’ve also seen first-hand how deeply interwoven you are not just into our culture, but into our art.
Let me be clear. I talk at length about the importance of customer service with our apprentices and interns, because the patron’s experience doesn’t begin when the lights go down. The patron’s experience of our art begins… the moment they find parking. Actually, even before that, when they call or visit our box office. And every interaction a patron has with FST staff and volunteers has a direct impact on their experience of the art. If a box office worker is rude, or a house manager is indifferent, or a bartender skimps on the liquor, or an usher is cold… the patron views the art through a biased lens. The impact of the art—which is the whole reason for FST’s existence—is directly affected by the collective energy created by every interaction a patron has with us on the phone, at the box office, at the bar, in the lobby, and—LASTLY—in the theatre itself.
You… are part of the art. You are part of the experience. And I’ve seen you all in action enough to know: that our art is better for who you are and how you treat our patrons. Many of you are patrons yourselves, of course, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But please know that WE know, that I recognize, that no matter how brilliant I may be in rehearsal, and no matter how skilled our actors may be on stage, if the patron isn’t treated with respect and joy BEFORE the show, then they are not going to have a truly meaningful experience DURING the show. You set the stage. You make me look good. You make our actors appear even more compelling. You prepare the patron to RECEIVE the art. You are not separate from FST’s work or some mere addendum. You are integral to the work, the art, and the mission.
And beyond this present day, you are impacting the FUTURE of theatre. You set such incredible examples for our interns and apprentices. You show them how to love the patron. You fill familial and emotional gaps in them that I, as a supervisor and consistently buried in rehearsal, often times am unable to fill. You remind them who they are doing their art FOR. Because art is not meant for the artist. Art serves the audience, and that relationship creates an experience that encompasses the community rather than just the individual. And that is why theatre and art are not frivolous, but vital.
You… are vital. And this luncheon today merely scratches the surface of how much we appreciate, emulate, and owe you. Truly, you are FST collaborators, shaping life-changing experiences for our audience.
From the bottom of my artistic heart, and on behalf of all the staff and interns and apprentices of FST, I say… THANK YOU.
Theatre pro, amateur yogi, and competent home cook.