Front of House Guide

Mary Linton Peters '92 and Stuart Levine '96

original version 2003

1 About MTG's Front of House

Unlike many other theatre groups at MIT, MTG usually has only one person in charge of each of these positions. If you find yourself involved in a show where there are different box office managers or house managers every night, you should know about the responsibilities of the other positions and be prepared to go over them with whoever is filling that roll every night. Remember that you are the face MTG presents to the public, so please be courteous, polite, and dress appropriately.

Reservations Manager
The reservations manager is responsible for almost everything outside of the show itself. They are responsible for organizing the ticket booth, collecting reservations from the website, phone, and ticket booth, and filling those reservations before the show. They also are responsible for any ticket sales done at the ticket booth. On occasion, filling reservations is delegated to the Box Office Manager, but only when tickets are not being sold before the show.
Box Office Manager
The box office manager is responsible for the sale of tickets at the show itself. They are responsible for setting up the booth, collecting money, and organizing the waiting list (if necessary), counting the money, and depositing it after the show begins. The box office manager should be present to answer patron questions during intermission. Box office managers should NOT expect to see the entire show the nights they are working booth and receive comps instead.
House Manager
The House Manager is, simply put, responsible for all crowd control before, during, and after the show. They are responsible for making sure the house is in order (seats labeled, programs ready, house clean), managing the ushers, and resolving seating disputes. The house manager should coordinate with the stage manager and box office manager on deciding when to open and close the house. They should also be closely involved with box office manager to help crowd control during ticket sales, especially for reserved out shows with waiting lists. The house manager should be present to answer patron questions during intermission and to encourage patrons to leave following the show. House managers should NOT expect to see the entire show the nights they are managing and receive comps instead.

2 Reservations Manager

The Orange Bible

The most basic concern of the reservation manager is the keeping of the Orange Bible, or the reservation book. It should eventually contain everything you need for the show. The first thing you need to put in it is the reservation forms (which can be modified from a previously used one) and make about 30-40 reservation slots per show for the book.

Name:
Email: Phone:
Friday 31st 8pm Saturday 1st 8pm Sunday 2nd 2pm # of tickets
Thursday 6th 8pm Friday 7th 8pm Saturday 8th 8pm  
Special Requests:
 
Reserved on: Date Time By
Web Phone Ticket Booth In Person/Other
To be completed by Producer, Reservations Manager, or Box Office Manager
Confirmed: Date Time By
Filled: Date Time By
Seats assigned: Notes:

All reservations taken more then 24 hours before the show should be entered in these forms.

Once you have the reservation forms, you should add in the instructions. Above are links to samples from past shows. Use the appropriate one (modified as needed) depending on if you are selling tickets at the booth during the week or just taking reservations (see below). You should also include a copy of the comp policy (from the Producer). Finally, you will want to add in the seating charts once they are available.

Phone and Website

As soon as the show dates and times have been finalized, ask the Webmaster to activate the on-line ticket capability of the website. A few things to note about the online form:

At the same time, ask the Board's Phonecomm (if we have one) to record a new greeting on the office answering machine. This should include at least the following information: show name, dates and times, location, top ticket price, how to reserve tickets, how to pick up tickets. The web form contains useful language as well as the information that you will need from them. Decide whether or not you want to confirm phone reservations. In general, we don't confirm phone reservations unless we are close to a sell-out. Even in that case, we often only call people if they are going to be on the waiting list. Choose a policy and make sure it is clear in the message. If you choose to confirm reservations, be clear on the timeframe or you will get many call-backs.

Sample Script

Hello, you have reached the MIT Musical Theatre Guild. We are currently accepting reservations for our production of SHOWNAME. SHOWNAME is being performed on DATES at 8pm and on DATE at TIME. All performances are in ( Kresge Little Theatre / La Sala de Puerto Rico, on the second floor of the student center) across from the main entrance to MIT. Ticket prices are PRICES. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept credit cards. All reservations must be picked up at the theatre 15 minutes prior to curtain or they will be released. If you would like to make a reservation, please leave you name, the show date, the number of tickets you would like, and a phone number where we can reach you if there is a problem with your reservation. Thank you very much for calling the MIT Musical Theatre Guild **BEEP**

Seating Chart and Tickets

Work with the Producer and Set Designer to set a date by which the seating plan must be finalized. Once you have the plan, you can order tickets (see below). You will also need a workable seating chart to track filled reservations. The Kresge Little Theatre plan is a good one, and similar ones have been created for various productions in Sala. In general, you will need a seating plan about four weeks before opening, preferably sooner.

Work with the Producer to determine the best source for tickets and ticket envelopes. Tickets have recently been printed out on card stock and manually cut to size. Often, someone else on the production staff will take care of creating the tickets for you. Seat numbers and dates have been included on the ticket. This is by far preferable to hand numbering! Alternately, with enugh time, tickets can be ordered more expnsively from APO, or for a small fortune from professional ticket companies. Be sure that the card stock colors are sufficiently different to be told apart at a glance. You will need envelopes for the tickets, and it can be confusing to reuse them. A good source for envelopes is Ticketcraft.com (1000 envelopes for $50). Make sure that you will have all the tickets and envelopes ready to go at least two weeks before opening, preferably sooner.

Work with the Producer and Publicity Manager to determine the best form for ticket information on the publicity materials. Some people feel strongly that you need to give both a phone number and a URL, some prefer one or the other. Keep in mind that phone reservations are far more annoying than web reservations - harder to track, hard to hear, and in general more likely to have errors. However, web reservations are often misplaced so be sure to have the reservation book handy when you collect them. Particularly for a big show, you may want to encourage URL use for most of the publicity channels.

Work with the Producer to find a Ticket Booth Manager and determine when the ticket booth will be open. Set a ticket booth policy at this time. Do you want to try to sell tickets at the booth, or just take reservations?

Why Sell Tickets?

Why Reservations Only?

If in any doubt, you should only reserve tickets at the booth. Remember, any time the ticket booth is unmanned, you will have to be sure to have all the money someplace secure and that it is retrieved before the close of business. We've had some very ``interesting'' situations in the past where the money, tickets, and reservations for a Friday and Saturday show were left in the MIT credit union because someone missed their 4pm ticket booth shift - and were locked in the vault.

Before Opening Night

Set Aside Tickets

Once tickets arrive, check the numbering against the seating chart. Also check the dates, times, and locations. Sort the tickets by night and section. Pull out seats for a house row (10-15 seats), ushers, any set/light requirements, videotaping, and any obstructed view seating. Mark off the seating charts appropriately.

NOTE: we are experimenting with a new ticket system which will mark these directly on the tickets. You should contact the person who is generating the tickets with a seating chart and those seats you want set aside.

Pre-Selilng Tickets

If you are actually selling tickets at the ticket booth, work with the Ticket Booth Manager to figure out the logistics:

Filling Reservations

If You're Only Doing Reservations Pre-Show

This gives you a lot of flexibility on when to actually fill the reservations. You should be checking the web and answering machine every day to be sure you have an accurate count of reservations and to close them if you need to for a sell out (see below). If you are acting as box office manager or house manager, my personal preference has been to fill reservations at the previous night's show while you wait for intermission.

If You're Allowing Pre-Show Sales

Fill reservations at least once a week. You may wish to not rush to fill them since it will encourage people to buy their tickets before hand since they will get to pick their own seats. You should be checking the web and answer machine every day to be sure you have an accurate count of reservations and to close them if you need to for a sell out (see below). However, you should fill all reservations 24 hours before the show.

Ticket Envelopes

Fill out the forms as you fill the reservations, and be sure to keep track of what seats you assign to each person. It will help you out later. Mark seats off the seating charts as you go. Periodically check the remaining tickets against the seating charts, both to make sure that you don't have any errors and to make filling reservations more efficient. Web reservations are generally straightforward, but you may find that you have questions about phone reservations that require follow-up. (``Which Saturday night performance did you wish to attend?'') Separate the filled reservations by performance.

One ticket envelope labeling system that seems to work is this:


\begin{picture}(100,30) \put(0,0){\framebox (100,30){}} \put(3,3){\makebox(94,24... ...]{6}} \put(10,13){\makebox(80,6)[b]{L1-6}} \put(50,18){\circle{5}} \end{picture}

In this example, Joe Theatregoer has 6 tickets (specifically L 1-6) reserved for the performance on the Saturday performance on the 8th of the month. One of these tickets is a comp.

Fill reservations in an order that makes sense for the house. Generally, you want to start in the center section and fill 3-7 rows back from the stage. Then you can move to the side sections on the aisle, again avoiding the first row or two. Try to fill the very last few rows, the front row, and the ends of the side section last. As you fill reservations, remember that most people come with a friend, so don't leave too many single seats at the ends of rows. Some people come with more than one friend, so don't leave only groups of 2 either. If you have a big group, you might want to split them up and put them in two groups, one behind the other. It can be more fun to be in two rows of 6 than a big long string of 12. You may want to talk to the Director to see if there are sight line or sound issues that make some seats worse than others in a non-obvious way.

Reserving Out

What to do if you're getting close to reserved out:

During the Run

If there is a Box Office Manager as well as a Reservations Manager, determine where the handoff will lie.

The Absolute Minimum

If you are in the show, producing, or otherwise harried beyond belief and have a good box office manager, you can get away with just making sure the reservation book is full, and that all the reservations are in it and ready to go. This involves dropping off and picking up the book from the ticket booth, checking the answering machine, email, and shutting down reservations in sellouts. Be sure that everyone else (producer and box office manager) know this is your intention.

3 Box Office Manager

Before Opening Night

Determine what assistance you will need at the box. You may want to have two people for Friday and Saturday night shows. If a performance is reserved out, you will need three people. You may want to recruit the Producer, Director, or other prod staff members to be conditional help if you have a reserved out performance. Be aware of the running seat count for each performance and adjust as necessary.

If there is a Box Office Manager as well as a Reservations Manager, determine where the handoff will lie. (cf. above)

If you have not been Box Office Manager before, arrange for a short training session with the Treasurer. You will need to cover:

If the performance is in Sala, work out where the box office will be placed and make sure the Producer has a table reserved for the purpose. The doors next to West Lounge and the phones are easier to find and the hallway is larger, but this can be difficult for the cast as they will want to cross from West to the bathrooms. If you put the box here, put it on the right-hand wall facing the stairs, and make sure it is a good 15 feet in front of the doors. The doors near the bathrooms may seem more convenient, but it is hard to find and the hallway is narrow. In this case, put the table as far back as possible so that you don't block the bathrooms.

Performances

Before going to the office, gather supplies. Have several pens and pencils, spare paper, rubber bands, some Post-it notes, blank ticket envelopes, several spare blank copies of the seating chart, a calculator, and tape. When you get to the office, collect a program and several posters.

Arrive at the office no later than 6:30pm (for an 8:00pm performance). On opening night, 6:00pm is recommended due to the need for additional setup. Pick up the box (money), a tally sheet, the reservations book, tickets (that performance ONLY), and the reserved tickets (ditto). Although it is after the phone reservation cutoff, you may want to pick up the phone reservations and enter them in the book. If there are any unfilled reservations for the performance, fill them at this time. Check the seating chart for this performance against the remaining tickets. Check the ticket envelopes and make sure that all the reservations for this performance have the correct tickets in them (both color and number, seats if you feel you need to check that as well). Check the reserved tickets for the other performances and make sure you don't have any strays hidden away. If there is a waiting list, make sure that you have the most up-to-date version of it and are aware of any special cases or requests.

Opening Night only: Arrive at the box office no later than 6:45pm. The black flats should be behind the box office. Hang a few posters, maybe put up some photos or a Tech ad. Ensure that there are easels or posters to help the audience find the box office. If you are in Little, tape some posters to the doors and on the easel at the top of the stairs. If you are in Sala, put posters on the first and second floors, and possibly an easel as well. Tape copies of the seating plan to the theatre doors, the black flats, and possibly to the wall near the box office. Label them if you see fit to help people find their seats. Tape a poster to the table near the box, facing out.

Open the box office no later than 7:15pm. People may start wandering up as early as 7pm. You should have the box, open and ready to make change, the ticket envelopes sorted by last name, the seating chart correctly blacked out, and the remaining tickets sorted in some useful way. Have a few pens and pencils lying around as well.

When the House Manager arrives, give him the usher tickets. As the Director, Producer, or other prod staff arrives, give them their seats. If the house row starts getting low, consider asking them to take seats elsewhere so you can retain a slush fund in case of errors.

Give out reservations, sell tickets, chat with people, etc. A few thoughts:

Close the box office no later than 8:05pm. The stage manager will give you updates starting about 7:30pm. If you find that you have a long line yet to serve at 7:55pm, or if there is a waiting list, make sure the stage manager knows that you might be late.

Closing procedure:

Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary until closing night.

What to do if you have a waiting list:

House Manager

House manager has several responsibilities in MTG

Show Nights

Organizing the Crowds

This is one of the most difficult jobs for the house manager, particularly on sold out nights. The main point of this is to clear the space in front of the ticket booth for those people needing to buy tickets. Have in your mind a loose map of how you want the traffic flow to move. Post any signs you need to to help control the crowds. Consider standing 10-15 feet in front of the box office to ask patrons if they have reservations, need to buy tickets or need to be put on a waiting list and directing them appropriately. A courteous yet informative house manager can greatly facilitate the running of the box office.

Opening House

This is the one real ``job'' of the house manager. The house manager must act as the intermediary between the SM (who would rather no one come in until curtain) and the box office, which wants them in as soon as possible. House open times can vary from as early as 7:30 if you have a sell out to 8:10 if they're still painting the stage on opening night. The average house opens at 7:45. Generally you want to open the house as early as the stage and programs are ready. If you are planning on opening before 7:45 make sure to tell the stage manager ASAP! They can usually accommodate it as long as they know early.

Seating

All MTG shows are assigned seating. Often audience members don't take their correct seats, either because they don't know about this policy, or because the first to come often have some of the less good seats since they didn't reserve their tickets. You will often be called on to sort out someone who has found someone in their seats. Do this as courteously as possible and understand it may involve reseating 3 to 4 groups of people each in someone else's seat (the last ones not being happy about where they're sitting).

As an alternative, if you have enough ushers and house has opened early enough, your ushers can escort people to their seats. This is probably the best option if you have the people.

Random Stuff

It usually falls on the house manager to resolve minor issues in the theatre. MTG does not allow flash photography. If you notice someone shooting with flash, wait until the next blackout then you need to speak with them. The SM will probably be willing to hold lights up until you are finished. If you find you are over your head in something, ask the producer to help out.

Schedule

7pm - 7:30pm

7:30 - House Open

House Open - 7:50

7:50 - Intermission

Intermission

Opening Night

Opening night is usually very chaotic. Often the house will not be ready to open until 7:50 or later. Be ready by having your ushers keep people away from the front desk

Closing Night

In addition to the usual sell out hoopla, you will need to encourage the audience to leave as quickly as possible after the show. This is CRITICAL since strike will not really being until they're gone. Those waiting to meet their friends should do so in the lobby (for Kresge) or outside the green room (for Sala).

About this document ...

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MTG

Performances will be in
Kresge Little Theatre

August 29-30, September 4-6 & 11-13 at 8PM, August 31 at 2PM

Tickets are
$3 - Incoming MIT freshmen
$6 - MIT and Wellesley students
$10 - MIT faculty, staff, and community; all other students; seniors and children
$15 - General public

Discounts available for groups of 10 or more people.

Reserve tickets online.

Production Staff, Orchestra, and Cast