HOUSE MANAGER GUIDELINES
Standard House Manager Duties:
A. Supervise front-of-house personnel:
1. Assistant house manager
2. Ticket checkers
B. Coordinate ticket-checking with box office system and needs.
C. Supervise cleanliness of facility.
D. Maintain safety and fire laws.
E. Oversee special customer services and needs (exit signs, heat/air, wheelchair).
F. Coordinate curtain times with stage manager (through house headsets).
G. Handle special customer problems regarding seating (late-comers, confusion).
H. Enforce house rules (no smoking in the building; no food, drink, cameras or beepers in the theatre).
I. Many of these responsibilities, of course, may be delegated to a staff member, but a good amount of personal supervision by the House Manager is always desirable. Before each performance, the House Manager should personally tour all the public areas of the building as if she/he were a customer seeing it for the first time. Is the floor clear of all paper? Are the rest rooms in spotless condition? What is the auditorium temperature? Are all light bulbs working? Are there any “accident traps”? Assume you are responsible for everything that the audience will experience from the moment they arrive on the premises to the moment they leave, with the exception of what happens on stage.
House Rules for the Staff
A. Never run or shout in audience areas because of the danger of creating panic or public alarm, especially in the event of a real emergency.
B. Never use the auditorium to gain access to or exit from the backstage area.
C. Performers and backstage personnel should always use the stage door, never lobby or house entrances.
D. Backstage personnel should never be seen in audience areas during performance hours, except in cases of emergency.
E. Staff should always report the presence of strangers or unauthorized visitors to house or stage manager.
F. Like many of the positions at ETBU Theatre, the front-of-house staff is made up primarily of volunteers. The most important rule to follow in dealing with these volunteers is to make sure that all ticket checkers and ushers are well informed as to his/her duties. The house staff should be perceived as knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. It is the house manager’s responsibility to see that each staff member conducts him/herself in a professional manner. The house staff should never seem arrogant, confused, informal or chatty. You set the example.
Seating the Audience
A. With a 7:30 curtain, the house manager should receive confirmation from the stage manager that the house is ready to be opened at 7:00. Once the stage manager has given the approval, the house manager will look for the appropriate time to open the house (no earlier than 7:00, no later than 7:10).
B. When a playgoer moves from the lobby into the house, the first person he should encounter is the ticket checker. This person should greet each customer verbally, and instruct customers where to proceed next (“inside to your right, through the first door on your left,” etc.). However the most important job of the ticket checker is to insure that each person entering the house has a ticket.
C. After the ticket checker, the playgoer should then encounter an usher. That usher will greet the customer verbally, offer a program, offer assistance in finding their seat, and wish them an enjoyable evening (“I hope you enjoy the show,” etc.).
D. The goal of the house manager is to start the show as close to 7:30 as possible. As soon as the lobby is clear, with the audience in their seats, the house manager should inform the stage manager on headset that the house is ready for curtain. The stage manager will confirm that backstage is ready. If a curtain speech is planned, the cue is given for it to begin followed by the performance. If no curtain speech is planned, then the performance will begin.
E. The ETBU Theatre has adopted the policy of not seating latecomers until appropriate intervals in the performance. Some productions begin with particularly quiet or sensitive moments that would be destroyed by late patrons searching for their seats. The house manager should consult with the director before preview to designate appropriate moments in which to seat latecomers. When doing so, facilitate their entry quickly and quietly. Seat latecomers in the most unobtrusive locations to avoid disruption (next to the aisle, near the back, etc.).
The House Manager’s Schedule
6:00 pm Box office opens.
6:30 pm House manager arrives, checks with box office manager for name of
person in charge, names of ushers, color of ticket and any additional messages.
6:35 pm House manager conducts a walking inspection of all audience areas and checks in with stage manager.
6:45 pm Ushers arrive, and house manager instructs them about their duties.
6:55 pm House manager checks with stage manager for opening of house.
7:00 pm House should open NO LATER THAN 7:10 PM.
7:15 pm House manager checks with stage manager (on headsets) to update front-of-house status and check for any backstage problems that might result in holding the house.
7:25 pm House manager checks with stage manager to update house status. If there is a possibility of holding, the stage manager must be informed.
7:30 pm If lobby is clear, close the house. If the house must be held, house manager must check with stage manager and give an estimate of time for closing. Once the house is closed, the stage manager must be informed. THE PERFORMANCE SHOULD NOT START LATER THAN 7:35 EXCEPT FOR EMERGENCIES.
7:35 pm After the show has begun, the house manager should remain in the lobby to deal with late-comers.
Although these times may change from performance to performance, the framework is the same.
Intermission and the End of the Show.
A. Before each performance, the front-of-house staff should be given individual intermission and end of show assignments for opening and closing doors.
B. Doors should be opened after the audience has begun to applaud the end of the act or the end of the curtain call.
C. The house manager is responsible for coordinating with the stage manager to keep the intermission as close to the printed time as humanly possible.
D. As intermission time nears an end, the house manager should work the crowd by politely speaking to groups of people (“two minutes to curtain,” etc.).
E. An intermission should never go beyond 15 minutes. A strong performance can lose momentum with a long intermission.
F. Again, quickly inform the stage manager when the audience is in and the house is closed for the second act.
Disturbances inside the House
Since the house manager must remain in the lobby area to deal with problems or late seating, it is important to have an usher inside the house to be aware of any problems within. If there is a crying baby, a loud audience member, or any other problem with the house, the usher must inform the house manager immediately. The house manager will then escort the person from the house as quietly as possible.
In Case of Emergency
For each performance, a staff member of the Department of Theatre Arts will act as Person in Charge (PIC). In the event of an emergency, the first step is to notify the PIC on duty. If the theatre must be evacuated for some reason, the PIC will give instructions at that time.
The best management is the conspicuous management. Theatregoers like to be serviced efficiently but unobtrusively. The front-of-house staff can be friendly without being obnoxious or pushy. It can be present without being obvious. The house manager and his/her staff not only comprise the official host of the performance but of an evening out. The house manager must keep things moving, must cover for mistakes or deficiencies of all kinds, and must try to see that each patron feels like the most honored guest enjoying a perfectly wonderful evening.
Remembering Your Volunteers
The house manager should remember to thank the volunteers who have given their time to work for the theatre that night. Know their names, treat them with respect, and let them know they are appreciated.