Author Topic: Dinner Theater  (Read 751 times)

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kabell

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Dinner Theater
« on: Jul 25, 2019, 01:21 pm »
Any other dinner theater stage managers here? I've been the resident stage manager at a dinner theater in upstate NY for about 3 years now and while I've appreciated the steady paycheck, I definitely miss a more traditional theater environment. My booth is more of a tech table in the back of the house with a table on either side that patrons can sit at. I constantly get asked questions that don't pertain at all to stage managing because I'm out in the house, at my booth, and easily approachable.

Anyone else at a dinner theater experience similar things?

BilOregon

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #1 on: Jul 26, 2019, 02:56 pm »
I don't work in dinner theatre but had an idea for you. Have you been into a reception area where they have a flashing light when they are on the phone so people know to not interrupt while it is flashing.  Get the same kind of light, just rig it to flash all the time and a note that says "When Flashing, Not Available", and have your headphones on. 

Good luck, that would be annoying!

Best,
Bil

BenTheStageMan

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #2 on: Jul 26, 2019, 03:45 pm »
I worked in Dinner Theatre for two years.  It was definitely its own beast, but the biggest challenges I found were the actors balancing being waiters vs. being performers.  Often shows would start late and intermissions would drag on past 30 minutes because the waitstaff duties took time.  And, let's face it, some actors are not the most talented waitstaff.  But when the money from the tables is the primary source of income, and the show pay is just over minimum wage, tips become the priority.  Sometimes it felt I was in more meeting about tipping policies than ones about putting on a show.

As far as being in the back of the house and accessible, it can be tough.  I am sure you know this already having done it for 3 years, but I would point out that even if the guests see you as one of the "techie" people, you're still representing the theatre and insomuch as it doesn't interfere with your show duties you should strive to leave a good impression and provide the best customer service that is feasible.  I know I was stopped many times for a refill of water while I was on my way to the booth (especially since I was dressed in blacks like the food runners were).  If I wasn't able to do it for them quickly, I'd try to contact the nearest person who could to make sure the guest is taken care of.  If not, a sincere apology and explanation that you're not waitstaff goes a long way.
"Show people are doomed!  Doomed to a life of booze...and pills...and heavy meals late at night!" -Judy, "Ruthless!"

kabell

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #3 on: Jul 26, 2019, 06:12 pm »
BenTheStageMan: Yes, I definitely help out whenever possible and since I have been here 3 years usually can help out with whatever they need. I'll usually help seat people if it's a big house since we don't have a house manager and our owner stopped hiring a hostess awhile ago.If we're ever understaffed for a performance, I'll also run bar or go around with the water pitcher, refilling glasses. I have actually been a server myself for a show I was also SMing which got a little crazy, mostly during intermission. I'm a one-woman SM team and have no crew backstage for most shows so I'd have to deal with checks as well as my intermission duties. Luckily our actors don't also double as the waitstaff, they are 2 totally separate entities so I don't have to deal with that aspect!

BilOregon: I love the idea of a "not available" light but I don't think I'd be able to get away with it lol. The worst though is when people approach me in the middle of a performance. More often than not, it's not a time when I have a cue coming but I think because I'm typically the only one in the house during a performance who works for the theater, they don't know where else to go! Some will tell me "good show" or similar as they pass by the booth on their way out, which I appreciate! Otherwise I'd love to just be in a nice enclosed booth, hidden away from everyone!

MarcieA

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #4 on: Jul 27, 2019, 02:22 pm »
Any other dinner theater stage managers here? I've been the resident stage manager at a dinner theater in upstate NY for about 3 years now and while I've appreciated the steady paycheck, I definitely miss a more traditional theater environment. My booth is more of a tech table in the back of the house with a table on either side that patrons can sit at. I constantly get asked questions that don't pertain at all to stage managing because I'm out in the house, at my booth, and easily approachable.

Anyone else at a dinner theater experience similar things?

I'm also a stage manager at a dinner theatre in Upstate NY, also for 3 years! Where are you and why aren't we friends?!
Companions whom I loved and still love, tell them my song.

kabell

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #5 on: Jul 27, 2019, 05:44 pm »
MarcieA, I'm down in Fishkill at Clove Creek Dinner Theater! Where are you at?

MarcieA

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #6 on: Jul 28, 2019, 10:40 am »
I'm further upstate in Lake George, at the Lake George Dinner Theatre.
Companions whom I loved and still love, tell them my song.

kabell

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #7 on: Jul 28, 2019, 01:24 pm »
MarcieA, I thought you might be! Our owner has been going up to Lake George for years and actually based the layout of our theater on what she'd seen up at Lake George. Several of our shows have been performed here because she saw it there and loved it and wanted to do it here.

JustinJanke

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #8 on: Jul 30, 2019, 01:57 pm »
My booth is more of a tech table in the back of the house with a table on either side that patrons can sit at. I constantly get asked questions that don't pertain at all to stage managing because I'm out in the house, at my booth, and easily approachable.


Is it possible to hang curtains or build in some small waist-high wall? Even if you're not completely closed off in a booth, even a small barrier may be enough of a social cue to tell patrons not to disturb you. Talking with patrons while calling a show would give me quite a bit of anxiety.

kabell

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #9 on: Aug 01, 2019, 11:36 am »
JustinJanke,

It does give me some anxiety but luckily it doesn't happen too often during the show and if it does and I have a cue coming up, I've usually been able to indicate to them to give me a second and I'll be with them. Typically people approach me more during the dinner portion of the evening which is much less disruptive. It also doesn't help that my tech table/booth is on a small platform, about a foot off the ground (for sight line reasons) so not only am I exposed, I'm also elevated so everyone can easily see me lol.

I noticed you're currently working at Virginia Rep in Richmond! I was the Stage Management intern there about 3 years ago! Small world!

JustinJanke

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Re: Dinner Theater
« Reply #10 on: Aug 02, 2019, 02:13 pm »

I noticed you're currently working at Virginia Rep in Richmond! I was the Stage Management intern there about 3 years ago! Small world!


Very small world! I think we actually worked together on a show at RTP several years ago. I had no idea you moved up north.
Either way, hope you get to work out your booth situation. Maybe re-purpose some old flats after strike to (tastefully) box your tech table in.

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