When I visited the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut to see The Nice Guys on August 26, I had the privilege of getting to know some of the ushers. As I made my way to talk with them I noticed that they were enjoying their cups of coffee as they were being given their instructions for the night. But, what I didn’t realize was how much the users do in the Garde, there are several jobs for them to do.
Among those jobs is taking a count into the amount of people who come into the Garde to see the show. When I was talking to Judy, a volunteer since 2002, she informed me that it was important to see who was using their tickets versus their pass that they received earlier to view all seventeen movies. “You would be looking at the tickets and bringing them to their seat. The house manager helps with tickets and seating people. Among the ushers there is a doorperson to open up the door and hand out programs. Also, they have to come out and open the doors while saying good-bye to people,” Judy states. Welcoming people in the Garde is a great thing that the ushers take pride in. “A lobby person is available when someone has a question. Some people like to be over by the stairs so they can send them in the right direction,” Judy continues. I notice that each usher takes pride in what they do.
Several of the ushers have worked different kinds of shows throughout their years as an usher. Some of the most memorable shows are the Chinese Acrobats and Don McLean. “There is always a variety of shows: Broadway, Famous Stars of the Past, Don McLean and children’s shows. I can tell you we loved all those there is not just one,” Theresa. an usher since 2008, states. But, to Tom Doyle, an usher since 2008, there is nothing like the shows for the kids. “At children’s shows, so many of them are happy because they are excited to be here. Some of them have never been in a theater before. Sometimes there are 1500 kids. Bob’s Discount Furniture pays for the children’s theater and when the show starts you can hear a pin drop. The children are silent and excited,” Tom says. As for Judy, she told me about the community involvement with the symphony. “The symphony is a little different. They use high school students who are studying music. They do the tickets and the door, and the seating,” Judy says. Although the Garde does have ushers come in to assist the high school students, community involvement is something that is very important to the Garde.
“Safety is very important. If there is a fire, then you calmly lead the pack out,” Theresa told me how important safety is to each and every one of the ushers. I learned that there is a large space in front of Row L for space to the closest exit. In order to become an usher at the Garde Arts Center you must go to an orientation in September where you are informed of what to do in the unlikely case of an emergency.
In the group of ushers there is a strong sense of comradeship. As jokes about the Humphrey Bogart statue go around the lobby with metal figurines over hanging lights, I can see each one of them helping one another out. “The volunteers are a good group of people. We all became friends,” says Tom. Their enjoyment of working together shows how great of a group of people they are. As I made my way to the seat to watch the show, I noticed that the ushers were willing to help others out as the lights dimmed for The Nice Guys to start. As previews for Midnight Special and Miles Ahead appeared on the screen, I couldn’t help but think about how wonderful of a group the ushers are.