Inveterate fantasy readers could be forgiven for believing that the dangers present in their favorite genre are more mordant than those to be found in small-town independent bookselling. The truth is far darker than this naive presumption. When it comes to danger, incursions form unstable parallel universes, diabolical magic wielders, pandemics stemming from dubious science experiments, alien invasions and environmental catastrophes, pale in comparison to the terror of selling local theater tickets, especially when children are involved.
Like many bookstores, DDG volunteers to sell tickets on behalf of many community organizations. It is usually a safe and rewarding community service to offer. Local theater productions with a significant number of child actors in them is another matter. Once there are more grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and neighbors than there are tickets available well, there aren’t enough pitchforks to pass around.
Who are the pitchforks for, you ask? The phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” is, like the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover,” a form of advice that everyone says and nobody follows.
Our job in taking tickets has three phases to it. Phase one involves taking payment for tickets, dispensing them, and providing information on the phone. Phase two involves providing people with accurate information as to the telephone number and means of using the reservation line. Phase three involves giving people bad news all day long.
The two iron rules of under seated community theater productions with children in them are as follows.
- If I am being told that there are no seats at a play my granddaughter is performing in, that information is incomplete and wrong.
- If I am forced to accept that the information is accurate then it is time to shoot the messenger.
Here is how iron rule 1 plays out in dialogue form.
Would-Be Theater Goer: Hi, I’m here to get tickets for Sunday’s matinee for The Sound of Music.
DDG Staffer: I’m sorry, but we are sold out of tickets for all the performances.
Would-Be Theater Goer: Can I reserve some from you?
DDG Staffer: No. We don’t reserve tickets. However, the reservation line is also full. There are no more tickets available.
Would-Be Theater Goer: So where can I get tickets? My granddaughter, Glenda, is in the play.
DDG Staffer: I’m very sorry to report that the play is totally sold out.
Would-Be Theater Goer: Will they still have some at the box office? Who can I call to reserve some at the box office?
DDG Staffer: The reservation number is 207-sol-dout but they are no longer able to fill reservations.
Would-Be Theater Goer: When will you be getting more tickets to sell for the Sunday matinee? I have Glenda’s aunt and uncle coming up to see the show, all the way from Lewiston.
The excellent local theater troupe, the Sandy River Players, is putting on a production of The Sound of Music with seven shows over a two-week period, which we are in the middle of. Yes. The hills are alive with the sound of disgruntled theater-goers. When someone from Sandy River Players, none other than my pal and one-time assistant manager Karen West, stopped by to check on things last week, the conversation went like this.
Kenny: It’s pitchfork time, Karen. We’re literally worn out from disappointing people.
Karen: All people have to do is call the reservation line.
Kenny: We’re hearing that the line isn’t working.
(customer walks up)
Customer: I’m here to buy tickets to The Sound of Music.
(second customer walks up)
Second Customer: I am too.
Karen: (whispers to me ) I’ll handle this.
Karen: We’re sold out of tickets here, but all you need to do is call the reservation line.
Customer: I tried that but it didn’t work. I really need tickets.
Karen: OK, hold on. I’ll call the number for you. (dials and waits) Oh my God. The answering machine is full. It’s not taking any more messages.
Kenny: Welcome to my world.
All right then. So what does this mean? We all know how important it is to be a community hub, but is it worth risking your life and those of your staffers? Absolutely it is. Cats have nine lives and booksellers have 16. The Sound of Music has only cost me five. I’ve already confirmed with the Sandy River Players that we are happy to do ticket sales next time and they really appreciate it!