Wednesday, December 23, 2009


by Martin Wiviott, General Manager

Every evening, the parade of patrons into the Pantages to see a production is a cross section of Los Angeles, and America. About 30 minutes before the performance begins, I usually go downstairs and stand on the curb in front of the theatre to observe. Just by doing that, you get a snapshot of who the audience is: ethnic breakdown, economic breakdown, male/female, straight/gay, old/young, with children or not. I can see, for instance, that whenever we do the “mega-hit” shows such as “Phantom” and “Les Miz,” there is a marked increase in young Asian-American patrons. Seeing smartly dressed youngsters on dates coming to the theatre is wonderful. They’re our audiences of tomorrow.

Being in Hollywood, the picturesque variety of people on the streets who are not going to the theatre adds to the hustle and bustle. Among that group we have our nightly visitor in a motorized wheelchair hanging out and trying to find discarded cigarette butts in the ashtrays, all the while rattling his Styrofoam cup with change, hoping to elicit a few more quarters from the passersby. We have the senior citizen sitting on the sidewalk at the corner playing the trumpet. (Why is he always playing “Taps?”) There’s the young sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with his dog, and a cigar box to collect money. (I can never figure out the plea: “Give me money for my dog?”) There are also the occasional t-shirt rip-off merchants who suddenly appear on the corner selling merchandise that looks exactly like what is being sold inside by us at the merchandise counters. And of course, there are always people trying to sell tickets. Usually they’re the brokers who spent top dollar for tickets they couldn’t unload and are trying to get something back. Our security asks them politely to move off the block.

I continually check the time as it gets closer to curtain time. People are walking a bit faster as the deadline nears. More announcements on the loudspeaker, ”Final call, ladies and gentlemen, final call.” About 5 minutes before the performance begins, I go inside the lobby to watch the final dash into the auditorium prior to the overture. I know there is a seating hold, and shortly, the drapes to the inner lobby will be closed, and a wide strap drawn across the entryway will be secured. Once that happens, latecomers will have to remain in the lobby and watch the first few minutes of the show on the TV monitors. We got the larger 50” monitors when “Wicked” began, because that seating hold was nearly 25 minutes. I figured if folks had to stand out there that long, at least they should have a good view of the show. As I check the time close to the start of the show, I help to hurry into the theatre. I’m amused at the nightly last minute decisions as folks hurry into the lobby: Run to the bathroom quickly, or wait until intermission? (Ladies wait; men run.)

The show begins. The latecomers mill about the lobby. And I go back out to the curb to see who’s left out there waiting. Often there are folks on cell phones with frantic looks on their faces. The issue is usually that the person with the tickets isn’t there yet, and the person waiting is stuck outside. I offer to walk them inside so they can watch on the monitors. They’re always very appreciative.

And sometimes it’s just a person waiting who really wanted to see the show, and for some reason couldn’t get a ticket. Just the other day, 10 minutes after the performance of “Grinch” had begun, there was a young couple out front standing with two young children. He was holding one of them in his arms. They had the Grinch brochure and were looking at the photos on the wall. I asked them if they were going inside and he replied, “We can’t afford it tonight”. I asked how far they had driven, and he said, “We came up from Watts.” I went over to the box office, got four tickets, and walked back to them. As I handed him the tickets I said, “This is a Christmas that The Grinch won’t steal. Hurry inside and enjoy the show.”

As I walked away, I saw the excited children leading their parents into the theater, with smiles that outshone the bright lights above.

Another evening on Hollywood Boulevard. Another performance of another show. And my thoughts turn toward another tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


by Bob Speck, Director of Sales

I’m a Christmas person. So I surprised myself a little a few days ago when my partner Jeffrey asked, “What about Christmas do you like so much?” It was while I was trying to find an answer to this question that I had something of an epiphany: my love of all things Christmas has a great deal to do with "A Christmas Carol." It’s Charles Dickens and the story he tells— a story of ghostly figures, overworked clerks, lame children, the unwashed masses and the possibility of redemption for cold hearted, unrepentant misers –that fills me with joy this time of year.

I seem to be clinging to this highly romanticized version of Christmases long past more than ever this year. In all truth I have no affinity for things Victorian or any era prior to the advent of indoor plumbing and antibiotics. However the elements that make up a traditional Yule seem all the more dear to me as I attempt to celebrate the holidays Los Angeles style. I relocated to L.A. this past May, and this is my first Christmas season away from the Northeast. Contrary to the belief I held as a New York chauvinist, L.A. does indeed “do Christmas.” But like much else I’ve found here, the rules of the rest of America simply do not apply. A certain amount of the strangeness that is an L.A. Christmas has to do with the local landscape and fauna. Palm trees wrapped in string lights and festooned with stars are lovely but loose a little something when they line the more rundown parts of Santa Monica Blvd. The bright red tree of light bulbs atop the Capitol Records Building is the closest thing L.A. has to a symbol of the season. Of course, the stores are decorated (some beautifully) and that helps. One of the things I’ve always loved about Christmas in big cities is its ability to transform mundane store fronts and office towers into things of wonder.

And then there’s Santa.

Unlike New York where the “real” Santa can be found on the eighth floor of a department store on the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue, there doesn’t seem to be any one place to locate Kris Kringle here in the Southland. He could be any number of places and in any number of guises. For sheer authenticity, my vote goes to the Santa at The Grove (an outdoor shopping complex near The Farmer’s Market); he certainly looks the part— big, real beard, and he’s got the jolly thing down to a t. For sheer shamelessness, the upscale Beverly Center’s “Hunky Santa and his Candy Cane Dancers” replace “Classic Santa” in the evening hours. Hunky Santa’s young and buff and oh yeah … shirtless.

But for sheer only-in-L.A. strange, nothing tops the “Scientology Santa” at L. Ron Hubbard’s Winter Wonderland just down our own Hollywood Blvd. This Santa lords over a beautiful re-creation of his famed Artic village and workshop worthy of any film in a usually vacant lot adjacent to one of the church’s Hollywood office buildings.
I have no doubt that my trials over Christmas, like Scrooge’s, will cause me to love the holiday even more. Until then, I’ll play my Christmas music, light my tree, eat too many cookies, drink a good deal more than I should and read Mr. Dickens’ “ghostly little book” again and again.

And so to answer my beloved Jeffrey’s question, “What about Christmas do you like so much?”

I turn to Boz and his "Christmas Carol":

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say… Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round… as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, … though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Thursday, December 10, 2009


by Linda Markwica, TeleSales Manager

With "Riverdance," the first show of the 2010 season, starting in January – the Telesales Department will be closing down for a short while. It’s also about the time of year that rumors start going around the Pantages about shows being planned for the next season. Since nothing is confirmed and no one is talking, it’s also about the time of year when my staff likes to put in their “two cents” about what would make a great theatre season.

Linda who has been a singer and dancer all her life (well, not lately) absolutely adores "Hair" – she feels that it really depicts the 60s generation – “I was there, it’s about love and caring and the music is wonderful.” Linda also wants to bring back "A Chorus Line." – The movie stinks, but she could see the live show over and over again! “What I Did for Love” says it all.

Ian agrees that "A Chorus Line" is his number one favorite. But any musical with a tragic love story will do – like "Miss Saigon," "Les Miserables" or anything that'll give him a good, cleansing cry – it’s cathartic.

Tracey takes her theatre quite seriously, she thinks "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" should be revived. “It could be staged to be very contemporary, it has great parts for both men and women. Oh, and it’s funny." Tracey also wants to see "Chess" and would love to see a revival of "Oliver!"

Matt, recently separated, would like to see "Girls Gone Wild, the Musical." But if he has to be realistic, "Avenue Q." Jake agrees, "Avenue Q," the anti-musical, the musical that people who don’t like musicals like.

By now we’re a little out of control – the names of musicals are being shouted out: "Sweeney Todd," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Carousel," "Hello Dolly!," "Little Shop of Horrors" ...

We all want to see a good version of "La Cages aux Folles."

Stephen wants "West Side Story" because it was his introduction to musical theatre – and, it’s a classic; he just loves it.

Quite a few votes for "Billy Elliot."

Robert wants "Company" or "Into the Woods." We all agree that we would all love to see some Sondheim!

"That's a very large season," I tell my staff. "Would you buy that big a package?"

So I force them to whittle it down. The result? Just for the heck of it, this is what the 2010-2011 season would be if TeleSales was doing the programming: "West Side Story," "Hair," "A Chorus Line," "Les Miserables," "Avenue Q," "La Cages aux Folles" and "Billy Elliot."

I’ll pass that along!

Friday, December 4, 2009


By Benny Aguayo, Marketing Manager, PR & Communications

My supervisor thought you might like to hear about a day in my life. Here’s an account of one from this week.

Wednesday, December 8

12:00am - Across the Southland, dream seekers are entering the land of jumping sheep and sugarplum fairies. I probably should be joining them…but, I’m afraid that I will fall asleep HARD and miss my 3:30am alarm clock for tomorrow morning. Ok…no need to panic, you’ve done this before. Just lie in bed, take a quick sip of milk and you’ll wake up in about four hours having had plenty of sleep. You worry too much! Pleasant dreams!

12:16pm - Nope…I can’t do it. I’m going to oversleep. No problem, just keeping myself busy and awake for another few hours until I have to leave the house. Time to get caught up with an old friend I used to know, called Television.

12:17am – Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll try my hand at sleeping again.

3:00 am – Ok…I’m still awake, and look at the time, my alarm is supposed to go off in about 30 minutes. Time to read some e-mails. Oooh….a reminder on my outlook…let’s see what it says:
Write blog about sleep deprivation – due Friday.

4:30am – I am standing in front of the Pantages Theatre, and I just had a mild heart attack. I cannot think of a better time to find out that the locks to the front door of the theatre have been changed, and now my key no longer works. (If anybody wants proof…please check the security camera videos to watch this tale unfold). After arguing with the door, looking like a homeless man on Hollywood Boulevard, I…for a split second…considered scaling the rod iron fence, and into the theatre. Where is my medieval catapult when I need it? Why am I so concerned about getting into the building? Because at this point, I think that the Grinch costume, wig, and makeup are backstage, and I know that we will need it within the next 30 minutes. You know… it’s never too late in life to learn to negotiate with a barbed wire fence. NO…do NOT scale the fence, Benny…I don’t care that your brother just dared you over the phone.

4:45am -- I don’t remember reading last night’s email from our company manager which said “Hey Benny, just so you know, I’ve already loaded all the Grinch stuff into my car, you don’t have to worry about it”…but apparently it was sent. Well…silly me! Hee hee. Does anybody know how to sew up a hole in pants caused by barbed wire? I missed that theatre class at UCLA.

6:30am -- Ok, we’ve arrived at the Univision Channel 34 television studios, “The Grinch” is in makeup, and I’ve now got to scour the building look for props for him to “steal” on air. I run downstairs to the lobby of the studios and grab about 10 fake present boxes from the big fake tree, and I am accosted by two very real security guards who both really accused me of really attempting to really steal their really fake presents. I told them that I was with “The Grinch”…and that I wasn’t really a thief. Then I thought to myself…should I REALLY be providing “The Grinch” as a character reference to prove that I’m not stealing?

7:00 am - WE’RE ON THE AIR! Whew…”The Grinch” looks great …the anchors, producers, and news directors are happy…and we’re now live on the #1 morning news broadcast in Los Angeles … and our show has now stole THEIR show. I couldn’t be happier. So not only did “The Grinch” steal a present from the anchors meant for Toys For Tots…but he also stole presents from the tree in the studio, kicked the director out of his chair in the control room and ordered both anchors to stand up and do jumping jacks, AND he did the Who-ville weather report before putting on a designer hat and modeling it for the camera. Dr. Seuss would be proud … I think. Next on the Agenda: Crash the Party at K-Earth 101!!!

8:30am - We arrived at CBS Radio on Wilshire’s Miracle Mile, and we just step out of our limo. And …we are literally stopping traffic! Seriously, have people never seen a man covered in green fur walking in front of an office building? Come on, people! Next stop…The K-Earth 101 Morning Show with Gary Bryan. We’re going to talk a little bit about the show, play around with their webcam, and even give away a family four pack of tickets! By the way…I’m still awake.

10:00am – We arrived at a location where we are scheduled to film a special internet video starring The Grinch, and our hosts have set up our “morning lunch buffet.” Sweet! A perfect time to check the smart phone … Wow…86 e-mails? Ha ha…I feel bad for the poor fool who has to read these! Oh wait…that’s me!

1:30pm – Filming wraps, and I head back to the office with “The Grinch” and his entourage.

* * * * *

And nope…my day is not over…now it’s time to get upstairs to actually start my day in the office. I’ve got a lot to do, and a short amount of time in which to do it. This week, I have two more television interviews to schedule with the Grinch, three for next week, and I have to firm up a CNN story on “The Grinch”. Plus I need to finish coordinating logistics for Friday, when The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America will be at the theatre as we grant a wish to a terminally ill 12 year old girl. Later tonight, I’ll be driving down to Disneyland to do my other job as a performer in "Fantasmic!"

I’m occasionally asked, “When do you sleep? Aren’t you worried about the effects of sleep deprivation?”

The truth is, I’m not terribly concerned about the effects of sleep deprivation. I’m more concerned about what amazing stories I will miss by BEING asleep.

I Pity The Sleepers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


by Jeff Loeb, Associate General Manager

“The tree won’t fit.” That’s the text message I received from our Technical Director (TD) during the load-in of DIRTY DANCING. I called him to discover that the 30 foot tree in the show, the one where Baby learns how to balance, won’t fit down the stage door ramp and make the turn onto the stage. The stage door is only 8 feet wide and it needs to be about 1 foot wider. Well that wasn’t going to happen today.

There have been a few shows that had set pieces either so large or heavy that we had difficulty getting them down the stage door ramp. There was PHANTOM with the 10,000 truss system or HAIRSPRAY with the neon set piece that caused a tow truck to tilt back on to the two back wheels. But even though they were large or heavy (or both) we somehow managed to get them all in the building. That is until the 30 foot tree showed up. We have never have we had a 30 foot long set piece and certainly one that didn’t break into sections. This was one solid tree and it wasn’t going in the building.

The next text I received from our TD: “Traffic stopped. The tree is on Hollywood Blvd”.

Why is it on Hollywood Blvd? The stage door is on Argyle. What are they up to? Come to learn that the crew made an executive decision and a good one at that. Since the tree was only 3 feet in diameter they decided to wheel the tree down on to Hollywood Blvd and try to bring it in through front doors of the theatre. Width wasn’t a problem. Length was.

Once the tree was in front of the theatre they spun it around so it aimed north directly at our front doors and blocked Hollywood Blvd completely. Traffic was held at a standstill for only a few minutes and the tree was slowly brought up over the curb and angled in through the front doors. It was a straight shot through the lobby and down one of the two center aisles. A slight issue was lifting the tree up on to the stage but once at the lip of the stage there were chain motors to help. And our crew is a total Home Improvement gang and loves using anything motorized.

It worked. Other than the traffic interruption the tree made it in and for every performance the tree would very slowly lower on to stage coming to rest on the stage floor so Baby could learn to dance in the woods.

At the conclusion of the run, the DIRTY DANCING set was dismantled. On that final day of strike, I asked if we might have a memento of the show. On Monday when I walked into my office there was a 6 foot section of the tree sitting where me desk chair used to be. I had to laugh because all I could think was “I bet the tree fit through the door this time.”

Monday, November 23, 2009


By Steve Cisneros, Pantages House Manager

I’ve been very proud to have spent the last 15 years of my career working for what I believe to be some of the finest theatres and venues in Southern California. I’ve had the opportunity to meet the biggest celebrities in the world, meet some of the most talented performers, and watch some of the best shows the theatre world has to offer.

However, until just last week with the opening of Dr. Seuss' "How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" (Shameless plug alert: now running at the Pantages until January 3, visit for tickets), I had never had the opportunity to see this: children making snow angels in the middle of our aisle.

Keep in mind, we have a roof, there is no actual snow falling in our venue (this is Los Angeles after all), and it’s a pleasantly warm day outside of our theatre. However, this does not deter the dozens of children still smiling, screaming, and trotting about our theatre as if they stepped out into the snowy Colorado Mountains.

I don’t want to give a way the ending of the show, (though it’s doubtful many of us don’t already know the story), but suffice it to say, there is plenty of white stuff falling.

Despite The Grinch’s attempt to make the Christmas holiday less cheerful, the children that file into our theatre seem to be filled with the same holiday cheer the Whos have been trying to pass on to our green friend. And while The Grinch has long left the stage, the energy of the show continues in the hearts of our young theatregoers.

I mentioned in my last blog that many of our patrons, now in their 70s and 80s, have been visiting our theatre since they were children. I can’t help but remember these veteran theatregoers as I look at the young kids filling the lobby. I wonder if the House Manager 70 years from now will be speaking to these same patrons, that I see now as children making snow angels. I wonder if that House Manager will get to hear about the stories I am seeing first hand.

Come for The Grinch and laugh, come for the holiday and be merry, come for the live theatre and make it a night; but make sure you stay for the angels in the aisle, and make it a memory you will never forget.

Friday, November 13, 2009


by Bob Speck, Director of Sales

I live in Los Angeles, and I walk. I’ll give you time to process that…

I live in L.A., and I walk. As a very recent transplant, walking is not an alien concept to me. However, tell the average Angelino that you walk, and your admission will likely be met with a combination of disbelief and pity.

You walk?

They ask, their upper lips twitching ever so slightly.

You mean that you hike, like Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park?

They ask, some visibly choking back tears.

For you out-of-towners, Runyon Canyon is a barren crag in the Hollywood Hills, a climb up which is a level of physical activity usually reserved for prisoners of war on forced marches. This little fact aside, it is unfathomably popular with the L.A. fit set and their dogs. And you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen an impossibly thin would-be actress dragging her hyperventilating French bulldog up a narrow mountain pass. Griffith Park is a sprawling complex consisting of a zoo, an amphitheater, two museums, an observatory and acre after acre of relatively unspoiled wilderness that annually busts into flames threatening wildlife and the lives and homes of near by residents.

No, I walk. Like to work or the store or dinner.

Gape-mouthed stares usually follow. The kind of reaction one would expect after confessing to regularly appearing in pornography or having six toes on one foot.

I guess some background is in order. I have recently arrived in L.A. after living in New York City for the last 20 years and prior to that a brief stay abroad in Paris. My driver’s license having long ago expired, I haven’t been behind the wheel in any meaningful way in almost two decades. In the past, this has proved a minor inconvenience at worst, my previous philosophy being something along the lines of “If you can’t get there by subway it’s probably not worth the trip, thank you very much.” Now I’m some kind of mythological beast that people have always heard about but never seen, a pudgy unicorn ambling east on Santa Monica Blvd. near La Brea.

“So what does any of this have to do with theater?” I hear you ask. Well I work at the Pantages. The Pantages is in Hollywood. Hollywood is in L.A., and L.A. means fitness. And what does any of this have to do with fitness? The sad truth is not a whole lot. Because even though I don’t drive here in the place that gave the world the right turn on red, I walk less than I did in New York. This isn’t because I’ve become even more slothful than I was before (granted, being somewhere with my feet up eating cookies is my idea of a good time, but even I have my limits) but because some strange conspiracy of climate and landscape almost forces one to ride. Even if the vehicle of your transport is *gasp* a city bus. This is, after all, the town where the swanker gyms offer valet parking to spare their members the arduous sojourn from the parking lot to the front door. Of course, once inside these “fitness centers” the very people who couldn’t park their own cars push themselves to the very limits of human endurance in classes like Power Yoga, Power Pilates or Power Spinning. The very thought of which makes me want to take a Power Nap.

I know that for all my snarkiness, if I wish to reach a level of fitness that allows me to tie my shoes without getting winded, then I will have to sacrifice myself to one of these chrome-plated, neon lit temples of sweat. I just have to find the right one for me, one that best suites my personality. A gym with comfy chairs. And ... cookies?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


By Wayne McWorter, Vice President, Marketing

I’m on the downhill slope of 40 – well, actually I’m closer to the 5-0 mile marker, but nevertheless … I’ve always thought of myself as progressive. I’ve plugged in to the electronic culture as a means of accomplishing more and more, in less and less time. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, I know, but it’s the reality of a modern, multi-tasking life. I actually caught myself recently using my iPhone to check my bank balance because I was running too many programs simultaneously on my desktop computer. I’ve recently added a second monitor to allow me more space in which to multi-task.

My multi-tasking skills have recently been taken to task, however, with a commitment I made to my new mate. Companion, thy name is Twitter. As I wrote in our very first “Postcard From Pantages,” we’ve made a commitment to the distribution of information in forms that are relevant to different types of info-consumers. Personally, I can’t stand Facebook; sorry, I’ve tried, but the virtual community of that world, with all its intertwining tentacles, is more than my multi-tasking brain (and fingers) can manage.

So when I met my friend Twitter, I thought I had found my perfect match. I reasoned that it is basically the “status update” portion of Facebook, without all the other do-dads to update and maintain. Plus, you can’t use more than 140 characters, so that would keep me brief. (If anyone out there is reading this, I fear that you’re suffering the overflow not allowed me on Twitter…)

I was determined to make Twitter interesting for any poor soles that might decide to follow “Pantages.” Do our Twitter followers really care for me to tell them every time we have a performance? I doubt it. So I’ve tried to find a mix of things that are interesting to me: breaking Broadway news items, notification about special unadvertised price specials, info on touring shows making their way to L.A., etc. And then I discovered the art of Re-Tweeting. Using the abbreviation “RT” followed by the account name that originally sent the message, I enjoy sharing things that strike my fancy.

But actually doing all this has turned out to be much more difficult than I had originally imagined. In my attempt to stay current, I now have my TweetDeck interface running all day on my computer. Tweet-tweet comes in a new set of updates. I follow a little over 100 different accounts as “@Pantages,” and another 60 or so from my personal account. Most of these provide me with a steady stream of information about the world of the theatre or related entertainment. But in order to keep up with the bouncing ball, I find myself jumping back and forth more than ever before between Outlook, TweetDeck, Excel, Word, TweetDeck, Google, our website, TweetDeck… I’m afraid that I’m going to miss some cool piece of news, or some spark of an idea that will inspire my next Tweet.

Sure, it can be fun. At least, I reason, I’m not trying to come up with 140 characters to describe a relief for bunion pain. Wait – that’s my next Tweet!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


by Jeff Loeb, Associate General Manager

When I was 17 I was in a production of "Bye Bye Birdie" at the St. Louis MUNY that starred Tommy Tune, Ann Reinking and southern California favorite Susan Egan. I was in awe of the show and to be on the big stage. And when I say big, I mean big. The MUNY stage is 200 feet wide with two giant oak trees on either side of the stage. Oh, did I mention that the theatre is an outdoor amphitheatre? I was one of the local kids cast in the show and my high school theatre teacher was a stage manager. He quickly assigned me to be the “teen coordinator,” which meant I was the babysitter for a bunch of other 17 year olds. Little did I know that my assignment was to be a test for another job...

At the end of the show, I got a call from the show’s producer, Paul Blake, asking if I would like to come work for him on the next show, "No No Nannette." The specific job was to shadow the '50s heartthrob, Van Johnson. Van was a very social individual and would often be delayed getting to rehearsal because he would lose track of time. Thus the creation of my new position, to pick up the actor from the Ritz Carlton (yes, even St. Louis has a Ritz) and deliver him to the rehearsal stage promptly at 10am.

At 17 I was unaware of who Van Johnson was, but I quickly learned why so many people loved this man. Van was classic old school. He wore a sports jacket for rehearsals, spoke with a tonality and clarity that just drew your ear, and never had a bad word to say about anyone. To say he was charming doesn’t give him justice.

As I continued to learn about Van, I found out that his trademark was to wear red socks. So on opening night, I arrived at the Ritz wearing a tuxedo with a red cummerbund and bow tie. Mind you this with the late '80s, when colored cummerbunds were all the rage at high school dances. Cap this all off with a mouth full of braces. I was the poster child for Naive Midwest Boy. But man did Van smile in appreciation when I opened the door.

The show ran one week, and on closing night after the show, Van walked over to me to say thank you. And in his hands he held a brand new pair of red socks. He handed them to me and thanked me for helping him to have a great run. I still have those red socks tucked at the back of my dresser drawer. They remind me of a very simple time in my life when I was truly in awe of theatre and the people that made it happen.

Now, as I take my three kids to the theatre, I realize that I have the opportunity to inspire awe in my children. No, I’m not the one on stage, but my daily job is to make sure that the actors, stage managers and production crew have a well run theatre with an excited audience waiting for the curtain to rise. I never would have imagined at age 17 that I'd be doing what I am doing now, from fixing broken seats to clearing seeing eye dogs into the theatre.

I wonder what my kids are thinking about doing when they grow up.

Friday, October 16, 2009


by Lesli Bandy, Broadway/L.A. Season Services Manager

It is probably the most common question I’m asked when I tell people where I work.

You aren’t alone. You’re in the company of Hollywood royalty! Want a laugh? Here’s a clip of the great Elizabeth Taylor struggling over the name (and others!):

Nederlander (pronounced NEE-der-land-er) is one of the largest powerhouses in the Broadway industry, and a major force in the concert industry, as well.

The second biggest question I get: “So, you sell tickets?”

Sort of. My official title: Broadway/L.A. Season Services Manager.

David Francis’ recent blog post, The Wizard of Ozone, is probably the most creative way to explain a large part of the technical, boring side of my job. The other part is, what I like to call, servicing the customer. Yes, I service L.A. customers all the way down in San Diego. I swing in my porch hammock, feet in the sand, laptop on my lap, cell phone in hand, ready to solve any patron issues with a laid-back smile as I watch the waves roll in.


In our San Diego office, we service Broadway/L.A., Broadway/San Diego, Broadway in Riverside, Broadway in Tucson, and Broadway/San Jose. This is Nederlander’s West Coast Regional Season Ticket Office. There is no sand at our feet and we can’t watch the waves roll in from our porch, but we still try to accommodate any request with a laid-back smile. This is, after all, San Diego.

With a staff of 7 for Broadway/L.A., we take on many duties.

We welcome new Season Ticket Holders after they purchase their first season seat package, explaining every detail about the shows and their seats, so they know what to expect.

We help Members change seats because one of their party had knee surgery and needs an aisle seat for a few shows, until she gets better and the can sit in their old seats again.

We re-issue Season Tickets that were destroyed in a fire, so these patrons would still have the joy of looking forward to the theatre.

We give a 93-year-old veteran aerial photographer in World War II access to matinee shows in the same great center section seats he’s had for years, since he is no longer able to drive at night.

We call 9-1-1 to help a Season Ticket Holder who passed out after having a seizure in the middle of a phone conversation, and we stay on the phone until the ambulance arrives.

We position a family of four in the first row of the balcony so their small children can see the season of shows without anyone blocking their view.

We comb the ticketing system to re-capture a patron’s old seats again, after he had to cancel; happily, he got his job back, and would no longer be forced to move.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the “process” of it all sometimes; it’s easy for us to forget why we are doing this. But once in a while, when the phone stops ringing, we take a moment to sit in our hammocks, stick our feet in the sand, watch the waves roll in, and remember what it is we do – what it is we really do.

Very soon, another person will get the chance to sit in the glorious Pantages and be whisked away to another world for an entire season, and they will love their seats, because that is our job, and Mr. Nederlander has made it all possible.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


by Martin Wiviott, General Manager, Pantages Theatre

You’d be surprised at the letters I get that start out that way. I can always tell a complaint letter from the envelope. When I see the mail in the morning, I look at the letters, and sort of feel the contents… look at how it’s addressed (most often in capital letters) to “Manager”… and then look at the return address, which often contains any kind of title the writer might possess (Executive Assistant to…. Judge, Retired…. Attorney at Law). Most are handwritten, with the bold scratching literally trumpeting off the envelope in anger.

I usually save these fascinating missives to read later in the day. Obviously, when things go wrong at the theatre, such as a star missing some performances, I expect to get letters of complaint. Why not? I complained about it too! The interesting thing about those letters is that the patron is correct, and we will do whatever they request including refunding the tickets with no questions asked. But I have to decipher the message through all the anger they muster to tell me how disappointed they were.

Then there are the folks who have seen the entire performance, and weeks later, come up with a reason why they were not satisfied, claiming they’re owed a refund. I loved the lady who called me to tell me how terrible she thought a show was. She had her boyfriend on the phone, who attended with her. We chatted for a few minutes and then she said, “I was so bored I fell asleep.” I said, “Now let me get this straight. You said the show was terrible, but you didn’t see it because you fell asleep?” Even the boyfriend laughed! It was so funny that I invited the couple back to see another production.

Generally when people write to request a refund because they thought a show was terrible, I reply with a very congenial letter advising them that their opinion of a show doesn’t make it a fact. I sometimes include a review (a positive one) of the show by a critic, and I say that, just because a critic thinks a show is great, doesn’t make it a fact either. Both are just opinions. And refunds are not made because of opinions. The closing sentence of my letter usually states that “I hope you will take as much time to write us when there is something you do like.”

Some people, writing to complain about not liking a show, state that “I have been coming to your theatre for 20 years, and this is the worst thing I have ever seen.” My reply to that comment is, “Gosh, only one bad show in 20 years? What a great track record we have!”

Then there are the complaint letters from patrons who purchased seats toward the back of the theatre for reduced prices and later write to complain that there were empty seats in front of them, and the ushers wouldn’t let them move down to the more expensive locations. Just think! Of all the nerve! We actually made them sit in the seats they purchased!! What they don’t consider is, when they do move down to closer locations, I get more letters from the people who were sitting there and saw those who paid less moving into the areas in which they paid to sit.

Are there some productions that are not as entertaining as others? Of course. Are there some performers who are not as good as the Broadway originals? Of course. But for the most part, the productions that appear at the Pantages are entertaining, and in some cases even better than the New York versions. I have often heard patrons commenting in the lobby, “This is better than the version I saw on Broadway.”

All things considered, I usually adhere to the tried-and-true business slogan, “The customer is always right.” And in the end, after 30 minutes of letting someone vent on the phone, I’ll ask, “What would you like me to do?” After that, they generally become my lasting friend!

We have one patron who, years ago, wrote me claiming the performance she saw was worse than any high school production. (Secretly, I agreed. I couldn’t even sit through that show!) The lady and I talked for quite a while. We agreed that we both had the same taste in theatre. Since her Season Tickets were always toward the end of the run, I told her I would see the show on opening night, and if I didn’t like it, I’d know she wasn’t going to like it, and I would phone her and tell her not to come, allowing her to exchange for another production. She’s still a Season Ticket Holder to this day, and I’m her personal advance critic!

Monday, October 5, 2009


By David Francis, Archtics Ticketing Manager

In the world of theatre, those magical “front of house” feelings some of my colleagues speak fondly of which

carry our patrons down the yellow brick road not only of their own imaginations, but of the imaginations of the
actors, writers, musicians, designers and all the creative people responsible for some illusive
night of reprieve are not the whole story of the whole world of theatre. For that one
night of extraterrestrial wonder which can change moods, change
outlooks, shape and sometimes even save lives,
there must be someone behind the curtain. Behind even the curtain’s curtain. Pulling the levers. Someone

who pulls together the gases from the atmosphere, molds those gases into individual cells
and glues those cells together creating structural membranes with
an enlarging vision on a diminishing scale of how those complex membranes translate
into a little piece of paper
that has the power to transfer a living, breathing person from his own space and time, from his own

unrelenting daily life and through a
not completely understood myriad of mazes and wormholes, take him
to a specific time and place and set him down into a specific receptacle no bigger than a chair. But a chair in an
illusion of emotions ranging from
laughter to tears and back again all within the timeframe of a few hours.

It is what I do. As the ticketing manager of our ticketing system that Tickemaster calls Archtics, I give

relationships to that data, drawn from the
ether, and using an ever-changing recipe, and from scratch, I create
the digital events, the digital times and prices, put together the pre-arranged digital pieces and
in the virtual blink of an eye and from the pseudo-sweat of my brow, I deliver to you a
reality-based three dimensional object you can hold in your hand and, without which, you cannot
enter that wonder filled world of theatre: your ticket.

Friday, September 18, 2009


By Linda Markwica, TeleSales Manager

“Is there a script?” is a common question during job interviews. “No,” I respond, “you’re not delivering a monologue; you have to be able to converse with someone with whom you have something in common. It’s your personality and your enthusiasm that sells season tickets.”

Actors, writers, musicians and just plain folk populate the basement offices of Broadway/L.A.’s Telesales department. We’re here not just because a part time job suits our needs – but because this part time job suits our personalities. We’re the people who call you in the evenings (maybe during dinner) to talk about Broadway/L.A.’s next season selection of musicals at the Pantages Theatre.

“When I talk to a patron,” says Tracey, “I feel an instant connection; the person has been to one of our shows, and I’m working here because I’m an actor who loves live theatre.”

My sales force is filled with creative people who need to be as close to a creative environment as possible. This isn’t just some telemarketing job. Quite often a successful applicant doesn’t have any telesales experience, but exudes a passion to be connected to the world of theatre. All have distinct personalities, boatloads of enthusiasm, and a shared passion that what they’re selling has exceeding value.

Inevitably, there are times when that energy starts to wane – when no one is answering the phone (think Lakers play-off time!). – It is time for a bit of a reminder of why we’re here. Through the basement we roam, past the rehearsal room where, during a show, dances steps and songs are practiced by understudies and newcomers. We follow a trail of dotted yellow lines painted onto the floor, left behind by a production as “breadcrumbs” to ensure that its performers wouldn’t get lost. If there’s a show going on – we make our visit brief – we glance at all the costumes hanging about, the wigs, and various props, the evidence of a show that is soon to go on. I can feel the energy of my staff start to return. If the theatre is dark – we walk up to the stage – the way the players do. And my actors imagine what it would be like to be in a musical, and my musicians and writers visit their own fantasies, and I have to move them along with the reminder they need to work to pay their rent. From the stage we go to the empty theatre and remember shows we have seen and look forward to the shows that are coming. Then on to the lobby we proceed, and here I add my own bit of drama – I slowly raise the lights. And my people look up and around, and any chatter ceases. Even empty this old Art Deco theatre invokes a sense of awe.

Backstage, onstage, the auditorium, the lobby –the mighty Pantages motivates her subjects, infusing them with the old spirit of excitement. The ghosts of past performances, of past audiences, give us the impetus to return to the phones – to help fill the seats of the Pantages Theatre – reborn in the power of the gift we are bringing to others.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


By Benny Aguayo, Marketing Associate

My world is filled with love. As I sit here typing these words, I find my memories returning to my sixth grade classroom, and Mrs. Doby is asking us to write a paper on the one thing we love the most.

I never thought I would find myself 17 years later, writing the exact same sentiments on the exact same love affair. My relationship with the dramatic arts is absolutely the longest relationship that I have had (aside from my loving family).

So often, my friends have asked, "Benny, why do you love what you do?" The plain and simple answer: I love what I do because my job consists of giving other hopeless romantics in the world the reasons and the tools to fall in love, just as I have.

I find absolute beauty in the idea of 2700 strangers coming together to experience a united, emotional journey, sharing with one another their own stories. While patrons sit in their seats, with 10 minutes till the curtain rises, I find myself walking up and down the aisles of the Pantages Theatre imagining the individual stories unfold amid our beautiful maroon seats.

If you look to your left, you will see the couple who has been married for over 50 years, still madly in love, who have brought the magic of the theatre into their marriage. Look to your right, and you will see the young father and mother sitting with their three young children, each of them as yet unaware of the gift they’re about to receive. Strain your neck just a little, and you will see the group of aspiring actors and actresses coming down to get a closer look at our stage, chatting up their knowledge about those who have succeeded in achieved the ever-coveted Equity Contract. And see all the way in the back, there’s the single mother of two, who because of our special discount offer for this show, was able to afford tickets, a luxury she manages once every few years.

The Pantages Theatre is filled with a million stories nightly, not just the one on the stage.

In an age where mobile communication, texting, social networking sites and e-mail have begun replacing actual human contact and interaction, what can compare to the thrill of sharing an emotion with a community of friendly strangers. The world of the theater lover is the world of open arms, open ears, and open eyes. All ideas and all stories are meant to be shared, and we congregate in unspoken agreement to celebrate our similarities and our differences.

As I look at all the smiling faces on our patrons, and at all our hard-working staff members, I find great satisfaction in knowing that this art form of ours will survive. There is so much love within the theatrical community, and every performance is a gift to all involved.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


By Steve Cisneros, Pantages House Manager

I love people.

I love theatre.

I love the people that go to theatre.

I have the perfect job.

Every night, at every performance, I get to speak to our patrons. Some of you are visiting us for the 50th time, some for the first time, and most somewhere in between. One guest, now entering her seventies, shared memories about her childhood, dressing up in the fanciest of gowns, pretending she was Ginger Rogers as she came down one of the grand staircases in the opulent Pantages lobby. Some can list every movie they ever saw here, back when movie theatres were big places and not cubicles. As I am often told, theatre was an Event, capital E, back in “the good old days.”

For me, it still is. Eight times a week.

As I stand at the front doors, I enjoy greeting our patrons. I smile at the couple who walks in, dashing in tuxedo and formal gown, dressed to the nines. I smile at those who arrive wearing suits and dresses. And I smile at those who wear t-shirts, baseball caps, and flip-flops.

Sometimes I scan the thousands of patrons enjoying their special time on the town. They appear to come from all walks of life. Some planned their night with us months in advance; others bought their tickets just 20 minutes before the show, their original intent simply being to buy a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a nearby street vendor. One man recently saw Legally Blonde The Musical while on a layover from a cancelled flight back to his home state of Colorado.

Every so often, I speak with patrons who wonder why we don’t enforce a dress code. Some might prefer that everyone be in formalwear, like “the good old days.” I can imagine how impressive the lobby might look in a sea of penguin suits. (I saw that scene in The Aviator, which was filmed right here.)

However, after much thought, I’ve decided that I wouldn’t want to change the attire of a single patron. You see, it’s our special combination of people, in all manner of attire, that ultimately creates the special brand of excitement at the Pantages Theatre – the standing ovations, the autograph lines, the laughter, the tears, and everything else that makes live theatre like no other experience on earth.

So the next time I get one of those calls (and there are many) asking what the “dress code” is for the Pantages Theatre (as if staff will be at the front doors with a measuring tape checking for gown length!), I’ll carry an extra smile in my heart as I say, “We have no dress code at the Pantages – You’ll find folks in everything from tuxedos to flip-flops. While we encourage our guests to dress up to make the occasion more special, please wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.” Because in my mind, I don’t want to see anything get in their way of taking that first step – walking through our doors because they’re interested in seeing what everyone’s talking about!

That alone, is enough to get my aforementioned smiles of approval as I stand at the front doors, show after show, knowing every day at the Pantages is one of the “good old days.”

Friday, August 28, 2009


by Stephen Benson, Pantages Box Office Treasurer

It’s a warm July Sunday morning, and I’m enjoying my second cup of at my desk in the Pantages Box Office. I like quiet Sunday mornings at the office, when I can catch up unfinished work. You might be surprised at how many details go into the day-to-day operation of ticketing a 2,700 seat theatre, but I’ll save that for a different blog.

Flash forward a couple hours, and cue the entrance of the Company Manager of Fiddler on the Roof, stage left, with a somewhat wide-eyed look of … is that distress?

“Topol will not be in today’s matinee.”

As I listen to the words, they take a moment to register. It’s now 40 minutes until curtain and the doors are open and the lobby is full of people. She repeats, “Topol will not be in today’s show.” After a beat it sinks in, and my mind starts racing. The second cup of coffee was staring to pay off. But for how long?

Like the performers on our stage, we have rehearsed for these moments (although fortunately, such crises are few and far between). Step one: E-mail the General Manager, Associate General Manager and House Manager a quick message. Step two: Call Ticketmaster to enable refunds or exchanges, should they be requested. Step three: contact the parking lots to allow refunds. Step four: create handouts and signs providing patrons with instructions. Step five: make the announcement over the PA system … The Announcement?!

My heart sinks into my stomach, which then sinks to the floor. Once that public announcement happens it’s on…. and by “it,” I mean the distraught patrons.

We place signs in the box office windows and at the doors of the theatre and supply a handful of refund information slips to the security guys just as our refund line grows to a half–block long and the first complaint is heard: “We drove two hours to get here just to find out Topol is not here – why didn’t you let us know ahead of time?”

Then the passionate questions get turned up in volume, and it’s contagious. 30 minutes later, the accusations begin.

“That’s false advertizing.”
“You knew this ahead of time; I know you did!”
“You deliberately deceived us!”

The anger in people’s eyes is a little unnerving (more so as it enters hour two).

Many great musicals feature an “11 o’clock number,” the one where emotions reach a peak during a cathartic release by the main character. Think “Rose’s Turn” in “Gypsy.”

On this day, the 11 o’clock number happened before 3 in the afternoon. A woman steps up to the refund window. Her body shaking with emotion, her eyes pouring forth tears, she lifts her voice, as if to reach the back of some balcony. My ears tune in as she shares about how her daughter has studied Topol in school, and how upset, how wounded her little girl is. And I find my eyes gazing upon the little girl who clings tightly behind her mom;s neck. And like so many time before, I wonder why it is that people think that those of us behind the box office glass are deliberately out to cheat them.

Please don’t get me wrong. I know what I signed on for when I adopted my profession. And I am thrilled that I have the opportunity of heading the box office of one of this country’s major venues for touring Broadway. And if it means that I have to be on the front lines (with some of my amazing co-workers) to soothe nerves, then I accept that challenge.

But since I’m being given an electronic soapbox to share, I figure it doesn’t hurt to state my case. We in the box office don’t control anything that happens (or doesn’t happen) on the other side of the proscenium. We have been told on numerous occasions that the Pantages Box Office staff is one of the friendliest and most helpful in the nation. We are here to help you, in good times and bad. No matter your issue, my hope is that next time you visit and if you ever have a problem, you might be able to see the compassion in our eyes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


by Bob Speck, Director of Sales

I blog a lot.

Other than my personal blog, I also write for a fitness website about my never-ending battle against glazed doughnuts, beer and all the other foods that, while delicious, make us (read me) well …fat. And yet, as I sit writing my first post for our new blog here at the Pantages, it occurs to me that in all those words I have never once written about theatre. This strikes me as a little strange because I’ve been working in theatre over half my life.

I got my first professional job as an actor at age 16 and in the ensuing 27 years performed just about every job theatre affords. I have worked on stage, back stage, in light booths, at sound mixing desks and costume shops. Having worked Off and Off-Off Broadway, I performed many of these tasks simultaneously. While the Pantages here in Hollywood is certainly one of the nation’s most opulent theatres, please don’t think my brilliant career has been all gilt and crushed velvet. In my past a theatre has meant many things—church basements, the street, public buildings, store fronts, night clubs, catering halls, ramshackle movie palaces of ill-fame and, yes, opera houses and even old red barns. However, Mickey and Judy were nowhere to be found. For those of you who have no idea who Mickey and Judy are (shame on you), ask your parents. If they don’t know (shame on them), ask your grandparents.

So with all this experience why haven’t I written about theatre? I’m not sure. The best I can come up with is that it may hit a little too close to home. With so many friends in show business and a paycheck at stake, it’s much easier, not to mention fiscally prudent, to be snarky about my dislike for working out or my refusal to get a driver’s license. The joke is always on me and nobody important gets their feelings hurt. But blog about the celebrity who spent the entire second act of a new musical on their Blackberry and all hell breaks loose. Oops!!! But I’m willing to give it a shot if you are. I’ll write it (if they let me), you read it and we’ll have a laugh together. Deal?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


by Wayne McWorter, VP Marketing

Hello from the official blog of Hollywood's Pantages Theatre. This grande dame of L.A. entertainment palaces is finally entering the 21st Century, about a decade late. But give her a break; she's nearing 80 and sometimes doesn't move so fast.

I've been avoiding the world of "social networking" for some time. I find very little spare time in my personal life to spend in front of a computer screen. I created a personal MySpace page years ago so that I could attempt to remain relevant to my kids. I created a Facebook page to attempt to stay on top of what was clearly a growing trend in how people connect, communicate and access information. I don't remember for sure, but I think I may have beaten my kids to that one. Nevertheless, by now they have far surpassed me in proficience to use that tool. Every time I go on Facebook, I have to re-learn where everything is.

Twitter seemed to me the "holy grail" of social networking, because it took such little time and effort. I jumped in and began "tweeting" to anyone who would "listen" about the stupidest details of my life. How many times can you post "got 2 have my morning coffee" or "finishing a crazy day @work" before you realize how uneventful your day-to-day life is?

I can no longer avoid the tsunami of evidence that we need to jump into the ocean of social media sites and do the best we can to master the wild currents we encounter. Eventually, we may even learn to stand up on our surfboard and look like we know what we're doing.

"We" is the operative term here, because I know that I'll never be able to keep this up on my own. So as we move forward in our blogging adventure, we will endeavor to share with you many different points of view from different members of our staff, and perhaps on occasion, some celebrity guest bloggers from shows playing this historic hall.

We hope you'll join us!