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!