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.