Everyone visiting our theatre will interact with our box office team, whether it’s simply to check in to see a show or to sort out a ticket query. The team, managed by Gareth Milton, forms the gateway for audiences coming to our theatre, and it’s made up of cheery volunteers who meet and greet them. We asked Lorna, a very recent volunteer, and experienced volunteer Noah to tell us more about what’s involved.
How long have you volunteered for box office, and what inspired you to sign up?
Lorna: Six months now. I’d attended SLT as an occasional audience member over many years and really enjoyed the high quality of the productions I’d seen, so I took the plunge to become an SLT member earlier this year so that I’d get early notice of productions and cheaper tickets! At the new members’ evening I was bowled over to discover that at SLT there’s only one paid member of staff (Bex Law, the Building Manager), and that everything to do with each production from acting, directing, lighting, scenery, costumes to the bar and front of house is undertaken by SLT members who volunteer their time and skills. I haven’t much artistic talent, so thought I would offer my services front of house and started as a raffle volunteer. From there I had the chance to see what was involved in box office, and so was happy to volunteer there when the opportunity arose.
Noah: I’ve been volunteering for Box Office since 2013. I signed up shortly after I joined SLT, and as I’m not a natural on stage I thought it would be a good way to get involved in another area of the theatre. When I first started, we conducted box office in what was basically a cupboard with a small window, an ancient PC and a very temperamental ticket printer – the set up in the foyer now is a vast improvement, and the online booking system makes things much easier for us and our customers.
What does the role involve?
Lorna: Primarily selling tickets for that evening’s performance (and sometimes advance tickets for upcoming shows, in person or over the phone), and ensuring admission passes are ready for those who’ve pre-booked – we have to check everyone in. We respond to any new telephone messages or emails for the Box Office, collate the report on the takings for the day, and cash up.
Noah: Often the Box Office volunteer also takes on the role of Lead Fire Marshall for the night, which means checking exit routes are clear before each performance, being prepared to call the Fire Brigade if required and assist with the evacuation of the building. During a show we’ll also often chat to passers-by who pop in as well as customers about upcoming shows, membership, volunteering and the theatre building. An awful lot of locals are still just getting used to the updated version of us! Your shift starts at least an hour before curtain up, and goes on until the show comes down. If there’s nothing happening while the show is on, you can read or keep yourself occupied on the internet!
What are the challenges?
Noah: The ticketing software is generally user-friendly and all volunteers are well trained and supported. People arriving to buy or collect their tickets a minute or two before the performance starts can make life slightly fraught when we’re trying to get everyone seated and to start the show!
Lorna: On a busy night when people are queuing and you can’t get the printer to print the Front of House report for the night it can feel a bit stressful, but everyone’s friendly and there’s always someone around to help sort things out and offer moral support. The biggest challenge for me has been learning new skills in managing the ticket booking and payment systems. But it’s really not complicated, the training I received was very good, and I’ve been thoroughly supported as I learn the role.
What do you like about being on Box Office?
Lorna: It’s been a good way to start getting to know other members and SLT regular visitors. I also enjoy feeling that I’ve contributed in some small way to SLT, which is a fantastic community resource.
Noah: I enjoy being involved with visitors, especially seeing their reactions to shows at the intervals and afterwards, plus meeting other members of the theatre such as Front of House staff and Stage Managers. It’s also entertaining seeing the cast in all manner of costumes make their entrances and exits through the foyer – the Crab from Peter Pan was particularly spectacular!
What would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering for Box Office?
Lorna: Definitely give it a try. You’ll receive training and will be supported until you’re confident to go it alone.
Noah: I would thoroughly recommend you give it a go, as it’s a great way to meet people whilst performing a vital function. Plus you get a free ticket to a show for every shift you work as a bonus!