How do your patrons rate your company? Certainly by the quality of your productions. But just as likely, by the competence of your box office staff, the cleanliness of your restrooms, and the friendliness of your ushers. All are part of your theatre’s public face, and all are the responsibility of the house manager.
The house manager is responsible for the smooth operation of the house (typically both the lobby and audience seating area) during the run of the show. House mangers welcome the public to the theatre and oversee their safety and well-being before, during, and immediately after the show. They answer question, listen to patrons' compliments and concerns, and make audience members feel welcome.
The front-of-house staff may be the only members of the company who the audience interact with on a regular basis, so their interactions are of prime importance.
Key duties of the house manager may include: recruiting or supervising recruiting of all house workers (ushers, greeter, refreshment or souvenir seller, etc.); coordinating building opening times on show nights with stage manager; orienting and training all house workers; explaining how tickets are to be taken and where they are to be stored; checking rest rooms after intermission and at end of night; cleaning house area and restocking supplies; along with the stage manager, ensure all lights are turned off after each show and all doors are locked, and that no water is left running.
- The house manager schedules, trains, and supervises the ushers, who take tickets and lead patrons to their seats. This means making sure that ushers have a sense of the seating scheme, so that they can lead patrons to their seats in the quickest possible way. Some ushers may be assigned to hand out programs. Ushers must also be made familiar with the latecomers policy. The house manager makes sure that ushers have whatever supplies are needed to their job, such as a flashlights.
- If there are programs to be handed out prior to the performance, the house manager makes sure that the right number is available. The house manager does a pre-show walk-through of the lobby and seating area to verify that the house is clean and presentable for the audience. If there are signs or notices relevant to a particular show, such as "no flash photography" or "no use of cell phones" the house manager makes sure those signs are in place.
- The house manager is responsible for the safety of the audience, in case of an emergency, like a fire or tornado, and should know what steps to take to either evacuate the audience members, or secure them in place. The ushers should also be instructed in emergency procedures, particularly where various escape routes are located.
- The house manager works closely with the box office manager. If there is a dispute about tickets -- for example, if a patron mistakes the date on her ticket and shows up on the wrong night, the house manager may have to help resolve the situation. If there is a waiting list, the house manager coordinates with the box office manager to determine which audience members will be seated. If the theater offers standing room, the house manager must make sure that the theater is observing capacity limits and fire laws.
- The house manager confirms show time with the stage manager. If there are latecomers, and a need to delay the start of the show, the house manager alerts the stage manager, who is managing the production as it happens. If some of the stage action takes place in and around where the audience is seated, the house manager makes sure that the aisles are clear of people's feet or their belongings.