Tonight is Alice’s birthday, and it’s just been awful.

First, she waited for her food for 45 minutes at the restaurant. Seems they lost her order. Once it was delivered, she bolted her food. Then she and her daughter rushed to the car and sped through town to get to the theater. Finally, at two minutes before 8, she pulled up to the parking garage, but was told it was full. She circled a nearby lot a couple of times and finally found a spot at the far end. The pair raced to the theater in heels, but it was too late. The performance had already begun.

Her frustration mounted when she was told that she would not be allowed in until after the first 15 minutes. She became angry when she was told that she would not be seated in the center orchestra seats her daughter gave her as a birthday present until after intermission.

Poor Alice, right? She really tried to make it on time. Why can’t we just usher her to her seats?

Would you let her in? If so, how do you explain to the other 2,000 patrons who arrived on time that Alice deserves to be let in late, that getting her to her seats is a valid disruption, that being late wasn’t her fault?

Thelma Domenici might not have much sympathy for Alice. She stated in an Albuquerque Journal column on July 3 that if “you do arrive late, you should fully expect to stand in the back until the intermission.” (Never mind that standing in back violates fire codes.) Ms. Domenici published her remarks because someone wrote to ask her opinion of those who arrive late to Popejoy performances and our way of handling them.

Different theaters have different ways of dealing with the inevitable latecomers. Brooklyn Center in New York has a designated “late seating” area. So does the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, Virginia. The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago emphatically states they have a no-late-seating policy, then confuses the issue by stating “Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of the management.”

Latecomers create problems of all kinds for Popejoy’s house managers. Because our touring shows set our late-seating policies — sometimes by contract — we have to execute different policies on different nights. Even within the run of the same show, we might have different circumstances. Is Alice arriving at Popejoy for a sold-out Friday night performance or a Sunday night performance that is not sold out? Instructed by a show to seat latecomers after the first 15 minutes, we can seat Alice at the back of the house in unsold seats on Sunday night, but if her tickets are for Friday night, we have no unsold seats. We have to put her in her seats, regardless of the disruption.

There are certainly those who say we shouldn’t seat Alice until intermission, no matter what. Everybody else arrived on time; Alice should have, too. They suggest — sometimes demand — that we offer an inflexible rule of keeping the doors closed until intermission. Until they hear Alice’s story. Then they begin to feel sympathy for poor Alice and want to help her. But what if Alice lied? And how would you know?

Certainly I’m not suggesting a solution, or that a solution is easy to come by. I’m only trying to characterize the complexity of the issue, and ask you: what would you do?

Terry S. Davis

Popejoy Hall

Views: 15

Tags: Albuquerque, Domenici, Journal, Popejoy, latecomers, policy, theater, theatre

Comment by jes on July 8, 2011 at 11:42am
Did she know the policy ahead of time? If she did, she might have walked out of the restaurant;45 minutes is outrageous unless you ordered Peking Duck or something. Or else started her evening earlier. Making sure the policy is known, maybe printed on the tickets, would be useful. I do feel sorry for her.
Comment by Benny the Icepick on July 8, 2011 at 2:25pm
Was she eating at Ezra's?
Comment by Mi3ke on July 8, 2011 at 6:36pm

  Wow, 2nd response and I vote you as the winner already.  Congrats!

 

Cheers, Mi3ke

Comment by JeSais on July 9, 2011 at 9:19am
poor Alice indeed...  but what is most interesting to me is that the seating policy varies from performance to performance depending on the contract. Thanks for posting this! I personally would probably not have either read the policy on the ticket, nor eaten at Ezra's ... so not sure how I would handle this.
Comment by cathyray on July 9, 2011 at 11:34am

Benny the Icepick always nails it!! aaahahahaaa

Poor Alice, give her a seat.

Comment by mud on July 10, 2011 at 9:53am
She has a vehicle. She can afford to eat in restaurants and her daughter is affluent enough to afford good seats at Popejoy.. When I'm in a situation where I am required to give others responsibility for my own comfort, happiness and nutrition, I do everything I can to make sure they know what I need. The restaurant owes Alice a "do over:" a better, more relaxed, dining experience. If they were menches, they'd buy her new theater tickets, too. Whatever the solution, Alice is a very fortunate person to have her privileges. I hope she walks through life humbled and grateful for her position, and looks for opportunities to make the lives of others around her more blessed, too.
Comment by Terry S. Davis on July 11, 2011 at 9:18am
Um. Do I need to make it clear that Alice is fictional?
Comment by mud on July 11, 2011 at 12:42pm
Um. only if you think it matters. However, in the interest of clarity, you may have mentioned in your piece that Alice is apocryphal. One appreciates knowing one can trust one's media sources, especially in a local blog, and not have to wonder if one is being lied to all the time, everywhere one goes on the 'net. And, by using the vocable, "um," do you infer that readers might be gullible, stupid or naive -- at least not as smart as you, because we are not telepathic and can't read your mind?  Perhaps the lack of clarity on Alice's existence lies with the author of the piece, not with the reader? Because, if that is the case, this entire thought problem is merely a pseudo-intellectual trap, constructed to attempt to make yourself look "superior" at the expense of others. Were that the case, you'd lose credibility as a writer, because, with the rare exception of the totally neurotic masochist, most of us have better things to do with our time than be belittled by an unreliable source, behaving as a "troll." And we get bullied, insulted and disrespected enough in our real lives, anyway, so don't need any more of it online. I do not like writers who bait comments, in order to insult readers. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here, and trusting that was never your intention. But I'm not trusting your veracity nor your motives very much right now. That doesn't mean I wouldn't read another article of yours in the future. It means I won't trust your motives.
Comment by Benny the Icepick on July 11, 2011 at 1:01pm

//Um. Do I need to make it clear that Alice is fictional?//

Wait.  What's Popejoy's policy on seating fictional ticketholders?

 

(Please realize I was just taking the piss and referencing another thread on DCF.  But I think "mud" has laid a far funnier joke in taking a simple hypothetical situation and hyperbolizing it into a philosophical and ethical inquisition)

Comment by Terry S. Davis on July 11, 2011 at 1:05pm

Sorry for the "um." I thought it was obvious that Alice was fiction. Clearly I was too close to the piece to consider that readers might think otherwise. Lesson learned.

The reason for the post was not to lie about Alice, but to generate discussion about what to do with all the Alices who arrive at our door. Latecomers are a never-ending problem for us and our patrons, and I hoped to get some gauge from readers about how they felt about seating a latecomer with a sympathetic story. Because they all have them. Many of them are even true.

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