Podcast Episode 29 – John Raymond Barker


I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty influential people from Broadway on this podcast, from Tim Rice to Ben Brantley to Kevin McCollum and a bunch more.

But like any industry, Broadway isn’t run by just the 50 most powerful people.  In fact, sometimes it’s the people without the bold faced names that are even more important to its operation.

Broadway is a community of hundreds and hundreds of employees who all help make its crazy wheel go round, eight times a week.  And of all of the jobs, ushers talk to more of our ticket buyers than anyone (used to be the phone operators, but not now with online buying being what it is!).

So I wanted to talk to one.  I reached out to my friends over at Jujamcyn Theaters and asked for their help in picking one of their experienced vets to help me understand what was happening on the front lines and whether or not things had changed since this blog.

And they introduced me to John Raymond Barker, an actor whose “night job” is ushering at the Hirschfeld Theatre.  Listen in to this podcast to hear John’s first hand knowledge and insight on things like . . .

  • What’s the biggest complaint our audience has about going to the theater?
  • How training for ushers is different than it was ten years ago (at least for some of the theater chains).
  • How can we make Patti LuPone sleep easy at night and improve theater etiquette?
  • How texting is the least of our problems in the theater.
  • The solution to the bathroom debate.

Listen in and learn from one of Broadway’s foot soldiers.  I know I did!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

  • Ray Quirolgico says:

    I’ve been a volunteer usher and paid part-time usher at several venues in San Francisco, but I’m a native New Yorker and a beyond-avid theater fan, so I see as many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows as I can whenever I get back to my hometown (my record is 14 shows in 10 days, I think). I thought one of the smartest ways of handling theater etiquette was exactly the kind of audience education referenced here and it happened at “The River” (Circle In The Square). At the show I attended, an actress came on the stage when the house lights were still fully up, and explained that she was understudying the role (and even mentioned the difference between an “understudy” and a “standby”) and very helpfully explained why the production was respectfully reminding people to turn off all devices and experience the performance, which was the actors’ work, meaning it was not easy to do, so respecting someone working hard in your service automatically suggested following the rules of the theater. I think having a live announcement about that, delivered in an educational way, really humanized the instruction far beyond the parameters of copyright law or legal liability and risk management, but made me (an audience member) remember that I made a choice to spend my time and money on an experience, and I needed to honor my own decision and play along. I think live announcements like that cold be really helpful. I also appreciate how some symphonies and operas offer pre-show lectures about the material, and sometimes those events have offered additional information like the history of the space, or why the temperature is regulated the way it is, or why costumes and sets can not be photographed, and once, a reminder that students were seated throughout the theater and they hope to one day perform, so attending the show for them was a real learning opportunity that should be distraction-free and rudeness-free. Whenever I have attended those pre-show events, I feel like I learn something, I am more aware of all the work that goes into my “entertainment,” and the audience is both more humble and more respectful. I wish that happened more for plays and musicals (even at the risk of breaking the Fourth Wall) – at the very least, t might get people to their seats early/on time, right?

    P.S. I saw the Deaf West production of “Spring Awakening” twice in Los Angeles and it’s a fantastic revival (and I saw the original Broadway cast too) – thank you for bringing it back to Broadway!

  • Joe Marino says:

    As a volunteer in Hartford- for the Bushnell and Hartford Stage, this podcast was very helpful, insightful and informative. Like with anything that matters, making a connection will make any relationship better. I make an effort to make a connection with the people I’m helping-whether it’s asking them about themselves or asking why they chose this production, that connection lets the patron see that we’re in this together. If I need to talk to them about an issue, they are more receptive.
    We are all there for a reason- to enjoy live theater. If I can share some of my excitement with them and get some of theirs, it makes the experience better for us all.

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