Ushering in the Experience
The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall puts on numerous shows each season. While there is a full-time staff on site, these shows would not happen without the help of volunteer ushers. Ushers who help make patrons feel welcome at the Hall.
In our pre-pandemic world, the Van Wezel had roughly 500 ushers. Now, we’re down to about 200-250 volunteers. More help is needed.
Volunteer ushers have the opportunity to see a variety of shows at the Van Wezel in exchange for a few hours of their time. Ushers arrive about 90 minutes prior to showtime and stay through the performances. Typical duties include escorting patrons to their seats, distributing show programs, scanning tickets and answering questions about the Hall.
In an interview with Sarasota Magazine’s Kay Kipling, usher Jennifer Boris shares, “I started in 2016 when I was in the lottery system to get tickets to Book of Mormon, and I started talking to people there. Now I work about 20 to 25 shows a season.”
Ushers can expect to volunteer for a few shows each month all the way up to two to three shows per week during the busiest part of the season, typically December through March. Often ushers end up volunteering for more shows than they first anticipated as they find joy in the experience, and they make friends throughout the season.
“It’s so much fun,” adds Boris, “I’ve recruited friends to do it, too.”
One of those friends is Mindy Fountain, who admits she originally thought “you had to be a retiree” to volunteer. This is a common misconception for many patrons. With most performances happening in the evening or on weekends, being an usher is perfect for those working day jobs who also want to give back to the local arts and theatre community.
“I get more out of it than the shows,” shares Fountain, “Ushering just makes me feel more involved in the community. We have regular patrons who give us hugs – now that hugs are allowed again. It’s social, and I meet new people.”
Interested in volunteering with the Van Wezel? Feel free to contact Front-Of-House Manager, Dave Colston at (941) 263-6751.