Guest Blogger: Nick Radu Reviews Rise of the Usher by Jessica Elkin

Victoria Medina, Production Photographer
Victoria Medina, Production Photographer

Every business has its cast of characters and Rise of the Usher gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in the front of the house at a Broadway theater. Jessica Elkin doesn’t waste any time delving into those characters as she jumps right into the action. Accents, mannerisms and voice changes abound as she carefully and playfully jumps from one eccentric usher to the house manager to another usher to an ex-con ticket-taker and back again until you get a sense of who’s who in her zany romp to the top of the usher totem pole. It was a pleasure watching a fellow Ohioan up on a New York stage enjoying her craft. Mary Catherine Donnelly’s direction gave way to a fun and quirky night of theater as Jessica, who also wrote the piece, found a job, a purpose and even love on her journey. Many ushers will no doubt be able to relate to the antics that are being portrayed in front of them. But whether you’re an usher, an actor, an avid theater-goer or just someone who likes to laugh, catch Jessica Elkin’s performance in the 16th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival before the lights go down, the curtain comes up and an usher keeps YOU from getting a seat!

Performance Dates:
Sat 7/18 at 3:00pm
Thurs 7/23 at 6:30pm
Sun 7/26 at 4:00pm

Danielle Gautier, Executive Producer
Joanne Pan, Stage Manager/Board Op
David Goldstein, Lighting Designer
Malini Singh McDonald, Marketing Director/Publicist

Nick is an actor/writer/director/producer from Canton, OH. He is currently a founding board member of Non Disposable Productions and a member of Theatre Beyond Broadway. Nick has worked on TV pilots, film productions and numerous theater projects in NYC. Favorite acting credits include Tony Wendice, “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” Cain/Japeth, “Children of Eden,” Philip, “The Lion in Winter,” and Oscar Lindquist, “Sweet Charity.” Nick is currently writing a musical, “Lonely Moon” as well as a novel, “3225.” Nick loves collaborating with other artists and looks forward to creating exceptional art and connection.

Meet the Ushers (Part 1)

photo (14)In light of the latest Patti Lupone‘s stand against blatant use of cell phones in the theatre, I thought about my own experiences in the theatre. Now it is absolutely true that my upcoming project, Rise of the Usher written and performed by Jessica Elkin, is about the theatre experience. I have had many wonderful and awful experiences.

I’ll start with one of the worst. I purchased seats for a weekday matinee performance of a play on Broadway. The leads were A-List actors and I was super excited to see the play with my friend. Throughout the entire performance, audience members were whispering, eating, and texting throughout the performance. The ushers did NOTHING. I was just in shock because how often does one get to see this caliber of actors on stage. And the closing monologues was breathtaking!

My best experience is whenever an unruly patron is asked to leave. I have seen that a few times and the ushers have never been rude about it. Just “you gotta go”.

Here are the experiences of the producer and director of Rise of the Usher:

Danielle Gautier, General Manager:

My best usher experience was actually at a Brooklyn Nets basketball game this past April. My 84-year old grandmother was standing up for the t-shirt toss that the Nets dance team does at each game. None of the t-shirts were tossed her way and one of the ushers nearby spotted the slight disappointment on her face about this. He went out of his way to find a Nets employee, who could grab a t-shirt for my grandmother and then handed the t-shirt to her. The smile on her face was priceless and he really made her game experience extra special by doing that.

My worst usher experience was at a Broadway show a few years ago as an audience member. There were many other audience members texting, talking, eating loudly and doing other distracting things during the performance. I had never seen such rude behavior. What was worse is that the ushers did nothing to silence anyone or anything. They just sat back and watched the show. It had to be distracting to the performers on-stage if it was that distracting me even as an audience member.
Mary Catherine Donnelly, Director:

My best experience with an usher was after I had waited out in the bitter cold to see the last performance of Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart on March 29, 2014. I froze my *ss off waiting on line for hours, getting up at 3am for tickets since I never knew when I’d be able to see Ian McKellan onstage again.

Finally…after  hours of clock watching, holding places for other hopefuls’ coffee and  bathroom breaks and waiting for the sun to come up for some warmth, I  arrive to the box office with cash for me and my friend Ana who was at home with her kids in Jersey so she couldn’t wait with me this time. I make the cut off! I get TWO tickets!

I return to the theatre for the performance after napping and showering, meet Ana outside The Cort and soon a very handsome carmel skinned usher with big brown eyes in his 20’s takes Ana and I up to our seats….which turn out to be way up in the boxes. I thought “well that can’t be so bad it’s a balcony!” But it was bad. It was an obstructed view. I asked him if there were any other seats. He apologized and said that the show was sold out.

We had to lean over very far, practically on top of each other and did not see the scenes performed under this “overhang” (!).I froze for HOURS to have Ian McKellan performing underneath my butt! I don’t think so.

My strategy was to snag the 2 empty seats in the 2nd row that I spotted during the bits I couldn’t see. They were center on the aisle… Ana and I made a beeline at intermission to snag those seats.

We no sooner go to sit than the patron in the 3rd seat from the aisle  who would be next to us said we “couldn’t sit there because they weren’t  our seats.” I told her about our balcony bust and asked her if they were her seats because they had been empty during Act 1. She said “No, but you can’t sit here because they are not your seats.” I said “but if they’re not your seats why can’t we sit here?” She said again “you cannot sit here because they are not your seats.”

Now I had to have those seats. Her killjoy factor alone made me want to pimp out my friend Ana with her even post baby model body to seduce the hot usher who took us up to the box seats who was now in the orchestra seating people. But I decided to tell him the truth: “these 2 seats were empty during intermission and we can’t see a thing up there. So when we tired to sit in these seats this lady in the 3rd seat said “we couldn’t sit there because they were not our seats. Would you help us?”

The usher turns and escorts Ana and I down to the 2nd row center, looking fiercely at the woman who didn’t want us in the seats and proceeds to seat us, gave a quick smile and off he went.  I saw Act II of the last performance of Waiting for Godot in the 2nd row center!!! Ian was practically in our lap.  It was a thrill to see Ian McKellan’s specific physicality and expressions and his chemistry with Patrick Stewart. The handsome mystery usher gave me the best seats I’d ever had, a good story and being the recipient of a random act his kindness.

Come see what one usher will do to rise to the top of an ant hill.

July 14th – July 26th

Davenport Theatre, Black Box at 354 West 45th Street

Click HERE for more info.

It’s a Festival A-Gogo and You’re Invited

theater-comedy-tragedyToday I finally took the first step in planning my summer-of-theatre viewing tour. Once there is acceptance that my life will be even more devoted to the theatre for this summer, I had to take the first step:

Look at the guides for the festivals! Oh my world. There are three festivals that are on my radar this summer because I’m directly working on them. I am the Marketing Director for:

However, that means I also need to find out what shows my friends are performing in and throw that into the schedule. I really do hope that you get a chance to support independent theatre this summer. You never know what your take away from a performance will be. And that’s exciting.

See you at the show!