|Christine Gruder and friends. Photo: Susannah Gruder|
After working at BAM for 25 years, Theater Manager Christine Gruder has seen it all. She and her staff, which includes 200 ushers and an Associate Manager, serve as the front line when patrons come to the theater, assisting them directly with any issues they may have, directing the flow of the audience in and out of the theater, and liaising with the various departments at BAM to ensure a successful performance. She has fielded countless complaints as well as compliments from theatergoers over the years, which she recognizes as being all part of the job. Though I know her as my mom, she’s taken care of BAM patrons for longer than I’ve been alive.
Q: Your job can be understood as the manager of the fourth wall—the audience and the house itself—an integral part of the theatrical experience. Do you see yourself in that sort of role?
A: I do in the sense that the frame of mind of the audience member affects their enjoyment of the piece. If they come in and they’re confused, or they’re irritated, or they’re angry, or they’re cold, or hot, or nervous… If they have negative feelings it’s going to affect their enjoyment. And conversely if they come in and they feel welcome, and they feel like they’re coming to a place where they’re going to be cared for and things go smoothly, it does as well. If we’re doing our job right they shouldn’t even have to think about what we’re doing. It should be seamless. And if they do experience something less than desirable, the way we handle it affects how they feel. One of the things I love about the way my department runs, is that I have such an amazing staff that I’m often told by people that an usher helped them, and that they love coming to BAM because the ushers are kind and recognize them and they’re helpful.