House Manager

  • House Manager

The house manager is chiefly responsible for the care, comfort, and safety of the audience during every live performance at a show venue. This person is a supervisor over all departments related to the front of house operations and works closely with the stage manager.


Duties

This person typically arrives at the venue one hour before curtain and will immediately check with the box office manager to attain the ticket count. This information is useful in alerting staff to how many guests to anticipate, as well as determining heating and cooling for the building, wheelchair seating accommodations, and the quantity of refreshment stock to uncase. The house manager must also inspect certain details according to fire safety regulations; these include ensuring that all exits are unlocked and accessible in an emergency. At some point in his or her routine, the house manager will communicate with the stage manager to relay the house count and to make performers aware of any special circumstances, such as a service animal in the audience or a special request for a pre-arranged meet and greet. Similarly, the stage manager provides the HM with pertinent updates such as a last minute performer substitution. At a predetermined time, the two managers meet again to determine if the house may open on time or if there is a pressing need to hold the start of performance.

It is the house manager’s job to open the house, which is simply opening the theater doors to allow patrons to enter; this usually takes place 30 minutes before curtain. By this time, the manager has performed his or her pre-show checklist and has briefed all house staff. When the house manager has word from the SM that the cast and crew are at places and ready to start the show, he or she will give the order to close the house doors to further seating, thus turning the audience over to the stage manager for the duration of the production. If there is an intermission, the house manager is similarly tasked with repeating this process for the second act. When the performance is over, the house manager ensures that the audience is safely ushered to the exits and proceeds with the post-show checklist. This lists generally includes an after-action meeting with the house staff, box office staff, and stage manager, as well as ensuring that all reconciliation of ticket sales have been properly accounted and recorded for the general manager. It is also necessary to see that porters have secured all entrances and exists, non-essential systems are off for the night, and equipment and materials are properly stored.

Skills & Education

Many universities with a theatrical arts program offer a bachelor’s or master’s of fine arts degree in theatrical management and this is the preferred degree for a house manager. This individual must be knowledgeable about all systems and procedures related to operating a performance venue, to include automated ticketing software, fire codes, union regulations, applicable laws, and the technical equipment associated with the venue. Therefore, a broad range of experience in live event production is required. The house manager should be an effective and organized leader with excellent communication and cooperation skills.

What to Expect

The house manager is a senior-level role that is employed by the owner of the venue. There are varied paths toward this career, but experience in numerous areas of theater and live event production is required. The most relevant positions that can lead toward advancement as a house manager are those on the house staff: the usher, porter, concession staff, security, and stagedoor person. The box office staff does not directly answer to the house manager, though experience in this department is relevant to a career as a house manager. Likewise, employment as a stage manager or technician is excellent preparation—with education—for the role of a house manager. Opportunities for work are available at all performance venues that host traditional theater, operas, ballets, concerts, and trade shows or conventions.

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