As the 10th anniversary of the opening of Townshend Theatre draws near, so does the commitment of ushering there by members of the local chapter of Beta Sigma Phi.
They’ve decided they’ll continue ushering at theatre events only until the end of this month.
To fill that void, it’s hoped a community group of volunteers will be formed to take over.
“We’re looking for volunteers who would be willing to do that,” noted George Bell, the town’s Community Services manager.
“Sorority has been doing it for 10 years, since the day it [the theatre] opened,” he added.
“They’ve done a great job and we’re very appreciative of their efforts.”
Marlene McQuarrie, of Beta Sigma Phi, admitted she isn’t entirely sure why the majority of the members do not want to continue ushering.
“Ten years is a long time and we’ve put a lot of hours in there” was all she could say.
But McQuarrie added some sorority members plan to join this proposed community volunteer group for ushering to continue their work at the theatre.
In fact, she’ll be helping to head the group, which she feels is strongly needed.
She said the recent production of “True Up North Mamma Mia” was a good indication of why there needs to be ushers at the Townshend Theatre.
“We could never have gotten that crowd into the theatre in orderly form without attendants at the front of the house. There has to be attendants at the front of the house,” she stressed.
She noted there are many benefits that go along with volunteering at the theatre.
“For me, the greatest enjoyment is the children’s productions,” she enthused. “When I see the kids in that theatre get so involved with what’s going on on the stage, whether it’s a magician or a clown act or whatever it is.
“The kids totally enjoy it and so do the adults.
“There are adults and older people coming out of the theatre that are just overwhelmed with their experience in the theatre,” she noted.
“And for me, that’s the greatest benefit—the enjoyment people get out of it. It’s very rewarding,” McQuarrie added, although admitting it can be difficult at times since they also have to enforce the rules of the theatre, such as no gum, food, or drinks inside.
“[Sorority was] there for the benefit of the theatre and we’ve maintained it in remarkable condition,” she remarked.
“Some of the performers that have come in over the years have said it’s unbelievable that the theatre is 10 years old and is in the condition it is in at this point in time.”
As ushers, the members of Beta Sigma Phi always have dressed in black and white—and McQuarrie would like to continue that with the community volunteer group.
She also would like to continue the system the sorority worked out for supplying ushers, such as having team leaders make calls to the people on their lists.
“I would think once I had a list and had a meeting where we would clue people in to what does happen, we would get some of the stronger personalities to be team leaders,” McQuarrie explained.
“So I would phone them and say we need four people for, say, this weekend, then they would take the ball and run with it.”
She noted those who volunteer as ushers receive free admission to the show at which they are working, but they also have to monitor the crowd, take tickets, and help people to their seats—and do it all in a polite yet efficient manner.
One new thing McQuarrie would like to see in the future is that groups using the theatre make a donation to something in Fort Frances, such as the museum, library, Salvation Army, etc. for their volunteer efforts of ushering for their event.
“That way, we can use the volunteers who man the theatre as doing something else good for the town, as well,” she remarked, citing currently there are some groups that use the theatre that make a profit from their event while others don’t.
“A $10 donation to the Salvation Army, for example, would be good and not a whole lot out of pocket,” McQuarrie reasoned. “So that would extend it beyond the volunteering for the theatre and could be good for other things, as well.”
She added both men and women are welcome to join the community group for ushering.
Those interested in serving as ushers for events at the Townshend Theatre are asked to contact McQuarrie at 274-4585 or Bell at 274-4561.
McQuarrie said they’ll arrange for training, a walk through the theatre, and explain exactly what is involved.