Over the past 60 years of the Shaw Festival, volunteers have tackled whatever is requested of them. For many years, Guild volunteers have helped to greet patrons when they arrive at the theatre.
In 50 Years of Shaw Festival Volunteers, prepared by Faye Goodwin and Nancy Butler, they write that in the early 1980’s, volunteers would make sandwiches and cookies for the Lunchtime Theatre. According to one of the volunteers interviewed: “if a bus trip was coming in, we would let them know what kind of sandwiches we had. Each year we would stick to one kind of sandwich. We also had cookies and muffins and then we added fruit. … People couldn’t take food into the theatre unless they bought it from us. There were certain things we couldn’t use because they crunched too much and made toomuch noise.”
We no longer make lunches for people arriving for a play, but in 2014 Peter Gill, Guild President, and Vice President Arlene Carson implemented a pilot for volunteers to meet patrons coming to the Shaw Festival Theatre. Arlene trained Guild volunteers and set up the schedule for Greeters to meet patrons arriving for a performance. They welcomed arrivals, directing them to where they could pick up tickets, and answering any questions. The pilot was a success and became a formal program in 2015, with Shaw Guild volunteer Christine Lancaster responsible for scheduling. In 2016, Marg & John Mather took over the Greeter program with Marg as Convenor. Marg then took the Greeting Chair position, created on the Shaw Guild Executive Committee for the 2017 Season.
As Shaw celebrates its 60th Anniversary this year, one Greeter, Linda Zoeger Mooney, will celebrate a personal 60th milestone. Linda grew up in a house behind the Irish Harp and as teenager, ushered for Shaw in its inaugural season in 1962 at the Court House on Queen Street!
Greeters have had many interesting conversations with patrons as they arrive for the theatre – often involving the name of the play! In 2018 when Grand Hotel was performed at the Festival, Greeters were often asked “Is my room ready?” or “Do you have room service?”. And in 2019 with the production of Sex, the Greeters knew right away there would be complications. One patron approached with his wife and said “We’re here for Sex”.
Often Greeters will meet family and friends of an actor performing that day. And sometimes they meet former co-workers and friends they haven’t seen for years, who happen to be attending a performance at the Shaw.
The Greeters have expanded their role over the years to include all matinee and evening performances at the Festival and Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatres. In 2021, with the introduction of the Vaccine Passport, the Royal George Theatre was added, as Shaw expanded the Greeters role to ensure that patrons had their vaccine information and ID ready to be checked as they entered the theatre.
Whatever the weather, they are the first friendly face welcoming patrons arriving for a play. Their role is greatly appreciated as evidenced by feedback from a Shaw Company member: “We all love what you do. By welcoming and chatting with our audience, you set the mood for them to have an enjoyable experience.”