Thank you to all our volunteers!
We recently celebrated Volunteer Week, when many events were held throughout the province to show how much we all appreciate those who give willingly of their time. Regionally, volunteers were invited to a movie and ice cream party where people involved with lots of organizations came together.
Horizon Stage, like so many others, depends heavily on our volunteers. We like to think that we make our appreciation known, but we also realize that a nice public THANK YOU feels good too. So, this is it (we hope you like it!).
Volunteers at Horizon Stage do so many different tasks. We have two groups; the Stagelighters servicing front-of-house, and the Tech Team backstage at the theatre. They also serve in many roles at City Special Events. Let’s start in the dark, shall we? By that of course I mean backstage. We joke that our technicians only come out into the light when it’s absolutely necessary, but there’s a little bit of truth to that. Our tech volunteers arrive before the audience does, tending to the artist’s needs, then hang around backstage organizing people. They don’t let me go onstage until it’s all set, they make sure the artist is ready as soon as I’m done, and they listen to each other on headsets as the show goes on. Then they make sure the dressing rooms are clean and ready for intermission, help with any troubleshooting, and ensure that the performers are ready for the second set. Following the show they get the artist to the lobby if they’re going to meet the audience, then help pack up the gear on the stage and clean up the dressing room once the act has left for the night. Yes, they even do dishes. All of this, and you probably hardly even know they’ve been in the building. But we know! Of course if it’s a renter in the theatre there are some differences. For dance shows they need to make sure the teachers understand how to use the equipment to get their music to the audience. They help keep backstage tidy and quiet – which is no small feat with that many dancers around. They assist with set pieces and musical instruments. They load trucks and coil cables. They answer questions patiently, time after time, and they do it all because they love it.
Front-of-house, on the other hand, is a lot more visible. The term “front-of-house” literally means the front of (everything that happens in the area before you get to) the house (the audience and stage area). This is handled efficiently by the Horizon Stagelighters Society. They are a not-for-profit society whose mandate includes the operational things we’ll get to in a minute, but also promoting the value of culture in our community, raising funds to help support Horizon Stage, and providing meaningful experiences for their members. They do this by meeting and greeting audience members, talking to people in the community, and selling you stuff in the lobby. They make sure you have a program, can check your coat if you wish, and ensure you have a lid on your wine if you’re going into the theatre. They help you find your seat, and they smile when you say, “I’ve been here so many times I could find my seat in my sleep”. They scan your tickets, make the merchandise area look appealing, and wait patiently while you decide which CD to buy so the musician can sign it. They’re also the ones who tell you that if you buy the chocolate bar, you need to eat it before you go back in the theatre. Please don’t yell at them; they are all really nice people who are simply doing their best to uphold the rules we set. Smudgy chocolate is hard to get out of theatre seats, and noisy bags of candy disrupt everyone who is trying to listen, so that’s part of why they have to remind you to eat up quickly. I’ll bet a lot of you didn’t know that over the years the Stagelighters have purchased equipment for the theatre, helping to keep us in tip-top shape. A couple of years ago they funded the purchase of some beautiful LED lights which have allowed our tech staff to have a lot more variety in colour while reducing energy use and heat. They had a lot of fun during a demonstration of the new technology, watching our techs change lights from an app on an iPad. All things we couldn’t do without their support.
I mentioned earlier that both our Stagelighters and Tech Team also work at events. In fact, they work very long hours in sometimes less than ideal circumstances. Remember a couple years ago on Canada Day when it poured rain in the middle of the afternoon? The volunteers on our tech crew were running around closing tents, putting garbage bags over speakers and sound boards, and making the site safe. All while the patrons were trying to squeeze in with hundreds of others in the face painting tent! Christmas in Central Park goes on every year, whether it’s raining (yes, that has happened) or whether the mercury is well below what they want to be working in – again because of our motto, “We’ll make it happen”. Stagelighters on Canada Day take care of artists and other volunteers in the hospitality tents. They yell out to us as we hurry past, “have you eaten lunch yet” or “when was the last time you sat down for five minutes”? Every one of them do these jobs because they see value in providing service to the community. Not because of the pay. Because they care.
I’d love to give you a little perspective on what this means. Consider that Horizon Stage presents approximately 26 shows in a season. Then we add a couple more performances because they sell out. Add to that 14 school rentals (some with multiple shows), nine dance rentals (many with more than one show in a day), the Horizon Players with multiple performances, and more than 21 other rental uses. Each of those requires varying numbers of front of house and tech volunteers. There are tech volunteers at Seniors’ Strawberry Tea, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, and Christmas in Central Park. That’s a lot of tasks being done by our specialized volunteer teams. And I haven’t even touched on the individual volunteers and service groups who work tirelessly at Canada Day and Mini Monster Bash doing hundreds of other jobs, helping Cultural Services bring events to the public.
I have a great job, and a lot of that is because I am surrounded by a full and wonderful team. Volunteers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Sometimes, on the stage at the Theatre, artists will thank the tech staff for making them sound and look good. I love that. But what I love even more is when they recognize that our team is bigger. When an artist makes a point of saying thank you to the volunteers, I really know that they understand it the way we do. We could not offer the programs and services that we do, without their help. I hope the next time you see a volunteer, either at the theatre, at an event, or at any number of the places they spend their time, you will take a moment to share your gratitude for their effort. If you are a volunteer, know that you have our heartfelt thanks for making a difference. Your selflessness is a blessing. Happy Spring to you all.
-Brandi Watson, Theatre Manager