Fronting Up

An Interview with Hugo Rodick, Head of Wellington College’s Front of House team

I am bridging the theatre, the customers and the cast. It’s a weird gap to fill.

For how long have you been part of Wellington’s Front of House team?

I started back in the Third Form. I started because my Assistant House Master at the time, Mr Clements, was (and still is) the teacher in charge of it. It came up in a tutorial and I said I would like to join, and I emailed the Head of Front of House and it all went from there. Mr Clements was trying to get all his tutees to join in co-curricular activities. I always wanted to be the leader of the group and I think it was late Fifth Form (you do the role for two years) that I got the role, and I’ve still got in now.

What attracted you to the team?

I’ve never been an actor, but there is something very exciting about being involved in the whole production and I enjoy seeing things going smoothly (especially my side of things) and seeing the production start so that the actors and everyone else involved can have a smooth performance. I find that quite satisfying.

How did you get the role of Head of the team?

There are about 40 people in the team and that ranges across year groups. In my year group there are about five or six people involved. So, out of that, there are two leadership roles available: one is the Head of Box Office; the other is the Head of the Front of House team. One of my friends, Ozzy, has always been on the Box Office so he got that role, and I got this one.

What does the role entail?

There are a lot of aspects to the job. We are involved in ensuring that the production starts smoothly, and that all the tickets are handled effectively: any issues that people have with tickets on the night, we deal with; we have people on the doors to ensure that people have the correct tickets; we have people inside to hand out programmes and others to show people where their seats are. We are involved in ensuring that there is a team of fire marshals on the night, and we are involved in making sure that everyone has refreshments in the interval. I am bridging the theatre, the customers and the cast. It’s a weird gap to fill.

What aspects of the role do you enjoy the most?

One of the things I love about the role is just getting the team together, and seeing how well we work as a team, because I know that everyone there wants to be there and that everyone there will work, and they work really hard. We are doing the job of a professional team and none of us are professionals at the end of the day, we all have student lives as well, so I always find it amazing how we manage to do such long shifts. We start at 6.30pm – we have our dinner then – and sometimes we don’t leave the theatre until about 11.00pm so we’re doing a good few hours. I am always amazed by how the team handles things – it’s not always plain sailing with the customers. Sometimes they have complaints about the tickets or about the temperature of the building, and they always handle it really well.

Did you receive any training?

We are trained on the job. I shadowed the previous Head of Front of House for a few nights, and I’ve always noticed what was going on. But since we’ve had the new theatre, I’ve had to sort of adapt the role. In the old theatre we had a capacity of about 350 people; in the new theatre we’ve got nearly 950. It’s a big responsibility to make sure it flows well. And there have been a lot of teething issues because we’ve never had a Front of House team for this size of theatre. I’ve been working with Mr McWilliam, the Theatre Manager, to put infrastructure in place to ensure that, in the future, the Front of House team can work better – e.g. putting new computers in and things like that.

What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenges? The biggest challenges definitely come from the audience members.  To note a few, I’ve had people complaining that the queue was too long; other people have complained that the theatre is too cold – it is climate controlled so I can’t do anything about it. You are not allowed to bring drinks into the theatre – people don’t like that.

What have you learnt from this experience?

I’ve probably learnt the most about, firstly, leadership, and secondly being customer-driven – trying to ensure that the audience has an enjoyable experience, and also leading a team. For the Charlie Perry concert, we had a team of nearly 30 so ensuring that everyone was doing their job was a challenge. I can’t imagine being a theatre manager in my career, but I definitely feel that a lot of these skills are applicable to the real world, in terms of leadership especially.

Obviously, the cast know, but I think the audience just see it all done, they don’t actually see all the work that goes into it. But they would know if it wasn’t done well and that’s what makes it so satisfying – they don’t even know we are there. That’s my job.

Do you feel Wellington is a place that encourages hands-on experiences?

Yes, I think at Wellington, they do their best to give us real-world experiences such as WTV and Front of House and think they do set up the students well. I also feel there are a lot of students who have spare time and could use it better. I would encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and join things like this – some of the best people on my team got involved because I called upon them as friends, but they do it now, not because I am there, but because they want to do it. It’s all about doing things you wouldn’t otherwise do, because the chances are you might actually enjoy it. This is what I think, and I’d told a lot of other people that.

What is the best performance you’ve seen so far?

It has to be the Charlie Perry Concert in October: it was led by some of Charlie’s and my close friends, with some aspects being completely student-directed. It was also the fact that it was such an appropriate place and time to celebrate Charlie with it being the first sell-out event in the G. W. Annenberg, the new home of the Performing Arts at Wellington. It was great to see OWs who knew Charlie coming back to perform. And there were so many different parts to the show (Eagle House, soloists and speeches).

Do people ever say thank you for the work you do?

I have obviously had thanks from staff at Wellington, but from the public, maybe a couple a night – I don’t think people really realise what goes on behind the scenes. Obviously, the cast know, but I think the audience just see it all done, they don’t actually see all the work that goes into it. But they would know if it wasn’t done well and that’s what makes it so satisfying – they don’t even know we are there. That’s my job.

Back to all news