The show must go on — but chances are that without Steve Wistar, it wouldn’t be easy.
As The State Theatre’s head usher, Wistar is responsible for coordinating many of the dedicated volunteers who have helped keep the performing arts center on course over the past decade.
Hopefully none of them have plans for the evening of Dec. 3, when the theater will mount a gala celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Below, Wistar talks more about the role he’s played — off stage — at The State Theatre.
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Q: How long have you been with The State Theatre?
A: I have been a volunteer usher for about eight of the theater’s 10 years and I assumed the role of volunteer coordinator slightly more than 5 years ago to the best of my memory.
Q: What’s been your favorite show to work as an usher?
A: I have ushered well over 100 shows, mostly concerts, and do not have a favorite in mind. One thing I particularly enjoy is the variety in the audiences that show up for various acts. In other words, I can almost tell the type of artist who will be performing by the makeup of the audience that I see as I greet them as they come into the theater. For example, old rockers seem to bring the old hippies out of the hinterlands of Central Pa. while an electronic dance artist will pull in a much younger crowd more affiliated with the university.
Q: How familiar are you expected to be with each new production?
A: The familiarity with each show that ushers need is limited to the length of the show, when there might be an intermission or a break between acts, any limitations on photography, etc. We need to know these partly for our own scheduling and partly to be able to answer audience questions.
Q: Is there a monologue or musical number from the stage that you could recite from heart?
A: There are many songs of beloved concert performers that I can sing along with from memory. The most recent dramatic example of this was when The Wailers came early this year and played all songs of Bob Marley that I knew.
Q: Do you and your staff have any special plans to celebrate the theater’s anniversary?
A: Some of us will be ushering at the celebration on Dec. 3rd. As volunteers, we had our own special celebration evening, with awards to volunteers for number of shows ushered, etc., last winter.
Q: Has there been a show during your tenure that presented an interesting logistical challenge or required you and your team to think outside the box?
A: Each show has its little wrinkles for the ushers, but I cannot think of any particular one that caused us to do something radically different than we normally do. If such a situation were to arise, that would be handled and organized by paid theater staff and not me. My job is to round up the best number of ushers to match what is taking place. If there were special requirements in advance, the theater may pass that along to me to pass along to the ushers. For example, at the 10th anniversary celebration coming up a month from now, it is possible that the theater would ask me to ask the volunteers for that evening to dress a little more formally than normal.
Q: Where would you like to see The State Theatre go from here?
A: I would like to see the theater continue to be an anchoring point for high quality live performances in Happy Valley. As I big music fan, I hope Greg Ray, with his attentiveness to and high level of awareness of musical artists, stays as director for a long time and continues to bring excellent national acts to our town.