Shea's ushers out volunteers sitting at showshttp://www.buffalonews.com/entertain...icle761798.eceUpdated: March 14, 2012, 11:25 AM
A drama is taking place at Shea's Performing Arts Center that doesn't appear on stage.
It also can't be viewed from the theater's 3,019 seats, because it's about the ushers who direct patrons to them.
The story's plot concerns a number of longtime, older volunteers -- some with hip replacements, bad backs and medical conditions -- who say management no longer allows them to sit in the theater to watch performances even when there are plenty of open seats. They also say they are frequently talked down to and treated callously by staff rather than being shown appreciation for the work they perform.
"I would say this past year is about the worst, where they really have come down very hard on the ushers," said Mary Ann Devlin, who has ushered at Shea's since 1983.
Prior to a Feb. 17 performance, Devlin said, she was told to leave after standing outside the volunteer entrance door to seek signatures on a petition that read, "Shea's volunteers requesting permission to sit in the theater during performances."
So what do you think?Sally Moehlau, 83, said she also quit Shea's after being told she, too, couldn't sit in the last row of the upper balcony.
For almost 20 years, Moehlau said, she drove back and forth from Clarence, paid for parking, arrived 1 1/2 hours early to stuff programs and get show information, and typically spent an additional 2 1/2 to 3 hours during and after the performance before heading home.
But the atmosphere became noticeably worse a few years ago, she said, when the theater hired an operations manager to oversee things.
"They've put such a tight rein on people that the enjoyment has left," she said.
Jeanette Swartz, who has ushered at Shea's for 12 years, said the ushers have reasonable expectations.
"We would never complain about not sitting if a show is sold out. We're talking about when the theater has sold 1,200 or 1,800 tickets out of 3,000, and we're not still allowed to sit," Swartz said.