The scene: I’m standing in the Will Call line Sunday evening at the Save Mart Center box office waiting to pick up tickets for “Toruk: The First Flight.” There’s just one window open for “Will Call” and four others open for what I assume are last-minute ticket purchases. I arrive about 20 minutes before curtain. There are about five or six people in front of me. Plenty of time.
The speed of the line: Barely moving. Each transaction in front of me seems long and complicated, as if the World Bank is getting involved. At one point, a woman returns with tickets she’s already picked up, butts back in line and makes a complaint. The woman at Will Call – mind you, the only person working at Will Call 10 minutes before the show is to begin – then wanders away from her desk for a good five minutes to sort through the issue.
The contrast with other box-office operations: Perhaps I’m just more used to big theater box offices in San Francisco and New York, where the idea is to get as many patrons into the house as possible before the show starts. I’ve seen Will Call windows on Broadway in which two box-office reps dispensed a good 200 tickets in less than 10 minutes. With the Save Mart crew, however, the attitude seems to be slow and steady, with no hint of deadline approaching, no management outside monitoring the situation, no one stepping in to increase the number of windows open for Will Call so that patrons who have already bought their tickets and are merely picking them up can get in to see the start of the show. The prevailing sentiment: Who cares if you miss the first few minutes? Maybe that works for concerts, which often start late anyway, but Cirque is more like a theater event.
My tickets: I get them just in time to reach my seat for the big beginning (which happens precisely on the hour, by the way). Meanwhile, dozens of people outside are caught in box-office limbo.
Your feedback: Go ahead, readers, I can already sense the criticisms: You should arrive 45 minutes early to pick up tickets, etc. But somehow, other box offices have learned how to process large numbers of people at Will Call faster than this.
My takeaway: Everyone seemed friendly and professional at the box office, no complaints there, and maybe I’m just running up against a different “concert vs. theater” culture at work. And perhaps it was just a perfect storm of complicated transactions in front of me. But as show time approaches, it’d be nice to see a little more attention paid to patrons who don’t want to miss the first part of the show. Will Call should get more than one line.