Vilar Performing Arts Center seeking volunteers
The center is in need of new volunteer ushers, who perform a variety of roles to support performances
The Vilar Performing Arts Center is experiencing a shortage in volunteer staff following this winter’s COVID-19 spike, and it is looking to recruit new ushers for the 2022 winter programming season.
“We are actively looking for new ushers,” said Chris Henry, general manager of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. “On a typical evening, we’ll have probably 28 volunteers on for any given show, and we’ve been falling short of that lately. Just people dropping out due to COVID, or people who have been doing it for years backing off their time commitments, things like that. We’ve managed to fulfill enough roles that we were able to safely operate the building, but not as many as we would like for each show.”
The volunteer shortage has not been so severe that it impacts the center’s daily operations, but it limits the level of service that the Vilar can offer to its attendees.
Janet Kleinhardt has been volunteering as an usher at the center for the past 16 years, and has noticed small impacts of the shortage over the past few weeks.
“We have gone to some performances where I would say we had a lower number of ushers compared to other performances, and we’ve had to make some adjustments — like, maybe we couldn’t walk the people down to their seats,” Kleinhardt said. “I think we’ve been able to make those adjustments, but of course, the more people you have helping, the better it is.”
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The ushers are responsible for a variety of roles at performances, ranging from coat check to checking vaccination cards, scanning tickets, handing out programs or directing people to their seats.
To become an usher, volunteers must attend a two-hour training course every month. The next training date is scheduled for mid-February and will be posted on the Vilar Performing Arts Center website once it has been determined.
“We consider it a job, and it’s very important, so there’s a lot of training that you have to go through for the position,” Henry said. “The training takes about two hours in total, so you’ll nail all the aspects of the building, how to seat people, how to evacuate people, what our emergency procedures are — it’s fairly extensive training.”
No prior experience is required, though Henry said that they do like to have volunteers who have some background in customer service.
“It’s certainly not required though. You just have to be willing to work with people and have a good personality,” Henry said.
Most of the roles allow ushers to watch the full performance that they are working at, enabling volunteers to experience world-class shows for free. Ushers get to select which shows they want to work — the selection is done in order of seniority — and can request additional complimentary tickets through a lottery system. Currently, due to the shortage of volunteers, nearly all of the upcoming shows are available for selection.
“Frequently, there will be a program where we’re not familiar with the artist, and we’ll go there and we’ll just be amazed at the quality of the performers,” Janet Kleinhart said. “We’ll say, ‘Gee, that wasn’t one I was going to pick out, but he or she was really good.’ So, I think the quality of the programming is what we really enjoy.”
New volunteers are required to sign up to work at least eight shows per season — winter and summer — and have a choice to sign up as a yearlong volunteer or a seasonlong volunteer. The winter season concludes in early April.
All volunteers are required to be fully vaccinated. For more information about becoming a volunteer usher at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, visit VilarPac.org/volunteer or contact Chris Henry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 970-748-6642.