The Five: Cranky Patron Breakdown

Anthony R. Miller checks in with a list of his favorite cranky theatre patrons.

Over the years, some of my less glamourous theatre jobs have put me on the front lines of Patron Interaction. So you deal with all kinds of patrons some nice, some not so much, some are great, some are difficult, some are excited to be there, some are shocked you aren’t throwing him a parade for simply being there. While the majority of patrons I’ve worked with have been just swell, there’s always a few cranky ones. And of course it’s job one to turn those cranky patrons into happy ones. But sometimes there’s just no winning, these are the patrons that make we want to curl into a ball under concession table, or burn my eyes out with a tickets scanner. Here are a few of my favorite examples, five of them to be exact.

The “Totally Oblivious to the Consequences of Being Late” Patron

The one who shows up 7 minutes late and asks if they can use the bathroom and buy a drink before being rushed in, because the show already started, because you’re late. The patron who demands they get to sit in their exact seats even though they’re 15 minutes late and their seat in the middle of a row.

The “I Know Exactly How to Run A Theatre Company” Patron

The one who thinks the artistic director is a blundering jackass. The one who knows exactly what plays you need to be doing. The one who will tell an employee, any employee, and tell them what the company as a whole is doing wrong, how they should be fixing it, and how remarkably stupid every single person working for this company is for not solving this crucial issue.

The “Why Do You Have To Do All These Weird, New Plays?” Patron

The one who has no interest in seeing plays that criticize modern life or remind the audience in any way, the world is a shitty place. The one who doesn’t acknowledge musicals were written after 1970. The one who thinks Tony Kushner can go fuck himself. The one who says “Don’t mess with the Classics”, the one who just saw a really great community theatre production of The Odd Couple: “those guys were just terrific, you should do something like that.”

The “I Just Need To Yell At You, There’s No Way You Can Actually Help Me” Patron

The one who rains shit on you for things beyond your control. They haven’t seen the second act of a play in years. No matter what you do, they will be unhappy. Even though the ticket they’ve had for weeks says 7pm they COULD SWEAR it was at 8. They make demands of you like you have any actual power. The one whose seats got screwed up two years ago and even though it was kind of their fault, they’re still pretty pissed and just wanted to remind you. It’s as if they can’t wait to storm out and call you an idiot under their breath.

The “What do You Mean, ‘No’?” Patron

The one who almost seems stunned you didn’t give them what they wanted. The one knows they’re not allowed to, but asks anyway. The one who, in their minds, is the exception. They couldn’t read a “No re-entry” sign to save their life: “Signs just say you can’t do stuff, why would I look at that?”. They have been subscribing for 20 years and still pretend they don’t know about the “No food in the theater” policy.

Anthony R Miller does a lot of things, keep up with many of them at

One comment on “The Five: Cranky Patron Breakdown

  1. Oh yeah… Having worked at the front door at 20-or-so theatres, three different cinemas, and a few concert venues, I know all of these people well.

    And let us not forget:
    The “You Didn’t Tell Me the Play wasn’t Suitable for Small Children” Patron
    The “You Didn’t Tell Me that ‘No Intermission’ meant ‘No Bathroom Break'” Patron
    The “Why Can’t You Magically Produce Extra Seats” Patron
    The “Why do I have to Go Outside to Smoke” Patron
    The “Why is there No Free Food with the Price of the Ticket” Patron
    and of course The “My Opinion Matters Most because I’m a ‘Red Velvet’ Member on Goldstar” Patron.

    Real charmers, one and all.

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