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Volunteer spotlights Paramount in Aurora


Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve never been much of a “theatre” person. But lately I’ve started to feel different, and that’s because I know most of the staff and volunteers at the Paramount Theater, Aurora’s regional destination.

They “transformed” me.

During my walks downtown, I often passed the Paramount, which was preparing for that day’s Broadway Series musical production. There’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the air around the theater before patrons start arriving. This is what I imagine walking down Broadway in New York is like.

Everything starts with the friendly welcome of Jane and Scot Glor, who run the valet service. It continues with the people at the door, the “front of house” staff, and the (all-volunteer) clearance team. Everyone seems really happy and excited to be there.

A few years ago I wrote about Jane and Scot Glor’s valet service. I recently visited the theater for a matinee performance, this time to highlight the dedicated volunteer ushers. I was warmly greeted by “front of house” manager Kayla Still, who is also the lead program manager. He’s obviously proud of the band and can’t say enough good things about them.

“The pioneering program started when we were just a cinema and did one-off shows here and there. But this has always been a voluntary program,” Still said. “It has clearly grown tremendously since we started the Broadway Series nearly 11 years ago. “We constantly needed more people.”

He noted that there are currently 312 pioneers in the database, but the active group is consistently between 70 and 80 people. He said Paramount looks to its head ushers (a rotating group of four people who also include volunteers) to make sure there are people to watch each performance. During a musical’s run, there are usually eight performances each week, and the matinee I attended had 22 ushers on duty.

“There are both women and men in the program, and our longest-serving volunteer is Joan McEachern, who has been with us for 30 years,” Still said. “We are always encouraging more people to volunteer. We reach retirees, students and others who need service hours.

“I love the publishers like family, and I have grown to have tremendous respect for them,” Still said. “Everything I learned about theater I learned from these ushers. Once people start coming here, they don’t leave. “They’re proud to be at the forefront of Paramount, and I think that shows when they come to our patrons.”

This pride was evident when I visited with Linda Coakes, the longest-serving head usher at 26 years, and Edie Hard, who served for 16 years. Coakes works six shows each week during the show’s run, and Hard works three or four shows a week.

Responsibilities include filling out and distributing playbills; seating customers and resolving any related issues; assisting with cloakroom and toilet duties; giving special attention to clients who use wheelchairs and walkers; and I clean up after shows.

I asked the ladies what they liked most about the opening.

“I love everything about this job and the people I work with,” Coakes said. “I give people their jobs and train new people. Nothing is difficult here and anyone can learn it. I can teach you!”

Coakes added that the group especially enjoys helping senior citizens and clients who use wheelchairs and walkers.

“When I came to Paramount as boss, I told my husband I wanted to volunteer here when I retired,” Hard said. “It seemed like a great place to be and it would be nice to help out here.

“Just being here is such a joy,” Hard said. “It’s the atmosphere and the feeling. We love taking care of our bosses and elders, and we love all our supervisors. “I love watching the plays, especially after so many shows.”

The atmosphere of excitement I experienced and the specialness of theater as a place seems to permeate every aspect of Paramount and its people.

“Everyone from top to bottom is working together to make these shows work,” Coakes said. “I like here.”

Tom Strong is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.


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