Monday, September 22, 2008

A little getting to the show drama

It nearly happened to me. Yesterday, when I went to Boston for the matinee of How Shakespeare Won the West, I was almost one of those people who can't get to the theatre on time and are forced to stumble around in the dark to reach their seat, inconveniencing everyone sitting around them. I shudder to think how close I came.

Let me begin at the beginning. I took an 11:30 bus to Boston, which should have gotten me there at 12:30, plenty of time to take the T to the Huntington Theatre, get something to eat and be in my seat by 2 p.m. I've done this before and it's always worked out perfectly. (I could drive, but it's been many, many years since I've driven into Boston and the bus is more relaxing - when it's on time.)

Little did I know that my bus would be 15 minutes late leaving Providence, make an unscheduled stop downtown to pick up more passengers before proceeding to Boston and then encounter highway traffic on a Sunday afternoon. I didn't arrive at Boston's South Station until about 1 p.m. I thought about taking a cab at that point, but what if I got stuck in traffic? I figured the subway was safer.

Okay, fine, if I made my connections promptly, I might still have time for lunch before the show. Wrong! First there was the wait at South Station for a Red Line train to Park Street, then there was a wait at Park Street for an "E" Green Line train to Symphony, the closest stop. (It's some kind of law of nature that the subway line you're waiting for will be the last one to come. I should have remembered that from college.)

As the minutes ticked by, I'd given up hopes for a sandwich and ate my emergency Nature Valley maple granola bar. It would have to do. At this point, the time was closing in on 1:30 and I was getting extremely panicky that I'd miss the beginning of the show, never mind lunch. I hate, absolutely hate, feeling rushed and I hate coming in late to anything - a movie, a tv show, a meeting.

Finally, the train came at about 1:35 and we inch our way to my stop - Boylston, Arlington, Copley, Prudential and finally, Symphony. It was excruciating. I frantically pushed past my fellow riders, then bounded up the steps and out of the station. Luckily, the Huntington is practically across the street. I made it to the theatre at about 1:50 p.m. - 10 minutes to spare and still time to visit the ladies room. Whew, that was a lot closer than I like to cut it.

Now, if you remember, last week I wrote about getting a reduced-price ticket at BosTix, except I wasn't sure where I'd be sitting. Well, it turns out what I suspected was true - I was in the first row of the balcony, on the aisle. And it was fine. I don't think I would have enjoyed the show any more if I'd paid $77.50 for an orchestra seat instead of $32.50 for the balcony. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more knowing that I paid less. Still, I do like being close to the action.

But it wasn't actually the "best available" seat in the house that BosTix promised me. There were entire rows of empty seats in front of me in the mezzanine. I could have moved down but I could see fine, so why bother?

Afterward, I asked a Huntington staff member about my seat assignment was told that "best available" means best available out of the seats that BosTix purchases, not the best available unfilled seat in the entire theatre. Oh, now they tell me.

One other thing bothered me. My ticket stub showed a face value of $26, less than I paid. I checked the Huntington's Web site to see how much the seat would have cost if I'd paid full price, and it would have been $50. So I still saved. But I don't understand the discrepancy. I've e-mailed customer service at BosTix and I'll report back on what I find out.

So, all in all, a good day but not as relaxed as I was expecting. After the show, it was another mad dash back to South Station and a sandwich from Cosi at the food court before heading home.

Now, I have more sympathy for those theatergoers who, through no fault of their own and despite their best - even heroic - efforts, arrive late for the show. I nearly was one of them.

Update 9-23: I got a reply today from customer service at BosTix.

The price on your ticket is the reimbursement price for the theatre, meaning that amount is what the Huntington received for each ticket. The box office uses the tickets for financial purposes and no one paid the price on your ticket for the show.

The seats that you received were the seats allotted to our ArtsBoston patrons. The full price of the seats you sat in were $60. We were only able to sell $60 tickets to our patrons which meant the seats would be in a certain area. Each box office allocates a section for our patrons, which is why on the main show page the text shows: "SEATING: Reserved".

The term "best available" on our site refers to our specific allotment, not the best available in the whole theatre. Our ticketing system only allows us to use the term "best available".


Margo said...

How frustrating!! Love mass public transportation, but hate it at the same time!

Vance said...

I have nightmares about being late for a show (though I'm always late for work. Shows what kinda person I am eh? Granted I've never had someone have a problem with it.. hehe).

But seriously, I've had nightmares and I've come WAY closer. I've sat down just as the lights were going down and THAT makes me freak! And yet I still continue to cut it close, all while wanting to be there early (I know. I want it both ways).

Glad your seat was good though! I'm guessing the discreptancy in price was their "service fee" markup?

Esther said...

Hey Margo,
Yeah, mass transit is great when everything works out, which usually is most of the time. But when it doesn't it's very frustrating. Like I said, I've never had a problem before taking that 11:30 bus for a 2 p.m. show. Oh well.

Esther said...

I think I've had a couple late for the show nightmares, too. I still have those "Oh my gosh, I forgot to go to class all semester and today's the final exam" nightmares!

But I could never cut things that close. I always like to make a stop at the ladies room beforehand. ;-)

I got an e-mail from BosTix and updated my post. I'm still not completely sure why I paid more but I guess that's how it's done!

Anyway, the seat was fine and the price was great. But I still like an orchestra seat the best. That's where I sat during my two previous trips to the Huntington, for The 39 Steps and She Loves Me. I'm glad I was in the orchestra for both of them. They were well worth the extra money.

Anonymous said...

I love your blow-by-blow, particularly reading as someone who misses Boston! Sunday afternoon T traffic is always slow. Such a pain.

Esther said...

Glad I was able to bring you a little reminder of Boston! Yeah, I guess I should have remembered that there are fewer trains on Sunday afternoon and the fact that there's always a longer wait for the "E" train on the Green Line. Or at least it seems that way!