La Mama History: Front of House

Like all things at La Mama, the front of house set up and offering has both stayed the same and changed many times over its fifty-year history.

The offering hasn’t changed much, with front of house staff continuing to offer a tea or coffee and a biscuit with your ticket, joining the audience in watching the show and encouraging post show engagement between the audience and the artists. Your show ticket continues to buy you a chance at the raffle drawn before every show. And front of house members continue to support the show teams, working together to create a welcoming and inspiring environment in which to present and engage with creative offerings.

It is the physical attributes, the location, housing, and accoutrements of this welcoming ethos that have changed and evolved most noticeably. In the early days, coffee was served out of an urn that sucked and seethed throughout the shows, tickets were sold from a little tin box at a hallstand just inside the theatre door, and wine was poured from a cask. On sunny days the front of house person might take a little table outside and with their booking sheet, the little tin box and a booklet of raffle tickets, open up shop on the deck just outside the theatre entry.

Over the years, these occasional forays to greet the audience outside the theatre, found architectural realisation in a few different arrangements. But true to La Mama fashion, it took the remains of a set in the courtyard to truly formally house Front of House. In 2015, Warwick Sassman was commissioned (with funds generously donated by the Pratt Foundation) to create a box office that was loosely based on this inhabited set.

Today, the urn and the hallstand have been decommissioned. Wine now comes in bottles and there is beer and kombucha and soda water on tap too. Like its predecessors, the post fire box office makes use of available materials. The old theatre floorboards create the internal lining, and the old, corrugated iron fence has been reimagined into operable awnings, opening up to welcome all inspired by and an ode to Liz’s folding and disappearing fence.