Posted by Lizzie Holland
This year, I was fortunate enough to be able to volunteer for the 63rd Annual Antoinette Perry Awards. Last year I attended as a paid ticket holder, and through that experience I learned that is was possible to be a thing called a “seat filler."
Many people wonder what this job actually entails. Well, there is a group of about 200 people of all ages who know someone (or know someone who knows someone who is dating someone, in my case). We all line up at 4:30 at Radio City Music Hall and are escorted into the building.
Once inside, our names are checked off of a list and we are strategically seated in the back of Radio City. Then, we wait. Seriously, we wait there for about an hour. It’s boring, but everyone is nice and chatty so you make lots of new friends.
Then, around 5:45, the “leader” of all the seat fillers gives a spiel about what our job entails for the evening. The rules include things like “Don’t ask for autographs,” “Don’t establish eye contact with the person who actually sits in the seat,” “Don’t go onstage” (seriously…). He also introduced us to his assistants who would actually send us running to fill each and every empty seat the second it is vacated.
Then, at 6:00 (when the doors open), we are split into three groups for each main area in the orchestra. Lucky for me, I was assigned to the audience left section, down front near the “special door." This door is the door through which all the celebrities pass as they prepare to present awards. Also, all the nominees and other celebrities are escorted to their seats not through the lobby and down the aisles, but from offstage right. So there was a continual parade of stars walking about a foot away from me before the show even started.
The luminaries whom I politely did NOT reach out and touch included Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Will Ferrell, James Gandolfini, Lauren Graham, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Hathaway, Colin Hanks, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, Oliver Platt, John Stamos, and finally Neil Patrick Harris.
Once the “pre-show” starts at 7:00 we begin to fill seats of people who have not arrived yet. I had a seat until about 7:45. I sat right in front of John Glover (nominee for Best Featured Actor in a Play). I was quietly sitting there not asking for autographs or establishing verbotten eye contact when John Glover’s partner tapped me on the shoulder. He told me that my hair was stuck on my earring, and then proceeded to help me fix it!
Then, when the real owner of my seat arrived (shoot!), I moved to the back of the line of seat fillers waiting patiently off to the side for someone famous to have to visit the restroom. Gradually we moved forward in the line as the important people exited for one reason or another. There's a veritable stampede during commercial breaks. I was personally moved into vacated seats 4 times.
Once I sat in the 2nd row near Geoffrey Rush (Winner of Best Actor in a Play), Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks' son), and Jane Fonda (don’t tell me you don’t know who she is…). At the end, I was moved into Chandra Wilson’s seat (Gray’s Anatomy), which was the best! I sat there, in the 4th row on the aisle for the Hair performance, and if you have seen Hair you know what that means--ersatz hippies climbing everywhere and practically sitting in your lap. I sat there near Angela Lansbury, Gina Gerswin, and Raul Esparza for the remainder of the show. Thank you, Chandra, for leaving early.
When the show was over and everyone was dispersing to their appropriate parties, I ran into some more “talent” as the Tony crew likes to call them. The best was when I ran into Jill Zarin from the Real Housewives of New York! Once everyone headed to the Gala at Rockefeller Center, I met up with a friend and we began our walk downtown, where we ran into a producer from Billy Elliot who looked confused. We told him congratulations on winning his Tony, and he responded by admitting that he was lost. We gave him directions, and he let us take pictures with his newly received Tony. (They are heavy but also feel cheaply made, as the silver part is not quite securely attached to its base.)
I guess it must be the recession!