Jennifer Smith impressed theater with interview, now a permanent usher
at facility with two large venues

Jennifer Smith has always loved theater, and was a bit nervous about an interview for an usher position at the Ordway, but then an idea came to mind.

Why not pretend that in the interview, the answers and self-presentation involve lines to be said on stage? It worked.

“They noticed that she was really genuine in her passion for theater,” said ProAct job developer Haley Konsela, who found the position and helped with the process. “This was not just a part-time job for her. It was going to be what she did.”

Jennifer Smith ushers at the Ordway

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown St. Paul hired Smith, and has since promoted her from an usher in training to a regular usher.

Before that, there was job coaching and it took some time to memorize the seating for the 1,900-seat Music Theater, and the Concert Hall, which seats 1,100. Jennifer Smith in uniform

“We are always on our toes because we have to make sure that the patron’s needs are met,” said Smith. There are meetings to talk about the current production, floor assignments and door duties that match with specific times, Konsela explains.

With a flashlight at the ready, Smith also helps with “late seating,” where she guides audience members to their seats at predetermined points in the production. She often has a chance to see half of it, depending on where she’s placed for a shift.

“You get to see a lot of different people and it’s always nice seeing them come in and enjoying the experience,” she said. Her coworkers, many of them retired people and students, have taught her not to take it too seriously if she makes a mistake.

Smith previously worked in-center at ProAct in Eagan, and on a few work crews in the community. She plans to go back to school and study theater, her passion.

She said if people enjoy production work in-center, that is fine, but if they want to find a job outside of ProAct, they should go for it. “It’s just nice, being out in the community.”

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