It’s a real art – ‘placing’ the guests. Who do you put where? After all, there are different ranks to be considered and some seats are better than others. Just as some guests are more important than others (even if they don’t think so themselves). What’s the most prestigious place in The Amsterdam Music Theatre? Front balcony, 1st row and then preferably right in the middle.
Who can sit there and who’s put on the third row? It’s a sensitive issue. For instance, the ministerial Head of Arts can’t have a ‘worse’ seat than the Head of Arts from the City of Amsterdam. If one sponsor is seated in the stalls, then why is another one placed on the second row of the front balcony? And where do you seat the artistic guests? Surely they are just as important as the guests from the worlds of business and politics?
It’s a real puzzle and it has to be put together logically, preferably in the eyes of the parties concerned as well. And this puzzle can only be put together on the day of the premiere itself. Because experience has shown that quite a few guests cancel at the last moment. Or they don’t even show up! And don’t call to cancel either. So there are regularly empty seats, even on the 1st row of the front balcony.
These empty seats sometimes lead to some amusing scenes. Just before curtain-up, other members of the audience see their chance to shift to one of the best seats in the house. And so it can happen that two student types with tatty clothes and wild hairdos are suddenly sitting next to our main sponsor. The other guests don’t know, of course, who should have been sitting in those seats and you can see them wondering who on earth these characters are who have been given such good seats.
All sorts can go wrong when placing people, as well as afterwards. Although on the evening itself the tickets are all sorted into correctly named envelopes at the invitees’ desk, they still have to be given to the right person. And of course it’s always possible, for instance, that the tickets for Jansen are given to Janssen. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, as we have excellent staff at the desk who know most of the invitees personally. But the one time it does happen, the person concerned can spend all evening wondering what he’s done wrong to have been demoted from his regular seat on the 2nd row to one on the 4th row.
Recently, I heard another amusing story. The box office of a theatre in Amsterdam received a booking for six tickets in the name of Mark Rutte. The management was informed immediately. After all, if the prime minister comes to a performance, even in a personal capacity, then of course he must be given a welcome. So the director was standing to attention at the main entrance that evening. But at quarter past eight when the performance began, there was still no sign of the prime minister, although there were people sitting in the seats reserved in the name of Mark Rutte. Were they the type of people who wait till the last minute and then shift into any empty seats? They certainly looked it! But on enquiry, it was discovered that Mark Rutte’s seat was occupied by... Mark Rutte, a 22-year-old student with the same name as the boss of the Netherlands.
Anyway, on Saturday I had a pretty good seat: 2nd row of the front balcony, almost in the middle. There was no Prime Minister Rutte this time either. He really missed something. A full house, for instance!