Backstage pass: Lyric’s box office manager gets unique view

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Backstage life revealed itself to Lisa Hall when she accepted a job at Tupelo Community Theatre about two years ago.
She’d recently retired after working 30 years with the federal government. The part-time job at the Lyric Theatre was supposed to be a way to make extra money, but it opened up a new world.
“I was never really interested in theater before,” the 53-year-old said. “People who don’t come to plays don’t know what they’re missing. The actors are right there in front of you.”
You won’t find Hall on stage. She’s not ready for that pressure and suspects she never will be. But she’s gained an enduring appreciation for live theater and those who make it possible.
“They work so hard,” she said. “Theater people, they love what they do. They’re so involved with all they do. When they’re in a program, they give it all they have. It’s amazing.
“Every play I see, the people who are in it, I’m like, Wow. How did they do that?”
Over the past two years, Hall has become a full-fledged theater person. You’ll usually find her in the box office, where her chief job is selling tickets.
The office has bookcases filled with plays, so she spends her days surrounded by William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” and dozens of others.
“It really doesn’t take that long to read a play. They’re kind of short,” she said. “If I don’t know what’s in them, I can’t tell people who call what the play’s about, so it’s really part of my job.”
In the spirit of “the show must go on,” Hall has been called upon to assist at show time. During TCT’s production of “All Shook Up,” she closed the box office then raced up the stairs to the balcony to operate a spotlight.
“If they started to sing, I made sure the light was on them,” she said. “I was kind of nervous, but I had a headset and they told me what to do. It was fun.”
One of Hall’s duties is giving tours to kids, and that could be considered a type of performance, especially when she tells them about Antoine, the resident ghost.
“I’m not scared of him, but there are people who won’t come here and go upstairs by themselves. Adult people. Theater people,” she said. “If the school kids are in second grade or older, I tell them about Antoine. I’ve had a couple who wouldn’t come in. They stayed outside.”
Hall sometimes smells pipe tobacco, which she attributes to Antoine. Doors have been known to slam shut for no reason, and the ghost has rearranged costumes after Hall put them in order and locked the door behind her.
Such strange goings-on don’t scare Hall. If Antoine really wanted to jangle Hall’s nerves, he should cast her in a play.
“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s not for me.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com