New Bedford Zeiterion ushers share 15 years of theater memories

NEW BEDFORD – Over the past 15 years, Cliff and Judy Roderiques thought they had seen it all when they inaugurated Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, from spectacular performances to an emergency evacuation in the middle of a show.

However, they are in for a first as a show they are debuting will also feature their grandson, Noah Roderiques.

“We haven’t seen him in several years…so just the fact that he’s in town makes me sing,” said Judy Roderiques, whose grandson will play LeFou in The New Bedford Festival Theater production of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

Roderiques said she always thought Noah, the second oldest grandson of five children, was talented and was thrilled to see him perform on the stage they’ve come to love over the years. year.

“I love this theater and I love the people here, both the staff and the other volunteers, I really appreciate everything,” Roderiques added.

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So many memories at Z

Since volunteering at the theatre, the couple, who have been married for 41 years, remember seeing artists such as Howie Mandel, Jay Leno, Bill Cosby and the Beach Boys – which was Judy Roderiques’ first gig when she was child.

Cliff Roderiques remembers when the author of “A Prairie Home Companion” Keillor Garrison accidentally cut himself while shaving, holding the show for more than 40 minutes while paramedics attended to his injury.

He also recalled an incident during a performance of “Mamma Mia!” when the fog machine triggered the fire alarm due to a problem with the air conditioning unit. The public had to evacuate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Judy Roderiques said the shows she thinks she doesn’t like almost always turn out to be her favorites.

“There were times when we would sign up for a show and say, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be a good show,'” she said. “But I remember one, it was a Russian dance group…and I think it was one of my favorite shows.

“It was so colorful, and the music was so fun, and the performance was so energetic.”

Gaston, Jesse Lutrell and LeFou, Noah Roderigues in the opening of the Beauty and the Beast production at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford.

Roderiques also said she continues to be amazed by the New Bedford Festival Theater shows such as “Singin’ in the Rain”, which featured actual rain on stage, and “Mary Poppins”, in which the title character flew into the audience.

And they both said their favorite musical to date was “Les Miserables.”

Work as a Zeiterion bailiff

“We used to go to a lot of shows at Z,” Cliff Roderiques said. “But when we retired we had a little less income so we decided to volunteer so we could still see the show.”

Growing up, Judy Roderiques said she used to open Cape Cod at the Falmouth Playhouse and the Highfield Hall Company Theatre.

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According to Roderiques, to be an usher at the Zeiterion, you must volunteer for half of the shows on the Z’s seasonal show roster, as well as work half of the shows at the New Bedford Festival Theater and New Bedford Symphony Orchestra gigs.

“And then if there are dance recitals, we have to do half of that too. So we go maybe 35 to 40 shows a year,” she said.

The Roderiques said they showed up at the theater 90 minutes before the performance for a brief reunion. Then, Dori Rubbicco, director of relations with patrons and theater companies, will assign tasks to each usher.

Cliff and Judy Roderiques have been ushers at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford for over 15 years.

“There are plenty of locations and positions to fill throughout each performance,” Rubbicco said. “We have about 30 ushers in the house at the same time.”

Judy Roderiques said she is frequently chosen as the main usher, located at the top of the center aisle. She said the theater is divided by even and odd numbers, so it’s easy to help people find their seats.

“It’s just about making sure people sit where they’re supposed to,” she said. “There are also season ticket holders who have been in the same seats for years. We all kind of know each other now.”

Cliff Roderiques said he was usually towards the front of the house, inviting customers or standing at the bar to warn people of the march.

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“They are two of my favorite people. They are always the ones who are ready to step in when needed and help out,” Rubbicco said.

“I wear many hats at Z and being the volunteer coordinator is one of my favorite things because of who they are and what they mean to each other.”

Ushers are always happy to help

Once the show starts, the ushers will have a few things to do, like waiting for late arrivals or standing guard at the door in case there is a “no-entry wait” for the first few minutes, as dictated by the production team.

Cliff Roderiques said he usually sits outside the theater to make sure no one without a ticket tries to sneak inside.

During the show, ushers will most likely be seated in the back row. There is also an ushers lounge equipped with water and snacks, located to the right of the lobby.

Cliff and Judy Roderiques have been ushers at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford for over 15 years.

“If you have a problem, let us know. We’ll fix it,” Judy Roderiques said. “We are always happy to help, no matter how big or small.”

At the end of the show, work may include opening the side exit doors on Spring Street, setting up all seats in the audience, and resuming abandoned programs.

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Rubbicco said most of the ushers had worked at the Zeiterion for 10 to 30 years. Diane Berube, Donna Bisacri and Joyce Viera worked the longest, with 36 years under their “vest”.

Rubbicco recently celebrated a bailiff’s 90th birthday and also presented a 35-year-old pin to another bailiff at their end-of-year party.

How to become a bailiff

However, since the pandemic, many bailiffs have retired. Rubbicco said she had appealed for more people to volunteer as ushers. She holds monthly orientation sessions to recruit new faces.

“We couldn’t do this without them. We couldn’t put on a show,” she said.

Cliff Roderiques as Santa Claus and Judy Roderiques as Mrs. Claus pose with two other Zeiterion ushers during a matinee performance of "A Christmas Carol."

Cliff Roderiques, who also volunteers at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park on Thursdays and Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home on Fridays, said he enjoyed the camaraderie among all of the ushers and volunteers.

“People in general who volunteer give their time so selflessly and are very special people to begin with,” Rubbicco said. “When you bring a group of like-minded people together, they see that from each other, and it becomes very special.”

Cliff and Judy Roderiques are also known to have dressed up as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus for a number of years at the Zeiterion’s annual “Christmas Carol” performances, and Judy Roderiques still dresses in 1850s costume. for the Whaling Museum.

Roderiques said she was just happy to see everyone back in theaters. “I really missed everyone. It was hard not having that during COVID,” she said.

“I’m so excited to see everyone come back and enjoy what this place has to offer.”

Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times editor, can be contacted at shitwood@st.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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