Tim Cochran says his job is a little like being the bouncer at a Chuck E. Cheese franchise.
There’s bound to be some confusion and chaos, but nothing he or his volunteers can’t handle. The 75-year-old Cochran has volunteered at the Flat Rock Playhouse as an usher for about a quarter of a century. He currently serves as the coordinator for the Playhouse’s 440 volunteer ushers. It’s a job that takes over large chunks of his life.
“When I first started as the coordinator,” he says, “we did about 7 plays in one theater. Now we do 17 productions a year in two different theaters.” Counting all the matinees and evening shows in both venues, he’ll have to find ushers for around 400 performances in any given year. This means that the remarkably cheerful Cochran (who once appeared as an actor opposite Playhouse founder Robroy Farquhar) has to keep track of and be able to contact his volunteers, all of whom have different schedules and priorities. That list, by the way, fills at least seven pages of printed-out spreadsheet. Each performance at each venue (in Flat Rock and on Main Street Hendersonville) requires a minimum of eight ushers to take tickets, hand out programs, distribute earphones where needed, and show patrons to their seats.
At the beginning of the season, Cochran (who was active in theater production in his native Michigan before moving here more than 25 years ago) works full time for three 7-day weeks getting the ushering organized. Once that’s accomplished, he’ll log somewhere around a dozen hours per week riding herd on his band of volunteers.
For their compensation, the volunteers – including the coordinator – get to see the plays, but receive no money. Cochran is fine with the non-existent paycheck, he says. “I get to see every show, you know, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a bad play at the Playhouse.”