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A Front-of-House Volunteer

A Front-of-House Volunteer

Li Dick Lam's Story
Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine

A theatre is a place of imaginations. Whilst this venue realises the wildest dreams in the creators’ minds, some creators are striving hard to connect their artistic pursuits with social awareness. For instance, the Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection (AFTEC).

The Relaxed Theatre is one of the major productions of AFTEC over the years. As a form of socially inclusive entertainment, this special theatre setting welcomes individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other communication challenges to enjoy the theatre experiences.

“This is an interactive performance. It encourages the audience to join the actors and have fun. It provides a supportive environment for them to enjoy theatre art.” One of the front-of-house volunteers, Li Dick Lam (BNurs), told our student journalist her irreplaceable experience there.

As the supporting team of theatre productions, front-of-house volunteers have to serve several roles - ushers, theatre assistants, and even interactors. The conversation began when this fourth year nursing student recalled a moment in her previous show experience.

“Communication is a sincere process.”

“During the performance, a member of the audience was so enthusiastic, and I knew that he wanted to befriend me. However, he stood closer and closer to me and started murmuring next to me. Although he did not have the intention to hurt, I was frightened and at my wits’ end with the situation until his teacher handled it.”

“How can I react better?” Li evaluated.

Frankly admitting that she is still searching for the clue, Li believes that the obstacles of communication appear in every social tie, regardless of our background and mental health condition. “When I saw those actors trying their best to engage the audience in the performance, I realised that communication is but a sincere process - I don’t have to think too much.” She continued by sharing some communication tips, “Never hesitate to use body language to convey thoughts. Let them know that we are willing to talk! We do not have to be afraid of their reactions. They all mean to be nice!” 

As a nursing student, how did Li associate her academic know-hows to the responsibilities of a front-of-house volunteer? Her answer sheds light on two mutually essential elements - empathy and therapeutic communication skills: “Verbal and non-verbal communication skills are equally important in the two subjects. Volunteers are required to attend the training sessions beforehand, which provide more information on their special needs and guide us on audience interaction.”

Everyone has an equal right to enjoy theatre art. Unlike traditional and ordinary theatre experiences, audiences entering into this interactive theatre are advised to unload all concerns and calculations and relieve unspoken stresses through a series of dances and songs.

“One of their shows I just participated in was a reimagination of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. With simple lyrics and choreography, the energetic dance section is full of joy. Being one of the interactive characters in the set, we wore capes as well! And it does not matter if some members of the audience shout or scream during the performance. The Relaxed Theatre is not quiet anyway!”

As our interview concludes, Li made her observations to the function of art: “It is the most direct way to connect. Especially for theatre art, every one of us is the audience. Even though we have different backgrounds or needs, we are still sitting next to each other and enjoy that one hour together.”

From Li’s remarks, our journalist knew that the Relaxed Theatre is imperfect. However, we understand that there is a perfect venue to harbour Li’s aspirations and pursuits.

Written by:
Amadeus Cheung
Year 4, Faculty of Law
November 2020

A Front-of-House Volunteer