ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Before the bright lights and beautiful music at The Muny begins, about 10 to 15 sweating and grinding “pushers” are making sure every patron has made it to their seat. It’s a job that can easily go unnoticed, but for many patrons, the pushers make going to The Muny possible.
House manager at The Muny, Lindsey Grabish, says on an average night between 40 and 50 patrons will need a wheelchair manned by one of The Muny’s pushers. They to pick ticket holders up from their car, take them to their seat, transport them to the restrooms, check in at intermission and take them back to their vehicle after the show.
It’s a common amenity for theaters to provide transportation for those who need it, but pushers at The Muny need some uncommon training. Head usher Drew Haynes was 16 when he was hired as a pusher, seven years ago. He became quite familiar with the estimated 45-degree hills that lead down to The Muny seating.
“It’s pretty grueling, but it’s doable,” Haynes says. “There’s definitely times where you just put your head down and just drive.”
He has also become the benchmark for pusher training sessions. Grabish says if you can push Haynes, then she’d trust them to be able to push any patron that buys a ticket.
“Our mission is to produce musical theatre that is accessible for all, and that is pretty much made possible by the pushers,” Grabish.
Haynes is considered a “legend” by current pushers like Jerunek Morris and Andrew Greaser, who are in their fourth and second years of pushing, respectively. The status is earned not just by hours, but the stories a pusher accumulates by working seven nights a week throughout the summer, like Haynes does. He’ll never forget the day a woman fell in the bathroom and he was the only one around. So he timidly walked into the women’s restroom, assisted her into a wheelchair and out of the restroom.
“After that I developed a relationship with her, and she couldn’t come to the theater unless we pushed her in,” Haynes “So it was like I am specifically changing her life. So that’s why I enjoy pushing.”
Morris talked about one of his favorite patrons, Sandy, who comes to The Muny with her husband, and will talk about WWE with Morris.
“Every time she comes, she makes sure that she sits in my chair, because we have that connection.” Morris says.
Greaser, who is halfway through his sophomore year of pushing, remembers a man who asked for some reassurance that Greaser had maneuvered The Muny’s sloping pathways a time or two. Before heading down a large hill, the man asked Greaser if he had ever lost his grip and let anyone go down the hill?
“I was like ‘No sir, and I don’t plan on it,'” Greaser says. “And he said ‘Alright, I trust in you.'”
The service is free (tips are welcomed by the young men and women who push, but not required) and no matter where you park, Grabish says a pusher will be able to get to you.
“We don’t want someone not coming because they don’t think they can get in,” Grabish says.
Videographer Phil Hamer