As an iconic part of Blacksburg, most people in the community have visited the Lyric Theatre at least once and seen the history behind its doors. However, many people may not realize is the theatre is run almost entirely by the help of volunteers.
Marylou, an 82-year-old Blacksburg resident, who legally has not had a last name for the past 30 years, has been volunteering at the Lyric Theatre since shortly after it reopened following renovations in 1998.
“Every single Monday night, I sell the first movie tickets, then I see the movie, and then I sell the second show tickets,” Marylou said. “I really like that because you see every single person who comes in, and I know a lot of people to begin with.”
Although she now works each Monday night shift in the theatre’s box office, Marylou originally started her work as a Lyric volunteer in a different position.
“I first volunteered on the concession stand,” Marylou said. “I thought that would be really fun. I did fine getting the concessions, but we had a really ancient cash register, and I hated that cash register. I worked the concession stand for maybe six months, and then I said, ‘Could I try tickets please?’ and they said sure. So, I have sold tickets ever since.”
As a non-profit movie theatre and community center, the Lyric Theatre relies on volunteers to facilitate its day-to-day operations.
“It’s essential,” said Josette Torres, volunteer coordinator for the theatre. “We couldn’t open our doors without our volunteers.”
To encourage people to help out, volunteers receive free popcorn, a free drink and are allowed to watch the show or movie after they have finished their shift. Marylou enjoys this part of her volunteer work, although she often has a hard time hearing parts of the movie.
“I read the review three times so I really know what (the movie) is about,” Marylou said. “Then the night manager will talk about it afterwards and he’ll explain to me what I couldn’t hear and understand because all of a sudden, people will (laugh), and I’ll think, ‘Oh, what did I miss?’ I know the story, but I’m missing the fine print. So that part is fun because we talk about it afterwards, and I like that.”
Through working at her own real estate company 30 years ago, Marylou enjoyed getting to know people, but had not had much opportunity to do so until she began volunteering at the Lyric.
“I love seeing so many people I know,” Marylou said. “When I was a realtor, I saw lots and lots of people all the time, but now I don’t see as many. So, that’s been the best of all. I’ve been on Monday nights for so long, over the period of time there have been the same people for several years. Seeing people, talking to people and having that camaraderie in our Monday night group is really good.”
As a former theatre volunteer, Torres recalls working with Marylou and enjoying their time together in the box office. She especially likes a pair of glasses that Marylou often wears while working.