The 31-year-old is chief usher at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theater, where “Hamilton” has played to packed houses since August. On Oct. 22, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a profile of Heath that detailed the duties of her demanding job ― namely her brilliant, almost scientific strategy for keeping what is always a massive women’s bathroom line organized and moving.
Heath has made the line more efficient by commanding the area outside the bathroom from atop a piano bench. From her position there, she keeps things moving in an impressively ordered fashion and shouts out how much time is left in the 20-minute intermission between the acts of the musical to the dozens of anxious, full-bladdered patrons who are hoping to get in and out of the restroom without missing a moment of the show. And she does it with a much-welcomed sense of humor.
Her ingenious tactics have stolen the hearts of “Hamilton” fans, anyone who has ever waited in a massive bathroom line and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda himself faster than the people in her line are in and out of the restroom and back to their seats at the Forrest.
“Thank you for making the toughest part of the theater bearable,” Miranda tweeted at Heath, adding that the main “Hamilton” office would be sending her a care package.
HuffPost chatted with Heath, who has worked as an usher at the theater since 2011, about her “whirlwind week” since she went viral, what exactly her patron-aiding strategy entails and how women in line react to her while they wait for it.
There have been plenty of news stories about “Hamilton” over the years but none quite like this. How did this profile come about?
I was doing the bathroom line, one of my usual shifts, and Ellie Silverman, a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer, got through the bathroom line with time to spare and she was like, “this is absolutely amazing, other people have to know about this. Do you care if I write an article?” I looked at her like she was crazy. Like, no one cares about the little girl yelling in the bathroom line.
Well, it sounds like it’s way more than just “yelling in the bathroom line.” It sounds like an art form.
I have previous experience working in huge tourist destinations in Philadelphia. I used to work at the Philly zoo, and most recently I resigned from my post at the Museum of the American Revolution. So I am well-equipped [Laughs] on logistics and how to handle huge crowds. I have so much experience wrangling and figuring out the logistics of large crowds in small spaces.
Take me to that key moment: It’s intermission. People are streaming toward the restrooms. What exactly is your strategy for getting everyone in and out before the show begins again?
Our biggest bathroom is in the basement level, so it’s literally a flood of people downstairs. In our 92-year-old theater there are four lines during intermission: The ladies’ room, the men’s room, the bar and merchandise. With this in mind, I’m already losing space. So it was literally figuring out the fastest route and fitting as many people safely as possible in line and keeping them moving.
[Laughs] OK. So. I form a straight line out of the bathroom, so initially there’s about 20 women who rush down first ― they’re already in the stall. From that point on, I form a straight line which leads into a serpentine [coil]. So there’s about three to four loops and it weaves throughout the entire basement.
That sounds like a lot of wrangling.
I’ve been recruiting more ushers to help me [Laughs] because the bigger the house, the more people who of course want to use the bathroom. So I at least have standpoints and stop times, I have time averages ― it’s become this whole crazy science. It’s fun. At the same time, people are looking at me like I’m absolutely crazy and I’m like no, no, no ― it works.
What’s your success rate?
The latest someone’s made it up [into the auditorium] is maybe 30 or 45 seconds into Act II.
That’s my time stamp, that’s where I aim to be. After that 20 minutes, it might take us an extra minute to get the last people out, and I usually wait them out to reassure them ― to tell them it’s still OK, take your time, you didn’t miss a thing.
Why does this matter so much to you?
We’ve all ― especially as women ― been stuck in a line, so we know how aggravating it can be, right? Adding the humor and trying to dissuade everyone’s fears on how much time we have, what’s going on, it all became important to me. And especially as a Broadway kid, I’m like ― no way you’re missing this show on my watch. It became a personal choice like, “Hey, I have the skills, might as well do something.”
How do the people in line react to your tactics?
People will laugh. They’ll look at me like I’m crazy. A lot of the ladies who are in the middle of the line and didn’t think they would get through ― say they’re in the line from minute 12 to minute 15 ― they’ll come out and give me a high five. I’ve gotten hugs after the article published. I help seat people and deal with front of house at the beginning and I’ll have people yelling out at me, “Hey, you’re the newspaper girl!” Or “You’re the bathroom lady!”
People are going to start coming to the show to visit you.
I spoke about that with my manager ― I was like, “Oh god, did I just shoot myself in the foot?” Because everyone’s in this bathroom line. Is it gonna go from 250 people to 350 people? [Laughs]
It sounds like you can handle it.
It’s pretty fun. And this is all without taking over the men’s room!
Does it ever get to the point where you need to do that?
I do it as a last resort. The men’s room is full until about minute 14, and at that point it’s only four stalls. I usually wait it out, but I started to predict a pattern during matinees. They bring out more elderly people and more kids so there are extra bodies in the line along with people who are doing brunch and a show who are loaded up on liquid. Everyone’s excited. So if it comes to a situation like that, I’ll take over as much as I need to get them in and out.
People pay all this money to see this show and you help them make the most of it ― that’s really special.
I literally say, “Trust in me, and trust in your sisters” and it becomes the weirdest stranger bonding moment in the bathroom line and they come out happy.
The bathroom really bonds people together. So ― what about if you have to go?
Oh lord [Laughs]. I make sure to do that when it’s quiet so either I have to go really early before patrons come in or once everyone’s in the show ― about four or five songs deep. But I try not to miss a thing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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