GROSS: Since you worked as an usher at “The Lion King” when you started the process of writing “A Strange Loop” and the main character in “A Strange Loop” is an usher at “The Lion King,” now that you have a hit show, do you talk to the ushers? And do you try to hire ushers for whom this will be a good theater experience, a good opportunity for them to kind of almost be an apprentice?
JACKSON: Well, I don’t have anything to do with hiring the ushers. They’re – they belong to a union, Local 306. They place them in the theaters they work at. But I do. When I go to the show, I do often talk to them. They’re very nice people, but they also have a different situation than I had when I ushered because when you’re a Disney usher, you have this long employee handbook, and you’re considered a cast member. And you’re – and the people who come to see the shows are guests. And they are – and it’s almost like you’re working at a theme park. Like, they want to create, like, an experience for the people coming to see the shows. And so they’re just very strict about everything from grooming to how you can gesture to the restroom and all that sort of stuff. It’s – like, it’s pretty intense.
GROSS: How are you supposed to gesture to the restroom? What’s the proper call?
JACKSON: Open-handed. You’re never supposed to point.
‘A Strange Loop’ writer and composer started out on Broadway as an usher
Michael R. Jackson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical is about a young Black gay musical theater writer named Usher, who works as an usher at a Broadway show — just like Jackson once did.