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Where to sit when attending PNB performances

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There's a wealth of seating charts and images on the PNB and Seattle Center websites from which it looks like the orchestra level in Brotman Auditorium is moderately raked except for the first several rows, which look more nearly level than farther back. (There's a "View from the Stage" which suggests this.) I'm 5' 7" in my socks, and I'm concerned about being blocked by someone in front of me or sitting below the level of the stage, having to look up, or not seeing the feet; I think you know what I mean.

It also looks like the Dress Circle and upper Tier fronts are pretty far back. With all the info on line, they don't seem actually to say which row below the front row in the next level up overhangs. What's your experience? One way not to be too low is to sit in a front row upstairs, but it looks pretty far.

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It's remarkable how close the First Tier and Second Tier are. I don't remember exactly where the overhangs are. I'm thinking maybe W or X in the Main Floor and E in the First Tier. The Dress Circle seats are pretty close. The best price/value seats are rows A-D 9 and 10 in the Gallery Upper. They're right next to Dress Circle 8, which cost a lot more.

If you sit in the Second Tier, don't sit in the second row in an aisle. At the bottom of the aiskes' stairs is a plexiglass pane to block people from catapulting themselves onto the Main Floor were they to trip on the stairs. The panes don't block the view, but they're annoying. Also row A in the far side sections in the Second Tier (and maybe the First Tier) only have one aisle.

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Aha! So there are some tricky spots, and I'm glad to have all this insider experience.

Meanwhile, I have found again the page where you can click on sections of the seating chart and see the view from there - it was from there that I got the idea that the Orchestra might be pretty flat.

(That page needs to have "Click on Section for View" or some such language entered on it, I think. It's not foolproof as it is. "Nothing should be called foolproof until I've tried it," as I like to say.)

For example, if you click on the front of the center section in the Orchestra on that chart, the image that opens shows that your eye is level with the stage; click on the back part of center Orchestra, and the image shows you have lots of rows in front of you. Click on the Dress Circle center section #23 and the image even shows us one of those Plexiglas panels Helene describes!

These threads have a lot of good information to absorb. Fortunately, the interactive seating charts for the second weekend - four shows, rather than the three on the first weekend, right? - show a number of tickets in widely scattered parts of the auditorium right now.

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Second weekend is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and Sunday matinee for "Jewels" and other standard rep. (The full-lengths tend to have one or two extra matinees.) First weekend is Friday night opening night and then Saturday matinee and evening performances. Opening Night used to be on a Thursday, and when they dropped the performance, which gives them an extra rehearsal day -- normally there's an opera right before -- they merged the Thursday and Friday subscriptions, which usually means fewer non-subscription seats for Opening Night Friday.

There is a rise in the orchestra (Main Floor), although maybe not in the first six or eight row. At least it's not like the house before they gutted it: the first few rows sloped down, and I was assigned Row E or F behind a guy who was barely over 5 feet tall, and his head blocked my view almost completely, because his row was higher than mine.

Given the price break from $90 to $65, I'm guessing that rows A-D in the First Tier are not under the overhang, and row E and back are. It looks like Main Floor pricing breaks either in row W or X.

If I were looking for a single ticket on second weekend Friday I would grab the Gallery Upper seat Row C Seat 9. It's right on the edge of the Dress Circle on the right side facing the chart. On the Main Floor, on the left side section off center, I would look at Row S Seat 1 or Row V Seat 1 on either left or right of center. I'd pick Row N Seat 1 or Row G Seat 1 (even though I don't like to be that close) over any of the seats in the center section, whre someone with stupid hair could block your view. (Or the short guy in front of me one time who had the squarest head I've ever seen.) You can see on the chart that the aisles are slightly slanted, so that worst case scenario is leaning into the aisle if the person in front of you is big (or has used an entire jar of hair gel or has decided to go with an upsweep do).

On Saturday night there are still a few aisle seats in the side sections of the Main Floor, but back in Row V. Gallery Upper (right facing the screen) Row B Seat 11 is a good seat. If the Dress Circle is empty, like first Saturday matinee, then people shift over pretty regularly. People have started to figure out that it's one of the great values in McCaw Hall, but that only works for Rows B-D -- "A" might be all Dress Circle -- the three top rows of the section.

There are still aisle seats on the Main Floor for the Sunday matinee. If there's going to be a new cast doing the roles for the first time, that's usually the performance. There are no guarantees, but there were five casts rehearsing "Diamonds," although one might get a student matinee.

On Thursday and Friday nights, Gallery Upper Row T Seat 1 is also open (on the right side). Lots of people love that seat, as it's far enough back up the rise and on the inner aisle.

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I sat near the front, inside wall of section 5 one night, but I found the view to be a bit skewed for my taste. And I sat in section Y in the first row (which was great). You would of course be looking up to some degree sitting in the front row, and you might also be distracted by the conductor's head. ;)

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I'm actually thinking about two tickets to each of the first three shows and a singe to the last one, at this point, though we'll split up if we can get better locations that way. Right now, there are multiple seats in Orchestra rows M - P in the center or looking down the center aisle for all four shows.

(Sunday has the worst selection, i.e. it's the most sold. I was surprised.)

Still figuring.

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I'm concerned about being blocked by someone in front of me or sitting below the level of the stage...

Do not sit in any row closer than row G or even H in the orchestra if you are concerned about heads. The rake in the orchestra behind row G should make things OK after that. Helene is 100% right about the 2 side section in the orchestra being better for heads than the center section (this is because from the side you tend to look btwn seats toward the stage).

The rake in all parts of the house except the orchestra is steep enough to eliminate all head problems. Row D in the Dress Cirlce can also have head problems.

You will lose some part of feet if you sit in the 1st few rows of the orchestra. The only good option there anyway is the very 1st row because of heads. In the 1st row you will lose the actual contact of the point shoe with the floor since there is a row of lights that block. If you are shorter you might lose perhaps 1/4 of the foot. I sit in the 1st row sometimes for the unique perspective, but losing that contact point with the floor always bothers me somewhat (note the pricing for the first few rows in the orchestra is relatively cheap except the 1st row).

The Dress Circle balcony hangs over row W in the orchestra. I would definitely not sit behind that row (row T is an even better cutoff because sound does muffle a bit behind that row).

Helene guess is not correct; the 2nd tier overhangs all of the 1st tier; however, the 1st row of the 1st tier is OK.

If you sit in the gallery below row M you will progressively lose a lot of the upstage corner on that side. Also the only really good seats in the gallery proper (not the highest part that Helene mentions where the row numbers start again...A,B,C,D reflecting Dress Circle row numbers) is the innermost 2 seats (seat 1 & 2); however seats 3 & 4 are acceptable; do not sit outside of seat 4.

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Thanks, SandyMcKean, that tends to confirm what I've been figuring out with the on-line charts and images, and I'm focusing all the more on my prime area. But one's experience being blocked depends partly on one's own height, right?, so could you please reveal yours? Or compare it to mine (5' 7")?

Edited by Jack Reed
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so could you please reveal yours? Or compare it to mine (5' 7")?

I am 6'1"

I've always had good luck with the back of Orchestra Center.

I'm curious.....how far back (in terms of row letter) have you been willing to go?

P.S. BTW, the orchestra rake increases the further back one goes; so the "head" and "center section" problems decreases the further back one sits. Also in the interests of full disclosure smile.png, I'm a person who perfers to sit closer than many....so that no doubt colors my perspective on seating.

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For anyone who's going first/opening weekend, but hasn't bought tickets already, there's a 10% discount offer for all three performances of "Jewels."

Sweeten the Deal?
How about 10% off Jewels tickets? Not just for Opening Night, but for ALL performances of Jewels Opening Weekend. Click "Buy Tickets" or call 206.441.2424 and mention "BLING" to save!

Please buy so many tickets it skews the success rate of the email that's sourced in the "Buy Tickets" link :) It's going to be great!

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Most of my tickets are bought and paid for by now, but for the possible benefit of someone reading here, here are some further thoughts:

After looking at the images of the seating in McCaw Hall (or is it Brotman Auditorium?), I thought it looked a lot like the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, with its flat main floor and distant balconies, where I sat hundreds of times from 1973 through 1986, and I've been using that experience as my point of reference. In those days I alternated between the 14th Row in the Orchestra seats and the first row or two in the First or Second "Ring" (as the balconies there are still called), depending to some extent on the repertory - the 14th row was a good distance, but still a little low; and while the front of the lower Rings were a good height, they were pretty far.

But I've realized that the 14th row in McCaw Hall may not be nearly as far from the stage as the 14th row was in the New York State Theater - possibly 70% as far, or closer - because, first, MCH has - it looks like - conventional rows with a depth of 30", like most theaters where the Orchestra is divided by aisles into two or three sections across the auditorium, while the NYST had true continental seating - no aisles dividing the rows, just at the sides - with 39" depth (as the rows in the Koch theater still have today, IIRC); and because, second, the orchestra pit in MCH may be - is? - conventionally smaller from front to back than the NYST was, having been said to have been unusually big originally, in my day (and even bigger today).

This comparison leads me to reinterpret Helene's suggestions about sitting farther back, for instance, especially for the first visit of several, though my conviction, born of experience, that I'm happiest right on the center-line persists.

I hope this may be helpful.

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I think most people would scratch their heads if you mentioned the Susan Brotman Auditorium. A lot if people still call the building the Opera House, but McCaw Hall would at least ring a bell.

The back of the Second Tier is like being in the back if the Third Tier at NYST.

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