From Diners to Fine Dining

JUL 21, 2015

Waitresses work across the entire American landscape. We asked members of the Waitress team to share some of their own experiences as, or with, waitresses and waiters.

I was a waitress for nine years. That period when I carried the tray was one of the most unexpectedly meaningful times of my life because of the camaraderie I felt with the women I worked with—women I normally would never have known. I saw them five nights a week, eight hours a night, and in many ways they became closer to me than my closest friends. When I got my first break, and left the restaurant in California, two of the older waitresses flew to New York on opening night to surprise me. We had never seen each other without a name tag or uniform.

Music & Lyrics
I worked as a waitress for a long time—all through my college years, and post-college when I first formed a band. I actually loved being a waitress. It’s hard work, but it’s also really gratifying and social. And that experience has definitely informed some of the Waitress lyrics. I worked at a little beer bar in Santa Monica after I graduated from UCLA. We had regular patrons who came in every single day. It was a unique experience because I knew them, and at the same time didn’t know everything about them. But the bar provided a sense of familiarity and a sense of home.

When I was in high school, I worked as the “dessert girl” in a restaurant during the summer. I stood behind a counter and was in charge of preparing all the desserts mostly putting out slices of cake, pie, and fancy cookies. I remember one day my boyfriend at the time (now my husband!) came in and passed me a little piece of paper with “I love you” written on it. I was holding a large platter of cookies. When I saw what he had written, I dropped the entire platter. I was in such a daze, I didn’t know what to do. I just remember a co-worker at the restaurant leaning over and telling me to pick up the cookies and put them back on the plate.

Cast (Jenna)
I’ve never been a waitress. I almost can’t believe it. I’ve catered, but catering is faceless, which is sometimes a nice thing. You’re not really serving. You talk to lifelong waitresses, and that’s their profession: to serve. I remember some of the waitresses from when my family would travel from Chicago to New Mexico—in Oklahoma and Texas. I think there’s a pride in it. For the waitresses in the musical, there is certainly a pride in it. For my character, Jenna, it’s the one place she feels proud; she feels useful. I think it’s the only place she feels like herself, or whatever version of herself she remembers as being good.

A.R.T. Production Dramaturg
I started waitressing my senior year of high school, serving Italian food and singing jazz standards at a “Singing Servers!” restaurant in Los Angeles. Before my junior year of college, I worked days in the dining room at a retirement home, and nights at an upscale hookah lounge. Last year, I was “Front of House” at a 9-course prix-fixe tasting menu restaurant, where I learned what Hon Shimeji mushrooms are, and momentarily became a snob about wines from the Loire Valley. Though diverse, my days waitressing have taught me one fundamental thing that carries over to my theater career: if somebody’s toast is burnt, it’s everybody’s fault.

Harvard College Dramaturgy Intern
I grew up in Gainesville, Florida and worked as a waiter at a local breakfast and lunch place on the weekends. I appreciated the theatrical nature of the restaurant: the collective working towards a common goal, the high stress and fast pace, the cast of characters that made up the regulars. I felt like I acted in a different role at each table: for the college kids, I was their friend and would speak casually, recommending my favorite dishes. With the local or older folks, I would speak politely with a slight southern accent and make sure to bring extra lemons with the water.

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