All we see on stage when we go to see a play are the actors and the set pieces. We notice the lights and sound, and maybe the tech crew, but there are so many parts to running a fully-functioning theater that people may not realize. I considered myself pretty knowledgeable about all things theater, but I still had a lot to learn on my mini-mentorship with Robert Hankin, the Associate Director of Development at ACT Theatre. He was a great person to have as a guide and mentor for the day because he said he has had nine different positions in his nine years at ACT!
I was surprised by the dozens and dozens of people who work behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly. A few departments I can rattle off: Development (a.k.a. fundraising), Sales, Marketing, Graphic Design, Casting, Costuming, Set Design, Tech Design, Outreach, Front-of-House, Executive Team, Artistic Team, and more! I remember meeting one person in the elevator who's only job was to paint things. In a large-scale theater like ACT, so many different moving pieces have to work together cohesively. What mattered was that everyone cared about what they were doing and enjoyed putting in the effort to create amazing theater.
I learned the most about the Sales department. They are responsible for determining how much money a show is likely to bring in, based on past selling records, themes, and even a show's title. I didn't realize that if a title of a play is hard to pronounce, the play actually makes less money. Once they estimate how much money a show will bring in, they can set the budget for the other teams to work with.
I also learned about ACTLab, a program I hadn't known much about before. ACTLab hosts plays from all sorts of local theater groups to provide support and infrastructure to ensembles that might not otherwise get to showcase their work. I think it is awesome that ACT is so welcoming to unique shows, even though they might not attract as large an audience as the mainstage shows. It really demonstrates their commitment to theater of all sorts and sizes. I will certainly be going to see more ACTLab productions.
I got to go on a tour of the building, meet people, learn about different programs, attend a couple of meetings, and sit in on a dry-tech of the upcoming play. I watched the directors and designers dissect every element of the sounds, light, timing, and set placement so that everything was just to the artistic team's specifications.
Overall, it was awesome learn about ACT theatre and realize how much effort, time, patience, money, and talent is needed to mount a full-scale production at one of the city's largest venues. Be sure to use your TeenTix pass to check out ACT and ACTLab's next shows! I'll see you there!
How did Caroline H. get this super cool job-shadowing opportunity? By joining—and serving ~20 hours on—The New Guard: Teen Arts Leadership Society! New Guard members have the opportunity to be matched with mentors at TeenTix partner organizations and affiliates, like ACT Theatre.
Interested in being a part of a mini-mentorship of your own? We encourage you to apply for The New Guard! Applications are open for the 2016-2017 session now, and close on June 1st! Click here to apply. Learn more about Caroline H. and The New Guard here!