Even in the category of those with a proclivity towards the arts, every young person that decides to sign up for TeenTix has a different experience.
Of course, I’m biased. I’m a TeenTix devotee.
I moved to Seattle when I was 14 and, on recommendation from a family friend, joined TeenTix. I applied for The New Guard, TeenTix’s board of teenagers that keeps the organization accountable to the community it is supposed to be serving, soon after on recommendation from my drama teacher, who thought it would be a good fit for me. He had no idea…
One of the perks of being on The New Guard is that you get to do a 'mini-mentorship' with someone working at a local arts organization, where you can shadow them for the day, eat lunch together, and have all your questions about what is probably your dream job answered. I’ve been lucky enough to do two. The first was at Seattle Theater Group (which is NOT a TeenTix partner organization, it's worth noting), which operates out of the beautiful Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle. Except, it’s not so beautiful. Once you leave the theater with its opulent chandeliers and intricate painting, the rest of the building is extremely barebones (and, frankly, a little bit crappy). I’ve found this to be the case in most theaters, but the people working in them don’t mind. Theater people will work in the ugliest of conditions to ensure that the audience has an experience that is nothing less than beautiful.
STG is a huge organization. They run three theaters, and put on not only plays and musicals, but also concerts, standup comedy, and even whatever celebrity chef Alton Brown does when he goes on tour. (Presumably a cooking demonstration.) I shadowed Anthony, who worked in Public Relations. I was immediately amazed by his work ethic. He started working at 6:00 AM every day, answering emails and checking every conceivable social media platform. Even as print media dies, Anthony reads the Arts & Culture pages from multiple newspapers every morning to see if they mention one of the shows that STG is producing. It’s a big place, but Anthony made it feel so personal. I had some friends from school who were in a band that played at a showcase put on by STG, and everyone in the Public Relations department remembered them and had something nice to say. When I left, I felt like it understood the challenges a lot of arts organizations are facing: being noticed. Theaters and museums compete amongst each other, but also against Hollywood movies, and sometimes even nothing at all (if 'nothing at all' involves not having to get dressed and leave the house and challenge one's understanding of the world, as art does).
A year later, I found myself at the Cornish Playhouse for my second 'mini-mentorship'; this time with George, the Artistic Director of Seattle Shakespeare Company. I have so much admiration for Seattle Shakes, and any theater that is producing Shakespeare in new and interesting ways. At the time, the Company was rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet, in which George was also acting. This meant I was basically observing a rehearsal, which was fine by me. Since tech rehearsals are sooooooooooo slowly paced, there was plenty of time for me to talk to the actors, the choreographer, the director, the stage managers, and even the interns in addition to George, while also getting to watch them do their thing, onstage and off.
The ladies truly ruled the show, which made my heart soar as I watched the mostly female production team KILL IT at their jobs. Organizations like Seattle Shakes understand that having diversity in the creators that they commission leads to having a more diverse and therefore more compelling artistic output. I saw the show on closing night and it was extraordinary. The aesthetics were completely original, and I left with a new understanding of the piece. That’s saying something, as R&J is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays (but that was mainly because I loved and completely bought into the love story). This production illuminated so much more than just the story. (Seriously, if any English teacher wants their class to really understand the themes and deeper meaning and other literature class terms of the play, they should have taken them to this production. Oh well, too late!) I’ve been in shows since I was five years old and have been through my fair share of tedious rehearsals, but after I observed a professional theater company rehearse, I saw that they are truly on a whole different level. I was there for four hours and they got through about ten minutes of stage time. Yikes.
'Mini-mentorships' are supposedly the rewards for putting in 20 hours with The New Guard, but, to me, the experience is reward enough. At TeenTix, the kids are not there to look good for PR while the grown-ups go into a room and make the real decisions. I felt like my input truly mattered there. Watching TeenTix operate on a human level set me on the path where I figured out what I want to do with my life: run my own non-profit theater company. Ashraf Hasham is an enthusiastic and supportive leader who makes every teen on The New Guard feel heard and appreciated. Holly Arsenault is my biggest role model and I aim to emulate her poise and passion for what she does (as I’m sure many other young women do). Every other volunteer, intern, Advisory Board member, and donor know that TeenTix is an amazing thing that gives so much more than five dollar tickets to teenagers. It gives the public an awareness and renewed commitment to art. It gives artists assurance that they will not be ignored. It gives art new life and keeps it from being archaic and elitist.
I know I’m biased. I think it’s become pretty clear from what I’ve written that I am an Art Person and will support it with everything I have. However, I don’t think my belief is that out of the ordinary. And my belief is that Art Matters. Art makes life worth living. Art can be a tool for social change. TeenTix believes this, too. If you believe this, support TeenTix. Support all art. Support young people that love art. Be a part of this movement.