My co-worker Heather Levine has a dashing new hairstyle. Don't be alarmed--this blog devoted to performing arts, education and parenting has not suddenly devolved to a study of fall trends. Rather, Heather's new 'do is her way of celebrating that, in the first week of Group Sales for the 2012-13 season, she managed to sell more tickets than in the first week of any prior year! This isn't the first record Heather's broken either, since she started at the New Vic in September 2010, so I asked her how she came to hold such a specialized position, what exactly it entails and, most importantly, what she finds most rewarding in the role.
When planning a career in theater, most people focus on either the acting/writing/directing route or the designing/stage-managing/technician path. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, none of these things interested me. How could I be creative without one of these stereotypical jobs? A great thing about getting a B.A. in Theater is that it requires classes in every aspect of the art: acting, directing and design and history, theory and management.
To satisfy one set of these diverse course requirements, I was fortunate enough to score a much coveted spot in the Fine Arts Ticket Office (FATO) for my sophomore year at Florida State University. Since I went to a major state university in a small, southern town, the FATO was the main ticketing center for most events within a twenty mile radius. The class credit turned into a full time job, and within a year I was a manager. I wasn’t only dealing with the physical aspect of ticketing, but was also the main reference point for helping with seating, restaurant recommendations and general event information. A light bulb went off in my head: without an audience, there is no theater. What's the point of creating a moving piece of art if there isn't anyone experiencing it? I immediately began to focus my curriculum on this sentiment. I enrolled in management classes that focused on both non-profit and commercial theater, started a production company, co-produced a musical and even finished a semester early so I could take an administrative internship at a regional theater.
The internship led to a succession of jobs when I moved to New York. I took a job as a Treasurer for an off-Broadway theater, which led to a job with a General Manager, which led to a job with a Producer. Each of these positions asked me to understand sales trends; each consecutive step up the theater food chain was fundamental to my training as a theater professional. Now equipped with the knowledge of "how stuff works," I was able to mold my own ambitions and focus on a career of bringing those people, the audience, into the theater--which is exactly what I get to do as Group Sales & Special Events Coordinator for The New Victory.
At The New Victory, a group of twenty or more is eligible for a discount on tickets. I also help groups plan the rest of their day in the city: Where can they park? Are they looking for another fun activity to partake in before or after the show? And, finally, a question most of us can relate to, where can they eat? The New Victory is lucky enough to be situated in the heart of Times Square where there are options to suit all tastes.
A perfect example was the group of pre-teen girls and parents who came to see a show at the end of last season. The girls had graduated from simple "pizza and cake" fare and the mother who was organizing wanted a little more panache. I considered all of their needs and I recommended Planet Hollywood. It was a perfect fit: they had several group menu choices to fit her budget, the ambiance ensured the girls would have a blast and there were enough food and drink options to appease the accompanying adults as well.
But those are logistics. For me, the "group" is more important than the "sale." By bringing a group, these families, teachers or community coordinators are helping us reach people who may not come to the theater on their own. Furthermore, many of our shows do not require that the attendees speak or understand a certain language--greatly expanding the possibility that anyone who comes will enjoy themselves. It feels so rewarding to help a wide spectrum of people plan the perfect visit. I love that I have a job that connects me so directly to the audiences that make live theater such a unique art form.
To learn more about what makes a group, look for our upcoming post featuring some of those who already work with us. To book your group for a visit to the theater, please call Heather at 646.223.3014.