Susan is a full time staff volunteer in our office for this whole year. She will be writing monthly blog posts about her experiences being a full time volunteer and working with us at Near West Theatre.
I’ve officially volunteered at Near West for one month, and a busy month it has been. I’ve worked my first production, The Snow Queen. I’ve attended staff meetings, and even spoke in a few of them. I officially have a desk, still working on bringing in desk knick-knacks. And, probably the most important thing, I learned how to transfer calls! Yup I’m finally feeling acclimated to working at Near West and I’ve gotten a good routine down.
My typically day starts with my twenty minute bike ride from my house in Lakewood to the office (not looking forward to the weather changing when I can’t take that ride any more, but that’s to be dwelled on another time). Once I arrive at the office I check my email, the Near West Theatre Facebook account, and select which musical I want to listen to that day. Typically there aren’t too many emails but every once in a while I’ll get a meeting reminder. The Facebook page often has a number of notifications and a few comments to reply to. And as for the musical, Hamilton has been my choice more often than not lately, but from time to time I stray and listen to Bridges of Madison County or Hair (all fantastic shows and if you haven’t had the chance to listen to any of them I suggest you do).
The reason I check the Facebook account is because that’s one of my tasks as a full time volunteer here. I’ve been assisting Cory, our fabulous marketing manager, with all our social media so she can focus on more of the bigger picture marketing items. It’s been an adventure and a blast getting to know Near West’s social media. I was eager to connect to the community that Near West has already cultivated that I had yet to get to know. At other organizations where I’ve done social media I was lucky to get a like or two on a post. Here almost every post I’ve made got a comment or two and a number of likes! It was so exciting for me! The Near West community is so eager to engage. The best part so far have been the comments I’ve gotten on posts not necessarily related to Near West Theatre, such as an article about a different theatre or about diversity. After just a handful of interactions I feel like my post have improved greatly as well as my knowledge of what Near West is here to do and what their community enjoys. It’s truly been a wonderful experience being able to connect with the Near West Theatre community, the Gordon Square Arts District community, and the Cleveland Theater community all through the Near West’s Facebook page.
After spending some time engaging on Facebook, looking up new articles to post, liking other organizations’ posts and maybe even sharing them, all while listening to my musical of choice that day, the Box Office phone rings. My first few weeks here when that happened, panic would flash across my face. I’ve worked with a number of ticketing systems, each different than the last, and the system here at Near West is no different. After stellar guidance from Kelcie, our box office master and office coordinator, during my first few calls, and help walking me through my first ticket orders, the panic on my face turned to slight dread and then finally into confidence. I’ve mastered our ticketing system and now the calls are easy (I’ve yet to master Kelcie’s ticket selling talent, she seriously knowns everyone who calls, it’s amazing). Working the Box Office during the opening night of The Snow Queen is really what finalized my knowledge of our system. If you need to learn a program, there’s nothing like a high-stress, fast-paced environment to force you to master it quickly!
While both those items, selling tickets and engaging on Facebook, can be constant all day, there’s one more project I fit into my routine: developing a task force. This past April, Near West Theatre hosted a tour of their new ADA compliant building with a number of representatives who provide services and advocacy for people living with disabilities. While there, a number of people suggested that we form a Disabilities Task Force to discuss future options for advocacy. I’ve been reaching out to a number of organizations to form this group and to pick their brains about what we can do better at Near West. On top of that, I’ve been researching programs and workshops we could possibly start here. It’s been a fascinating process and you’d be amazed what’s out there, and also how many holes there are when it comes to making the arts inclusive for all. I’m really looking forward to getting this task force off the ground and starting some programs here at Near West to bring the arts to everyone, but it’s still in the beginning stages right now (don’t worry, there will be updates!).
Somewhere during all that work I eat lunch, often I walk across the street for a pick-me-up from Gypsy Bean, and even more often the whole office pauses on what they’re doing to hear Kevin sing something, sometimes it’s an actual song but normally it’s just something he makes up. But besides a few random items that pop up here and there (Star Seats, printer malfunctions, staff meetings, etc.), that’s my routine. It will change and evolve as my time here continues, but for now it’s a good start. There’s still a lot of learn but I’m feeling more comfortable and more at home.