Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Donor Newsletter Issue 2 Article I

Better than a Backstage Pass: Volunteering

The lights dim and an actor enters from up right, taking quick, deliberate steps toward center stage. You are hanging on his every gesture, his every word, his every breath. Before you know it, you are completely submersed in the world that has been created for you. You are more than willing to suspend your disbelief, and allow yourself to be taken on a journey beyond your own imagination. And then, it’s over. The best and worst part about live theater is that it’s fleeting, it may stick with us in our hearts but physically lasts only for a brief time. So what now? The lights come up, fellow audience members begin to trail out: the show’s over.

But your theater experience can continue! What transcends the magical moments that happen onstage is countless hours of effort that happen behind the scenes. You have an opportunity to be a part of what makes Orlando Shakes a successful theater, and contribute to the artistic scene in your community. As a volunteer, you can make a difference.

“Every day is a new adventure with a new team, and no matter which members are on the team that day you know everybody is going to give 100%.  We are very fortunate at present to have a wonderful crew of volunteers and extremely thankful that they are able to fill all positions needed. However our admin, scenic and costume departments are always welcoming of fresh new faces,” Colin Worley, House Manager & Volunteer Coordinator, said.

Volunteer Group

Among the many volunteer opportunities, one way to contribute is through back of house positions. The Development, Administration, and Education Departments, all greatly appreciate the aid of volunteers that help day to day operations run smoothly. Recently, volunteers in the Development Department took on the challenge of the United Arts campaign mailing. Thousands of envelopes were stuffed, addressed, and sealed, a feat that truly would have been impossible without their help. The United Arts campaign is one of the Theater’s largest sources of funding, so saying that it’s important is a bit of an understatement.

“When I started volunteering, I was impressed that everybody who worked for Shakes acknowledged my presence and contributions each and every time I visited.  Their welcoming presence made me want to come back.  This is a cultural aspect that seems to be a part of new employee training as it continues today,” Toni Dedik, OST volunteer, said.

Another back of house position that gets you even closer to the action is working in the Costume Shop. Costuming is constantly in search of volunteers with knowledge of hand sewing. (It’s a bonus if you have experience with a sewing machine!) Volunteers get to make finishing touches on costumes, such as buttons and trim.

“The Costume Shop and staff are very special to us. When we first joined we looked forward to putting our skills to good use. Little did we know at that time how rewarding and how many new techniques were in store for us. Sure, we sew on lots of buttons, but there is so much more to do and learn,” Dave Herman, OST volunteer, said.

The Theater also needs assistance in running the front of house operations. This involves ushering, as well as working in the Gift Shop and Concessions. In order to work in both the Gift Shop and Concessions, you must become a member of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater Guild. Along with providing further volunteer opportunities, Guild members also receive benefits such as monthly social dinners, holiday parties, and even the chance to view dress rehearsals. Guild members are dedicated to the theatrical community and are key in helping OST to thrive.

“For me, volunteering is extremely important; I’ve always felt I receive much, much more than I give.  The Guild, for me, is the best method to contribute to the financial well-being of Orlando Shakes.  Not only can I contribute in a meaningful way, by interacting with the public while raising funds for the Theater, but I’ve made some lovely friends through the years of working here.  And then I get to see them monthly at our dinner meetings.  What could be better:  good food, good friends, backstage stories, invitations to dress rehearsals, friendships with the actors, and so much more.  Underlying it all, though, is the belief that every large city needs a cultural base of theater, arts, music, dance, and more, to attract strong, supportive growth, and I’m a part of that effort,” Paula Streimish, OST Guild Member, said.

Being a volunteer is a wonderful experience in and of itself, but what if you could use it to gain professional experience and build your resume? Orlando Shakes offers internships working in Development, Marketing, and Finance. (Note: Finance is currently looking! There will be openings in Development and Marketing in the Fall.) Interns learn about how to work in their field of interest and about the administrative work behind running a professional theater.

“We really appreciate our interns so much here at the Theater. They’re so passionate and help us accomplish so much. We do our best to give them real-world experience, an inside look at theater-life,” Arika Richardson, Development Coordinator, said.

Lexie

So, why not volunteer? You get to contribute to OST, and the greater cultural community. Okay, so maybe stuffing envelopes and working as an usher isn’t quite as glamourous and magical as actually being an audience member and getting to enjoy the fruit of the Theater’s labors. But did I mention that as thanks for your generosity and hard work, you can actually earn vouchers to see shows here at the Shakes for free? You can! And now you’ll see the shows in a whole new light knowing that you contributed to their success. It’s easy to become the wind under the wings of your favorite theater, just sign up by filling out the application here.

“To put it simply, we would not be able to do what we do without the extraordinary amount of help we receive from our volunteers,” Worley said.

Volunteers 2

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