Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Chris Martin, ACT's volunteer coordinator

Today we get back to featuring a prime player at ACT who is working to create a great theatre experience for our guests. Chris Martin has long been an active member of the ACT community. This season he took over as Volunteer Coordinator, a big, fun, messy job. Chris, who has done a bit of everything at ACT, is more than up for the job. In our Q and A Chris dishes on how he got started at ACT, and how you can as well.

Part of your job is getting people involved with ACT? How did you get started with ACT?
In the spring of 2000 I was working as an interim 1st grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School. I met Cindy Baldwin, a fellow colleague and well-known director and stage manager at ACT. She encouraged me to audition for the musical Robber Bridegroom. I was cast in the ensemble and thus began my journey at ACT. It wasn't until I received a volunteer insert from Jenny Bunn in the playbill of Deathtrap that I really began my commitment to ACT as a volunteer. Her enthusiasm and positive relationship with other volunteers contributed to my high level of involvement with ACT. From that moment on I went on to act in four other shows and began volunteering and working in almost every capacity, including stage manager, box office manager, house manager, Tanglewood Assistant Director and drama teacher, light board operator, sound board operator, costume assistant/dresser, props/running crew, props designer, and director.

Talk about some different roles that volunteers play at ACT?
Well, volunteers are utilized in the front of the house as ushers, house managers, and box office volunteers; backstage in productions as assistant stage managers, dressers, running crew, props crew; on stage as actors, in the technical booth as follow spot, light board, and sound board operators; and behind the scenes on our build crew as set builders and painters and the costume crew as stitchers and sewers. We are in need of volunteers for special events as well, including the Diva Cabaret, Divalicious, costume sale, Bele Chere parking, and many others. As you can see, there are many ways for our volunteers to become involved at ACT that fit their individual skill levels and needs.

What if you have absolutely no experience with the theatre. Can you still volunteer?
Of course. We encourage anyone who wants to be involved at ACT to learn different volunteer roles. We provide training for each volunteer role, so our volunteers gain valuable theatre experience and feel comfortable in their volunteer positions. Some of our volunteers keep the same position as an usher or light board operator for each show, while others try out other positions on different shows. I did this as a volunteer in order to learn more about the theatre and to find roles that best suited me. So anyone willing to try new things, meet new people, and have fun while doing it should volunteer at ACT.

Along with your volunteer coordinator duties, you served as the Stage Manager for Peter Pan. You must have been a busy man during that time. How did you get it all done?
Well, it was busy, but it gave me an opportunity to multi-task and get to know our many volunteers on that production. I had such a positive experience with Peter Pan because of the very organized and efficient creative team and the outstanding cast. It made my job very pleasant as well as manageable with everyone on the cast and crew pitching in and doing their jobs to their best abilities. The technical aspects of this show were challenging with everything from flying, pulling curtains, costume changes, crocodile wrangling, moving multiple scenery pieces many times for lots of scene changes, plentiful lighting cues, and yes -- live animals on stage. However, we had a successful run of this show due to the dedication of everyone involved.

You've got many years of teaching experience, yes? How does running a classroom compare to running a volunteer program?
They are very similar as both jobs require a high level of organization, people skills, multi-tasking, excellent customer service, delegating, patience, and flexibility. Both of these tasks require positive recognition of jobs well done, which is one of my favorite parts of this job -- not to mention getting to work with people of various backgrounds, talents, and unique contributions to ACT. I love planning volunteer events just like I plan classroom special events that involve as many people as possible.

Tell us about some important volunteer dates we should be aware of?

What: New Volunteer Orientation
When: Tuesday, October 13th at 6:30pm
Where: ACT Lobby
Why: Take a tour of ACT and learn what every volunteer role entails as well as meet other volunteers and find a role that fits your interests!
How: Just show up -- and call me at 254-1320 ext. 21 with any questions!

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