- Mary Ragus, Audience Engagement Manager
Ditching the Desk Life
I've always been a talker. A loud talker. A loud talker with, what some might call, an obsessive love of Broadway.
I picked “Communication” as a major sophomore year because I assumed it had something to do with conversation. My RA actually scolded me that same year for throwing a dorm room party only to discover I was alone chatting with my bff on speaker phone.
After graduating, I tried to quiet my voice (let the literal and metaphorical implications of that sentence sink in.) I landed a coveted, yet traditional, 9 to 5 job in professional theater and once again found myself getting glares – this time from HR – because an open floor plan office does not lend well to a conversation about topics like your colleague’s Bumble date. Note that men can literally cheer when their March Madness team hits a three-pointer at most offices, while I was being reprimanded for inquiring about the potential life partner of my closest work friend, but I digress. By 2017, I had garnered fantastic Marketing & Events experience at Geva Theatre Center, SpotCo, and Roundabout Theatre Company, but I knew I wasn’t living a life that would bring me the most joy (turns out I unknowingly used the konmori method on my career). I quit in search of an environment that fulfilled my love for the arts but also allowed me more daily human interaction.
After a few months of mastering latte art and twisting balloons at Senor Frogs (no, you cannot make that up), my former colleague texted me out of the blue: "If you're still trying to work in Broadway and not sit behind a desk, I have the perfect job for you."
I said yes and began my gig on the Broadway revival of Once On This Island in a role they called Audience Concierge. I hosted the show's lottery, took photos pre-show encouraging the audience to post about their experience on social media, and facilitated VIP meet & greets, talkbacks, and other photo opportunities post-show that could be beneficial on social media. My night would consist of anything from taking a post-show photo of a raffle-winner on stage to ushering Lin-Manuel Miranda backstage for photos with the cast. For the first time, I was not only allowed to spend my working hours talking to people, but I was encouraged to.
Since Once On This Island, I've recreated this same role for Broadway's Gettin' The Band Back Together and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II. I love engaging with the audience and feel so lucky that now, rather than getting in trouble for talking, I'm hired to do just that.