Here at TPAC, our incredible volunteers give their time and energy to help provide quality services to our audiences. Last week, we sat down with Lindsay Bales, a lead volunteer, to talk about why she volunteers and what her responsibilities look like.
I think this is probably my fourth season [as a volunteer], which is very short compared to most volunteers. Some volunteers have been here upwards of 20 years. I started volunteering when I came to Nashville. I’ve always loved and followed musical theatre and want to be involved however I can. I can’t sing a note or dance a step but would love to just learn as much as I can. So, I just wanted to get involved with TPAC here and all the shows that come through. I heard they had a great volunteer program. I signed up, I volunteered for a year and then they had a lead volunteer opening, so I got to do that!
When I [applied], I reached out to the volunteer coordinator and said who I was and why I wanted to volunteer. They put your name on a list, and they do one big training in the Summer where [all the volunteers] come. [The volunteer coordinator] goes through what it’s like to volunteer, what is expected, who TPAC is and what TPAC does. People get put in groups and you travel through the theatre learning the different positions that you have to work as a volunteer. You even have to come back and re-train up each year, which is good. It’s a good refresher, especially if you get stuck doing certain positions each time – you sort of forget. They make sure you are well-prepared to help out.
I love handing out programs at any of the levels [of the theatre], because you’re that person that gets to see the reactions of people when they walk in and see the background of the stage or walk in and see this gigantic theatre, sometimes for the first time. Sometimes, if it’s a show someone has followed and are getting to see for the first time, they see that backdrop and it’s just the coolest thing to just hear them go, “I can’t believe I’m here” or “This is so exciting” or “Look at that!” It’s just really fun to catch people’s first impression.
I get here a little bit early as a lead. I open up the [volunteer role’s] sign-up sheet, put everybody’s name tags out, and get the different keys needed or just anything I think people may need throughout the night. I try to familiarize myself with what the show that night is going to look like – how long it’s going to be, if there is a hold before either of the acts, if there are other shows going on in the building, things like that. I just want to be able to answer everybody’s questions.
Then as volunteers show up, they sign in, so it’s saying hello to them and making sure they are all set to go. We go through volunteer position sign-ups. Each lead does it differently, but I just go through the positions that have to be filled, like the accessibility services, and people sign up. Some people have their favorite positions that they want to do every time and then some people are good with anything. Once we get all the positions, including the intermission positions, set, I just like to make sure everybody knows what they’re doing and answer any questions.
Then the doors open and I just try to circle all three levels during the 30 minutes between when the doors open and when the show starts – just trying to make myself visible and help out wherever I can. Then the show starts, and we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy it in the back – I usually treat myself to some popcorn and a coke. Then at intermission it is pretty much the same thing. I usually stick back by the coat check table, because there’s a lot of people with questions. Then when the show is over, everybody turns in their badges and everybody signs out. I just thank everybody for helping. We get everything wrapped up, and that’s it.
I think it is seeing the people who are here for the first time like seeing a dad bringing his kids or a family coming together, because that’s what started my love of theatre. It’s being grateful for that family to be able to experience that together. I remember when I was handing out programs one time, this couple walked in and the guy was like, “Oh my gosh, you have to see this! I can’t believe we’re here!” I will never forget that moment just because I know live theatre is so powerful and such an incredible experience – so just to see somebody so excited to be able to do that and have the opportunity to come here to TPAC and can see the show they are dying to see but can’t get to New York to see it. So, that’s really special. And I think just watching volunteers band together – it’s a very tight-knit group of people, so seeing them help each other is always really special. We’re all working together to provide a great experience for people who are coming here to watch a show.
For more information on volunteering, please visit https://www.tpac.org/support/volunteer-at-tpac/.