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 Rebecca Newsom to talk about why she volunteers and what her responsibilities look like
What is your background with TPAC, and how did you get started as a volunteer?
As far as when I started, I think it may have been 2009/2010, so it’s been several years now. I got started, because a co-worker of mine and his wife were volunteers, and I already loved going to shows. I loved the Broadway series, so I thought ‘what better way to get involved back [in Nashville]?’ I was recently graduated from college and moved back to Nashville – I’m from here originally – and I was looking to get involved in different things. It was kind of a win-win, because I liked seeing shows and I like people. They weren’t having any openings that first year, but then the next year they did. I got started volunteering and have done so every season since.
What are some of the roles of a TPAC volunteer?
I started out as a regular volunteer, so that can be in any of the positions, including handing out programs, being ADA (working with accessibility services), being a greeter or coat check – I’ve done it all. Probably two or three years ago, the [head of volunteering] said they were needing some more lead volunteers. I said, ‘I think that is something I could do and would enjoy doing.’ So, I threw my name in the hat and luckily got selected to be one of the lead volunteers. Now, I just coordinate all the other volunteers for the show that I am working and make sure that throughout the first 30 minutes everyone is in their spot. I help out wherever I can and make sure the show runs as smoothly as possible from the volunteer roles.
What are your favorite parts of being a volunteer?
As far as positions go, I think the ADA position is probably my favorite to work, because it’s one where you are getting to interact with the patrons in a more personal manor. The ADA position is, I think, the most meaningful and impactful role because of that personal interaction where you may get to pull a seat for them if they want to remain in a wheelchair. You direct them and completely walk with them to their seat. So, I think that’s the one that is the most gratifying. The same goes with helping with the hearing-impaired – I like those the best.
Also, I’ve actually recruited both of my parents over the years to now become volunteers. So, it’s kind of a meaningful thing for me to get to spend time with my parents and to volunteer as well. I recruited my mom first, and I think my dad was feeling left out, so he got on board. Their names are Warner and Marilyn Hassell… they are helping now with the Donor Lounge. So, that’s another reason I like to do it, too, because it’s a special time with us. Even though we’re volunteering and it’s not like we’re hanging out together. They’ve kind of instilled that passion for the arts in me since I was younger. We would try to go to one TPAC Broadway show a year…I think that’s where the passion kind of came from. So, it’s nice to continue that on in my adult life, as well.
Walk me through a typical night as a volunteer.
I work full-time, so it’s always kind of crazy. I work, I try to snag something to eat real quick and then I come into TPAC. Basically, I set everything up [for the rest of the volunteers]. I line up all the volunteer badges, I get our [role] sign-up sheet out and I review the notes that have been provided – if anybody has called out, if there’s any changes to review, how many people will be in attendance, accessibility notes, and if there’s any additional shows going on that are in any of the other theatres. Then at 6:30, so an hour before the show starts, we start the assignment of jobs. Those are ranked in order of priority to fill, like our ADA’s are priority. So, we go through the assignments of roles and then responsibilities of all the volunteers for intermission…We go through that and then make sure everyone is in their positions when the doors open and are ready to go. I basically float around to each of the positions to make sure that no one needs anything, especially if it’s a sold-out show – like if we need more programs or if they need any help. So, I just help each of the positions during that 30-minute pre-show.
Any favorite memories from volunteering?
I am very much a people person, so I like seeing people come into the show excited – especially around Christmas time with The Nutcracker. Seeing little kids coming in to see a show for the first time and they’re all dressed up – it’s super cute. And I just enjoy seeing people and helping them out to see the show in general.