Interview conducted by: Sydney Johnson – Egyptian Theatre Intern
This week is Volunteer Appreciation Week! I had the pleasure of interviewing our very own Event Services Director, Brandon Pugh. Part of being the Event Services Director means coordinating the wonderful volunteers who so graciously dedicate their time to helping the theatre. If you have volunteered with us in the past, THANK YOU! We cannot say it enough, the volunteers are the reason the theatre thrives.
SYDNEY: How did you get to where you are today at the Egyptian?
BRANDON: I started interning with the Egyptian Theatre in September 2015 and stayed on until my graduation in May 2016. When I started at the Egyptian as an intern, I was in charge of some marketing and communications work. I thought about what it would be like to be able to work here after graduation and was hopeful that something may fall into place. Having come from an adept understanding of theatre and some performing, I felt like I would do well here. When I left however, there wasn’t much talk of expanding staffing so I left, not knowing if I would be back. After graduating in May 2016, I was still living in DeKalb and was working part time at the Aurora Outlet Mall. In June 2016, our Executive Director, Alex Nerad reached out to inquire about my interest in coming on board as a staff member. It took me about 30 seconds to realize how passionate I was about the Egyptian Theatre and to realize that I wanted to lend my hand in making sure patrons enjoy themselves for years to come. I immediately said ‘YES’! I was first brought on Part Time as House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, which meant that I was overseeing the Guest Experience and recruitment of volunteers. Coming from a background of seven years’ worth of retail, Alex felt that my understanding of Customer Service would benefit the Egyptian Theatre. I worked in a part time capacity from June 2016 until May 2017 when I was brought on Full Time as the Event Services Director and Volunteer Coordinator. I now handle all Customer Service related issues, hospitality, and recruitment/training/recognition/retention of volunteers. In all, hard work, dedication, and a love for the arts is how I got to where I am today.
SYDNEY: About how many volunteers do you coordinate?
BRANDON: The number of Volunteers I coordinate is dependent upon event. In total, I am pulling from a volunteer base of about 120 dedicated, wonderful people! I am able to track and organize volunteers through a software program called Volgistics. This intuitive system allows volunteers the opportunity to schedule themselves online, when it is convenient for them. Before I started, sign up was handled merely by back and forth email communication. By implementing Volgistics, I am now able track service hours, birthdays, etc. and in return am able to recognize volunteers in a way that was not available before. The number of volunteers continues to grow steadily as we work toward a steady and reliable infrastructure in terms of volunteer management.
SYDNEY: What is your favorite part about being the Event Services Director?
BRANDON: My favorite part about being Event Services Director is being able to interact with people. Whether it be our wonderful volunteers whom I love hearing stories from or whether it be patrons coming to enjoy their first show at the Egyptian Theatre. Being able to talk with people about their past experiences with the Egyptian, how they’ve never been here, but will definitely be back, etc. A big part of being Event Services Director and Volunteer Coordinator is making sure that our volunteers feel that the job they’re doing is making an impact on not only our theatre, but for the City of DeKalb in general. Being able to congratulate a volunteer on the birth of their first grandchild, or being able to wish a volunteer ‘Happy Birthday’ because they’ve chose to volunteer with us on their birthday is always very rewarding to me! I could go on about all my ‘favorite’ things, but we’d be here awhile!
SYDNEY: What would you say to someone considering becoming a volunteer?
BRANDON: Go for it! It’s a fun and worthwhile experience! Being a volunteer at the Egyptian Theatre means you are helping to advance our mission of keeping the Egyptian as a regional performing arts center for entertainment and community involvement. Volunteering at the Egyptian Theatre, I think, is a rewarding prospect; for 88 years, the Egyptian has been host to copious amounts of friends, families, neighbors, community members, etc. and by volunteering your time, you are helping keep the theatre alive and flourishing. It is because of volunteers that we are able to host the amount of programming that we do. I want to note that back in August 2016, the Egyptian Theatre was only presenting three shows a season; fast-forward a year and the Egyptian Theatre is presenting twelve shows a season all of which require help from volunteers. Our way of thanking volunteers at an event is allowing them to enjoy the entertainment, a bag of popcorn, and a fountain drink that they can refill as many times as they please. Volunteerism continues to impact not only the Egyptian Theatre, but the City of DeKalb.
SYDNEY: What are some of your future goals here at the Egyptian?
BRANDON: I would love to be able to assist in getting the Egyptian Theatre to the point that we can begin to host our own Broadway Series, similar to what you would find at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL or The Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL. This means a pretty extensive renovation and addition would have to happen, but I think it is possible! The Egyptian continues to operate at what seems like ‘max capacity’ even when we have smaller events as our concessions stand and restrooms do not offer adequate space. This all relates back to the patron experience; we want patrons to not only enjoy the entertainment on stage, but also enjoy the theatre in and of itself. While I cannot as one person see this process through, it is my goal to assist, if and when possible! I also have the goal of wanting to grow our volunteer pool to somewhere around 250 volunteers. I feel this is a sufficient number and takes in to account our increased programming. Being able to retain and maintain a pool of volunteers as such poses some difficulty as a large portion of volunteers are funneled through the university. However, I am positive that we can get to this number just with community support!