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To serve or not to serve: that is the question. A question that bewilders every teenaged mind from Bangkok to Beirut. Society tells our nation’s young that they need to serve. They are told that to serve is to be a good human and that to be a good human is ideal. And while the sentiment is noble, service is hardly ever fun or entertaining, it takes up too much time, or is even considered unimportant. Thus youth doesn’t always participate, making them feel like bad humans. It is essential that all people feel valued in life, and feel like good humans. To do this one must revamp volunteering to make it appealing to youth. Which can be done at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the performing arts. The theatre runs as an ecosystem in need of volunteers of all ages, the ecosystem cannot run without every aspect working in perfect unison. To do this volunteering must be spiced up. Volunteering at the Area Community Theatre in Mitchell can be made fun, time efficient, and fulfilling.
The Mitchell Area Community Theatre (MACT) presents an illustration for the mundaneness a majority of people experience when they volunteer for their first time. When first time volunteers come to the MACT they are assigned to the position of ticket taker, mostly because all of the veteran volunteers know better than to be stuck with that responsibility. Ticket taker does not offer the night of thrills and excitement that other positions can offer at the theatre. The position is often isolated, having only very brief interactions with any individuals other than the patrons and even then it has to be done very quickly in order to move the line at a brisk pace.
In a time when volunteers run thin the theatre shouldn’t be assigning its freshest faces to the most mundane of jobs. They can attempt to spice up the position by adding another ticket taker to the mix so their job isn’t so isolated. Or open the doors to the theatre fifteen minutes earlier so that the ticket taker can have more time to interact with the patrons. Also, the theatre may look at holding volunteer training classes once a season so that all people who wish to volunteer can be at the same speed of the veteran volunteers, thus allowing anyone to hold every job. Or if the theatre asked for volunteers to arrive a half hour earlier so they can receive advanced and special training. However, that would have drawbacks pertaining to time consumption.
In other words, to ask a volunteer to contribute more time than the bare minimum will cause them to not return, especially among youth. Some positions at the MACT demand more time than others. To assign a young volunteer to a position that would require them to be there for an extended period of time will cause them to not be attracted to the idea of serving at the theatre again. A position like concessions require the volunteer to be there for the entire duration of the show, due to intermission. Ushers also have to be around for the entire performance in order to assist elderly or handicapped patrons to and from their seats. When people with only a little bit of time are assigned to these roles, they can feel disrespected by the theatre, which will cause them to not want to serve again.
In order to fully respect all of the volunteers at the MACT, the people in charge of organizing volunteers should get the time schedules and availabilities of all those available before they assign roles. If a volunteer is qualified and can stay for a longer period of time, they should be assigned to the concessions or as an usher. Whereas if a volunteer has a limited amount of time, they should be assigned to the box office or ticket taker, both positions that can leave as soon as the show starts. In an ecosystem that runs on volunteers it is dire that they feel respected, valued, and that they know their work is important.
Further, the idea of importance is vital to volunteers. They need to be reminded that the service they do makes the MACT run smoothly; and without them the whole ecosystem would go belly up. From the actors to the volunteers in the lobby every time there is a show the MACT should focus on developing a system of praise and reminders that what people do for the theatre’s ecosystem is noticed and appreciated. This responsibility can easily fall on the shoulders of the house manager that night. Often times it can be easy to take veteran volunteers for granted. Just assuming that they will always be around and signing them up without securing their permission will result in them feeling exploited, and underappreciated.
To prevent this feeling of disrespect from affecting the volunteer, the MACT should look at developing a more constant system of praise and reassurance for all volunteers. The first and most important thing to do would be to ensure that all volunteers are asked before they are volunteered. To just assume that someone is willing to take on a role shows that you do not respect them and their opinion, leading to them feeling less vital. It would be easy for the MACT to develop a system of praise, even as little as a thank you note in the program to all volunteers on a general level. For a volunteer to see recognition for their work and feel that praise will make them feel vital and welcomed by the community. And will cause them to want to return.
The Mitchell Area Community Theatre is an ecosystem of volunteers. From actors, directors, to the people in the lobby on show nights, the organization could not run without everyone working. The actors and directors get praised by the finished product they present to their community. The people who put time into the lobby and interact with the theatre’s patrons can often go overlooked cause them to not want to come back to the theatre. By instituting these simple plans for the lobby volunteers the theatre can ensure that everyone wants to serve inside its ecosystem.
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