As a senior double majoring in Financial Economics and English, Olivia Orrender doesn’t just apply her pre-MBA skills to the classroom, she also plays a pivotal role at the Norton Center by serving as the House Manager this season, overseeing all Norton Center student workers, and making sure everything runs smoothly and on time at every performance. Originally from Lexington, Olivia is already on the job search and making plans for after graduation. Her leadership role at the Norton Center has provided her with an array of experiences, including assisting the Secret Service in the Norton Center during the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate. Executive Director Steve Hoffman sat down with Olivia to chat about her experiences so far this season.
SH: What were your expectations of the job of House Manager when you were asked to be involved?
OO: It’s a lot of what I expected, I think, because I was the Assistant House Manager last season. It’s been an incredible opportunity and a big time commitment. I’m usually the first one here and the last one to leave. I expected it to be a good opportunity to work with lots of good people… and it has been. I like giving direction, and being there when people need help. So I think that’s a good use of my skills. At times it has put me in a difficult position because I have had to make the ultimate decision on certain matters. I can’t pass those decisions off to someone else anymore. It’s a lot of responsibility.
SH: I imagine it’s also difficult supervising and working with your friends and fellow students. At times you have to give them direction and sometimes that isn’t an easy task, especially when it’s something you think they may not like.
OO: Yes, it’s hard separating the friend face from the work face sometimes. It happened to me during the debate, because I was also the house manager on duty that day. I had to turn down students and my friends who wanted to volunteer in the house as ushers, but I had to select the ones who were most suited for the job. In the end it worked out fine, but it’s always tricky.
SH: That had to have been hard. What was the best part of being House Manager for the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate?
OO: The best part was sitting down in my seat once everyone was already in the House and watching the Vice Presidents walk on stage, and then I took a big sigh of relief. That was a good feeling – that everything went well and smoothly. People kept asking me if I was nervous and I said, “No, I’m more nervous about Huey Lewis next week!”
SH: And why’s that?
OO: If we could have the Secret Service every time, that’d be great! There were just so many more people involved; everything had to be more organized. It was really exciting and a good opportunity. I liked seeing everyone so happy at the end of the night.
SH: Were there any takeaways from the Debate that you can either bring to House Managing regular shows, or that may apply in your professional career after you graduate?
OO: Yes I’m sure there are but I don’t know if I’ve sat down and processed it all yet. I wish I could instill in the student workers a better sense of this as a real job. I think that students love working at the Norton Center on campus but sometimes people treat it like it’s a club, and don’t necessarily understand that their roles are pivotal to our product – the experience we provide for our patrons.
SH: Do you think that under your leadership the student workers are helping provide a top notch experience for our patrons?
OO: I’ve been pleased thus far and I love the student management team, I really do. We click well.
SH: Good. Would you say this experience has changed you or your perceptions about art, culture or business?
OO: It probably will, yes, by the end of the year in good ways. Changed my perception of art culture? That is a tough one. Business, yes. I think just being in the office more and seeing how everyone on the full time staff works and has separate tasks. It’s been great to be included in the day to day operations, see the artist contracts and understand more about what goes on behind the scenes. It has been helpful to have a bigger picture and be able to answer questions when they are asked of me.
SH: What’s something unique or unusual you’ve encountered, not necessarily as house manager but working at the Norton Center in general?
OO: I don’t have any horror stories. I like the uniqueness because every time we work it’s a different set up and every performance is different. It’s similar to my internship at a wealth management firm this past summer, and one of the things that I liked so much about the job. Every day was different, every client claim was different and every patron that walked through the door was also different – but they are coming in for the same reason. Catering to each of them and trying to make each of them happy is a fun challenge.
SH: How has being House Manager, or working at the Norton Center in general prepared you for graduation?
OO: Time management, balancing class and work, being able to switch back and forth. And it seems like more and more, what I’m doing is more work and less school. That’s kind of how senior year works; less busy work, less little things to do but more overall individual responsibility. My house management skills can be carried over into my life in general and potentially any management position that I have in the future. I’m sure it will also motivate me to be involved in the arts the rest of my life, even if not directly. I always tell people that I love this job, it’s the best.
SH: What words of wisdom would you give to a Centre student who might be given an opportunity to be in a leadership position at the Norton Center in the future?
OO: Be organized and tactful. It will be rewarding if you take it seriously. But enjoy the experience. I can’t speak enough about how worthwhile this opportunity is…
Centre College students operate in many capacities at the Norton Center. They take tickets, direct patrons to their seats, manage concessions, valet parking and artist transportation, as well as assist with load-in and load-out of performances, box office support and our marketing efforts. For more information about these opportunities, or to be in touch with a member of the staff, contact the Norton Center at 859-238-6688.