BY SHRUTI RAM – STAFF WRITER
Centre College students are familiar with the Norton Center for the Arts—or, at least, with the convocations it puts on regularly—but less so with what goes on behind the scenes of these events. Like with any major production or project, there is always someone in charge, making sure everything goes according to plan. For the Norton Center, one of those people is newly minted House Manager and junior Sarah Fall.
Fall was hired as Assistant House Manager last spring, and transitioned into the position of House Manager over CentreTerm, after previous House Manger, Dennis Barrett, graduated in December. Fall said that the transition between being an usher and Assistant House Manger did not compare to the enormous leap from Assistant House Manager to House Manager.
“One of the hardest parts of the job, when I first got it, was to balance the responsibilities of being an incoming House Manager and still handling the responsibilities of being an Assistant House Manager,” Fall said. “All the other managers have been super helpful and I could not do without them.”
In addition to Fall, the other student workers at the Norton Center include: two Assistant House Managers; the directors of Valet, Concessions, and Transportation; and the Head Ushers and ushers. Fall is in charge of all of the student workers. They can address any concerns they might have to her, and she makes sure their issues are mitigated, and the shows still go on.
“The part that I am mostly in charge of is the shows that the Norton Center puts up. That’s what most students and faculty see of my job,” Fall said. “[All the workers] essentially answer to me or [Engagement Coordinator] Jessica Durham, so we oversee everything and make sure everything is going according to plan.”
While Fall is in charge of all the student workers, her relationships with them have been one of the her best experiences working at the Norton Center.
“All the managers like to get midnight wings after a successful Norton Center show,” she said, laughing.
In addition, Fall has jurisdiction over the management of the Norton Center, and it is her job to open the space and ensure everything is going well for the duration of any Norton Center event.
“The keys of the House Manager are like the keys to the city,” Fall said, holding up an intimidating set of more than two dozen keys.
Fall, who also works at the Norton Center box office as well as being House Manager, said she works a few hours every other day, but has to work around five or six hours straight on “show days,” when the Norton Center has performances.
“Usually I get there before anyone else and turn the lights on and prep everything, like get all the programs where they need to be, make sure the sign up sheet is up and name tags are out,” Fall said. “Then the other managers arrive, and then their workers start trickling in depending on when they need to be there. A lot of the time I’m just a resource for the other managers, so I need to know all the information [about the show] off the top of my head.”
Fall shared that one of the hardest parts about being House Manager is having to think on your feet and react to unexpected situations.
“You never really know what a show’s going to be like because you don’t know what troubles are going to happen,” Fall said, “so you have to be prepared for eighteen different things to happen. We have to gauge if we have to put a hold on the show and if people are going to be able to get into the House in time for the show to start. We have to react to situations like if the Centre Plague hits and half your workers are gone, how to reassign people and email extra workers and ask them to help, so it’s a lot of troubleshooting, and I really don’t think I sit down for the entire five hours, it’s a lot of adrenalin and running around.”
In addition to being the first person to enter the Norton Center on show nights, Fall is always the last to leave, as she has to wait for all the patrons and workers to leave, and for the box office to tally their totals for ticket sales before locking all the doors and turning off the lights.
Another difficult aspect of Fall’s job is having to stay in constant communication with all the technical directors backstage, which she has to balance with also being a resource for all the student workers in the lobby. She has to ensure that the convocation speakers have everything they need, to make sure all the performers are happy, and more, meaning that she always juggles multiple tasks at once.
However, Fall is glad for the valuable opportunity and said that she has grown a lot through her position. She shared that she has found the confidence to embody the role of an authority figure, manage her time well, and get a taste of what life after college might be like after she graduates.
“I wouldn’t give this up for anything,” she said. “I feel like I’m in the real world because so many of the people that work here work full-time at the Norton Center, but I am also at school. So it’s a taste of what real work experience would be like.”
Other than the work aspect of her job, Fall also said that working at the Norton Center has been fun and rewarding.
“It’s been one of the experiences I’ve learned the most from about myself and also how to handle situations in stride, and not let the stress of the situation outweigh all the fun.”