Student Spotlight: Dartmouth students and staff work to make live arts experiences possible

Finding connection in the ticket line, the Hopkins Center box office staff complete the arts experience for patrons with enthusiasm and heart.

by Armita Mirkarimi | 1/18/22 2:10am

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by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth

Over the past year, many events at the Hopkins Center have returned to their live format. Student ushers and will call workers largely facilitate the plays, musical and concerts Dartmouth students and Upper Valley patrons frequent.

Jenique Richards ’22, currently a senior house manager at the Hop, coordinates the timeliness of shows and oversees the other ushers during productions at The Hop and cites her work as an integral part of her time at Dartmouth, as she has worked her way up in the world of student ushers since her freshman fall. 

She describes her role as ensuring excellence and providing a good experience to all Hopkins Center patrons. 

“The best way to describe the whole front of house is that we’re basically in between when you buy your ticket at the box office, and then obviously the show itself,” said Richards. “So when you come to the theater and pick up your tickets, we’re all about making sure that the patron will get there.” 

However, Richards wears more than one hat in her role as the “in-between” of the ticket purchase and artistic experience. As well as making sure that productions begin on schedule, she manages the venue’s ushers and takes notes during events to record patron satisfaction and timeliness for her bosses.

Gwendolyn Roland ’25, one of the ushers that Richards oversees, took on will call and usher responsibilities this fall. Her role involves showing patrons to their seats, performing COVID-19 health screens and, when working the will call shift, making sure patrons get their tickets.

“I really just enjoy being around the theater,” said Roland. “I enjoy being around the Hop — and just getting to see all of the arts shows and not have to worry about, ‘oh shoot, I don't have time to see it because I made these other plans.’ It’s in my schedule. Everyone I work with is really great too.”

Connor Schafer ’25 expressed a similar appreciation for the proximity that working as an usher gives him to Dartmouth’s art scene.

“I did a lot of theater in high school, but with this job, I get to always experience it and be a part of it,” said Schafer. “The patrons are super nice. They just love the Hop and they love going to the shows. A lot of them always come to a show each weekend and I think that’s super cool.” 

Schafer said he has found the opportunity to develop  relationships with regular patrons and the strong sense of community present among workers to be especially rewarding features of the job. 

“I think it’s very rewarding when you start to work a certain number of shifts and you start seeing the regulars that have Hop season passes and come to every single show,” said Roland. “It’s just me and the person that I’m working with, complimenting elderly patrons on their fashion sense. We’re like, ‘what’s your last name? Oh, I love your hat. I love your jacket.’” 

Stephanie Trembley, who in her role as box office manager oversees both the patron ticketing experiences and the student staff, reflected on her experience interacting and working with Dartmouth students.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of really great students,” said Trembley. “They’re smart, respectful, responsible and just getting to know each of them on an individual basis has been really rewarding. There are a lot of negative experiences that come to mind — whether there’s an angry patron or someone who doesn’t pass the health screens — but a lot of great things happen in the box office.” 

Trembley is referring to the health screens required by the Hopkins Center’s COVID-19 protocols. When a patron purchases a ticket to a show, they must show either a Dartmouth ID, vaccination card or negative test result. 

“It’s always very sad when you have to turn away someone who forgot their vaccination card at home,” said Roland. “There were a couple of times we had to do that. Sometimes they live really close, run home and get their IDs. But a couple of times they lived an hour away and it was like five minutes before the show started.” 

Despite the restrictions, Richards, Roland, Schafer and Trembley all spoke highly of the Hop’s arts offerings during the pandemic.

Roland and Trembley especially enjoyed Venezuelan singer Nella Rojan’s performance at the Hopkins Center last fall. 

“That was probably my favorite show that I’ve seen here,” Trembley said. “Being here opened up my eyes to more different types of music and also theater performances and dance performances that I wouldn't have necessarily had an interest in.”

Schafer has appreciated the opportunity to engage with new and unfamiliar content.

“I’ve loved seeing independent or international films that I wouldn't normally seek out,” Schafer said. “It's surprising what the Hop finds somehow because it makes, you know, diversify what you're watching.” 

Richards recalled a particularly memorable shift her freshman year, when she ushered for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Spaulding Auditorium.

“It was the biggest event that I’ve ever done, and it was crazy because of the security — and basically every Dartmouth student wanted in,” Richards said. 

According to Trembley, the visitor experience is always at the front of the event staff’s mind.

“All of us here in the Hop really care about bringing these shows to the Dartmouth community and the Upper Valley in general,” Trembley said. “We work really hard to make it a great experience for everybody.” 

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