by Joshua Brazee
As most of you by now know, renovations to the Wisconsin Union Theater have just begun, closing our theater space, shuffling performances and staff all throughout campus. Just a few months ago most of the theater staff resided in Memorial Union, just behind the theater; now, however, our staff lives on multiple floors in three different buildings, separated by almost a mile of campus. As anyone could expect, the move has changed the way we do business; staff has been reorganized and reallocated, new challenges have emerged, and new opportunities envisioned. To get a sense of how the move affects our day-to-day business, I spoke with three theater employees: Claire Weissenfluh, Program Assistant, Ted Harks, Box Office Manager, and Bruce Ehlinger, Operations Manager.
|The theater's facade is carefully dismantled.|
The greatest challenge for all three has been adjusting to the theater’s new disaporic existence. “For the last 5 years, I’ve worked in such close proximity to the theater and other union staff. It is quite an adjustment not having any of them in my office. I really miss them,” says Claire. Despite cell phones, email, teleconferencing, and other high-speed communication technologies, Claire still needs to perform many of her duties in person: “One of the challenges I’m going to face has to do with the process by which we pay our performers, because it involves collecting signatures from people outside of the building where I currently work. Since we process a large volume of contracts, I predict I’ll be running to Memorial Union many times a week.”
Our Operations Manager, Bruce, who oversees the ticketing and our new venues, laconically agrees. With Ted Harks having moved to the Vilas Hall box office, and Jeff Macheel, our Technical Director, now in Union South, Bruce acknowledges that there will be “more walking” and that meetings will be less convenient than in the past.
|Ted's new offices are in the box office at Vilas Hall.|
The spaces themselves pose new challenges as well. Ted’s new office is on the front lines of ticket sales. He reports, “One of the greatest challenges for me is the location and layout of my temporary office space. I no longer have an office door of my own and am situated just behind the box office. As such, I cannot help but hear all of the customer traffic and interactions during a business day. And since I'm very accessible to staff, it's quite common to need to stop whatever I'm working on to field questions. I guess you could say I don't just have an open door policy - I have a no door policy.”
Claire notes a similar spatial concern, “Another challenge I know I’m going to face will involve working with such a large number of people in an open work area – meaning, the noise level is something I’m going to have to adapt to.” But the office’s other benefits override Claire’s noise concerns. She writes, “It is SO nice to have windows and natural light in my working environment now. It really does wonders for my productivity and well-being! I am extremely fortunate to have three great office assistants and an excellent intern too! All of the WUD advisors are a delight to work with. They’ve really made me feel welcome here.”
But our move is not just about renovating spaces; our team dynamics and work portfolios have changed as well. For Bruce this means becoming a part of Memorial Union’s building services team. He notes that while this is certainly a change, as Operations Manager, he has always had a close working relationship with facilities management. Claire, on the other hand, has expanded her work portfolio in the move. She says, “For the next two years, I am now the Program Assistant for the entire Wisconsin Union Directorate programming area. In addition to my job with the theater, I will be helping the Music Committee process a large volume of contracts, assist in web updates, enroll people in Mini Courses, etc. I’m thrilled to be involved with the entire WUD programming.”
Yet despite the changes and challenges facing the theater's team over the next two years, we are positive that you will enjoy our 2012-2013 Season. We hope to continue to bring you quality arts programming.