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A UAlbany grad explores Proctors behind the scenes

You never know what’s going to happen. Even in my relatively short 22 years of life I have learned that.

The statement itself doesn’t just apply to lottery numbers, murder mysteries, or blind dates; it applies to life in general. It sounds cliché, but every single minute decision that you make in the course of any given day has its consequences. Now, while these consequences might not be obvious, apparent or immediately felt, they will determine one thing or another.

Your groggy selection of a particular shirt and tie at 6 a.m., for instance, could mean a job interview just as easily as it could mean a passing glance from the girl of your dreams. The choice to ride the bus to work rather than walk could mean a truly enlightening conversation with a complete stranger just as easily as it could mean bumper-to-bumper traffic and missing that important meeting. Staying in Albany after you graduate can mean figuring a lot of things out just as easily as it can mean feeling just as lost and confused.

I got lucky … plain and simple. Blue really brings out my eyes, I find walking to work to be a great morning wake-up, and I sure figured a whole lot out over this past year.

I graduated magna cum laude from the University at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in English this time last year and was faced with all of the same questions that every college graduate has to tackle. Admittedly, the reality of the world hit me a little quicker and more abruptly than perhaps your average graduate since I made the mistake of getting my degree in three years instead of the traditional four. If anyone is looking for some free advice: stay in school … figure out exactly what you want to do, how to do it, and most of all, have fun and enjoy the ride.

While other college graduates were busy scrambling to land job offers and careers, I decided that the best way to figure out what I should be doing with myself was to just work doing something that I enjoyed. That summer I worked at a brewery and, in the fall, accepted a scholarship to study communications from the College of Saint Rose. I enrolled in nine credits, got a job bartending in downtown Albany, and started going to class three nights a week. In my public relations class we were asked to come up with proposals for semester-ending projects in which we would attempt to evaluate and effectively solve the problems of a particular organization.

For some reason I recalled an e-mail that I had received from a Sara Hill, the marketing manager at Proctors in Schenectady, in which she called for applications for a semester-length internship in the theatre’s Marketing Department.

In the same e-mail, Sara pointed out the theatre’s need for a fresh set of ideas and a more clearly defined path and plan for getting college-aged students to attend live theatre. After a written proposal to the class and a meeting with the Proctors marketing team, my group and I began discussing just how we would go about attracting the notoriously fickle and fiscally unstable demographic that is your average twenty-something.

The project was such a success that I accepted Ms. Hill’s offer to become a Marketing intern and in the spring began going to Proctors a few days each week. While I found myself often saddled with banal intern tasks (and I certainly perfected the art of letter folding), I also was given the opportunity to sit in on Marketing meetings, participate in brainstorming sessions, and assist in creating buzz for the wonderful shows of the spring season.

I quickly learned of all the proverbial moving pieces that must work together in complete cohesion in order to market a show successfully. I particularly enjoyed writing copy and language for certain e-mails and letters and while I cannot accurately say that Proctors provided some divine guiding light toward a future career, the experiences that I had with the Marketing Department at Proctors further strengthened my desire to be in advertising. In July I will begin a year-long master's program with S.I. Newhouse in Syracuse and hope one day to be a successful copywriter in the advertising industry.

The point I guess I’m getting at is this: Do what you want to do, do what interests you, and don’t be afraid of doing something that you can’t see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

I took the internship with Proctors because I have acted most of my life, I am a major supporter of theater and its ability to deeply affect people, and I had a great interest in helping to get young people to attend live theater.

I have presented the majority of my ideas to the Proctors team and remain steadfast in my belief that with a combination of programming that is poignant, edgy, and culturally relevant and a social-media page that focuses on propagating not only the events of Proctors, but the shows, concerts, and displays of all young people in the Capital Region, Proctors truly can become a “center for the arts.” I am confident that all of the people at Proctors will continue to do a terrific job at filling seats and bringing the Capital District outstanding theatrical events.

I thank Sara Hill for her continued support and for being the one person who I could always rely on to listen to all of my ideas. I also thank marketing/press guy Thom O’Connor for his kindness and humorous outlook on the politics of the office aggregate.

I will never regret staying in Albany; all of the experiences that I have had in that wonderful city over the past four years have truly molded me into the person that I am today. Soon, I will be in a new city, with new faces, new places and, hopefully, new opportunities…that help me figure out things all over again.

Weston Johnson plans on using the insights from his internship at Proctors to figure out the challenges that lie ahead.

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May 12, 2012
3:29 p.m.

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