I decided to complete my Senior Internship at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, New York not just because it was only ten minutes away from my house, but also because it is newly renovated and reopened theater. The theater seats over 400 patrons between its floor and mezzanine sections with cabaret style seating, which uses small tables that each seat 4 people. The main entertainment that has come through the doors of the theater has been live music shows, though there have also been children's shows, private events, and comedy shows including the Long Island Comedy Festival. What makes this theater quite unique though, is the fact that it is a dinner theater, featuring a full kitchen on site and 2 full bars. The ability to serve dinner and a show is something that I have never experienced at any other venue and just another reason why I chose to spend my summer there.
Going into this internship, I had no clue what my experience would be like. My goals before this internship were very general and mainly consisted of making the most of this opportunity and to grow as an industry professional. I wasn’t quite sure what I would be doing during my time at the Suffolk Theater, but I had decided that whatever was asked of me I would accept with enthusiasm and complete to the best of my abilities. My one goal that I was quite certain of, though, was that I wanted to experience both the behind the scenes and front office workings of the theater during an event, something that I have been able to do several times since beginning at the theater by working both in the box office and assisting acts loading in and getting ready in the green room.
The Suffolk Theater opened on December 30, 1933. According to newspapers of the day, more than 2000 people attended the opening night festivities and it was hailed as “Long Island’s prettiest and most complete playhouse.” Unfortunately changes in shopping habits, a shifting economy and the birth of the multiplex, forced The Suffolk Theater to close in 1987. The theater was for sale from 1987 until 1994 when the Town of Riverhead purchased the theater. In 2005, Dianne and Bob Castaldi purchased The Suffolk Theater from the town with the vision of creating a unique, state of the art performing arts center. Many repairs and updates were required, however much of the art deco beauty of the theater remained intact and the ribbon cutting ceremony took place on March 1 of this year with the theater officially re-openingto the public the next day.
My experience at the Suffolk Theater had its ups and downs, but no matter the situation I was in, I was always learning something about the live entertainment industry or just business in general. From simple tasks like answering phones where I learned to always get the name and reason for calling of anyone looking to speak to management, to the events where I learned how to make customer service decisions quickly in order to keep everyone happy and get all of the patrons in to their seats as quickly as possible. By working with the plethora of different personalities at the theater I was able to learn how to adapt my work style to match the person that I was working with.
At the top of the Suffolk Theater are Bob & Dianne Castaldi, the current owners and financers of the restoration. Next is the Food & Beverage director Lawrence Smith, and under him are the chefs, bartenders, and wait staff who serve the patrons of every show. The former event director, Kim Folks, was my site supervisor for the first three or four weeks of my internship. She was in charge of booking and coordinating all events that were not open the the general public including out first ever wedding at the theater. Susan Hackett, my new site supervisor, is the press and media director of the theater, overseeing all advertisements in local papers, television, flyers, posters, and on social networking sites. Next is Jim Vignatto, the technical director of the theater. Bob Spiotto is arguably the most important person on this list, being the man with the responsibility of contacting, contracting, and booking all the shows at the theater. And lastly, there is the box office manager LynnAnn Kolesar,who is a close second to Mr. Spiotto in terms of importance. Once the shows have been booked, it is her job to oversee the box office operations and get people in the doors come show time.
I spent most of my internship on Facebook and Twitter. When my previous site supervisor left at the beginning of my internship, I was transferred over to the PR/Media director who immediately put me in charge of all of the theaters social media. It was daunting to have such power with no prior examples or education to base my posts off of, but after looking at similar venues for guidance, I took over the very lacking social media aspect of the theater and kicked it into high gear. I began taking pictures of events, posting recaps of shows and weekly highlights, as well as promotions for individual shows and even holiday posts around independence day.
These are just a sampling of my postings on the Suffolk Theater’s Facebook page throughout my internship. During this time I was also able to institute a “Like for Like” program with local business and acts performing at the theater in order to get the word out even more.
After linking the Theater’s Facebook and Twitter pages, I was able to streamline the social networking process so that when I would make a posting on Facebook it would be automatically reposted onto their Twitter feed. Not shown here also are the direct messages I handled through the Facebook page regarding everything from booking events to times for shows.
In addition to my work on Facebook, I also helped out at events held every weekend at the theater including their free show on independence day and their very first wedding in June. From this wedding came, in my opinion, my most major accomplishment in my internship. During the reception the bride had discovered that she had forgotten her guest book at home and desperately needed something to replace it. I was sent to target, and finding that they did not carry any type of guest book, I had to think fast. I found a wedding photo album and some colorful scrapbooking paper and after cutting the paper so it would fit perfectly into the slots of the photo album, I then presented it to the bride, hoping she would deem it acceptable. When I showed her she was more than thrilled and proceeded to thank me over and over again for helping her. This wedding was not only my first time working at a wedding but also was my most shining moment during this internship.
As I mentioned, I also worked many events during my time at the theater. During these events I did everything from greeting patrons at the door, handing out playbills, scanning tickets, ushering, and a good amount of box office work. I was able to learn on the job how to work their ticketing system, Vendini, and was many times running the box office before and during shows, taking orders over the phone, selling tickets at the window, handling will-call tickets, and any other customer service requests that were thrown at me. This was easily my most favorite part of my internship as I was able to work directly with the public and customer serve to the best of my ability, something that I have always loved doing.
While who my internship advisor was seemed to shift weekly, it did not change my internship experience much, as I was mostly left to my own devices to get my work done. I got along with everyone at the theater very well even though due to their hectic schedules I was never able to spend too much time with one single person, that is, except Mackenzie Renshaw. The first week at my internship I met the a girl who worked in the box office who, unbeknownst to me, would quickly become one of my best friends and the second best thing about my internship (surpassed only by the amazing educational experience I was having). Ever since then we have been practically inseparable, working many events at the theater together, running errands for the office, and even manning the Suffolk Theater booth at a local summer street fair every other Thursday and chatting the theater up to anyone who would listen.
I feel I have grown as a professional throughout this internship in more ways than I could ever list, with the three most important ways being as follows.Flexibility: As I have learned, having the ability to adapt to any situation is not only a good business skill, but also a very helpful skill when it comes to events and live entertainment. There have been countless occasions during my time at the theater that I have had to change what I was originally doing or adapt to the requests of a patron, with the most prominent of these being the story I emphasized earlier about the bride who forgot her guest book. I could have easily gone back to the theater empty handed after not finding a specific guest book at the store, but I was able to be flexible enough to find another way to make it happen.Responsibility: Having very little supervision during the day, and access to a computer and the multitude of distractions that comes with the internet, I learned very early on in my internship that if I was to be successful I would have to police myself and stay focused on the task at hand. Once I realized that I would have to be responsible with the time that I was given, I was able to get even more work done that I had previously expected and by the end of June I had the whole of July’s Facebook posts already scheduled to be posted. This responsibility of getting the posts done enabled me to have more time to get other work accomplished.Time Management: Arguably the most important life skill, and one that I shall forever be working to improve upon, time management went hand in hand with responsibility when it came to my internship. With the potential distractions and requests to do other tasks during the day, I had to manage my time in order to ensure that all of my work got done by 6pm. At times this task would prove to be harder than others, such as during the beginning of my internship when I had to go to a trade show with my supervisor but I also had to make several calls to catering companies the same day. In the end though, I would always find a way to manage my time and get everything done, like making the calls to caterers in the car ride to and from the trade show.
The Johnson & Wales courses that helped me the most during my internship were without a doubt my human resources and marketing courses. Being in charge of the social networking for the theater was a new experience for me and without my hospitality marketing course providing me with some direction for any decisions I had to make I know I would not have been as successful with it as I had been. Decisions such as how many times a day to post, what to post, and how to format my posts were all guided by my coursework in my marketing class. Additionally, working with so many different personalities in an environment without much structure would have proved to be much more difficult than it had been if it was not for my human resources education. While management was attempting to create more structure within the office of the theater, it was helpful to look towards my human resources education to settle discrepancies between coworkers and customers alike.
Internship power point
My Time at
The Suffolk Theater
By Savanna Campbell
The Suffolk Theater
• Who: Savanna Campbell
• What: Summer Internship
• When: Summer, 2013
• Where: The Suffolk Theater, Riverhead, NY
• Why: To gain experience in the live entertainment
industry that will aid me in future jobs.
Who’s Who at The Suffolk
What Did I Do During My
I sat around on Facebook of
What makes me a
• Time Management
Did JWU help me at all?
In short, I wouldn't’t have excelled as I did without it.
The Suffolk Theater provided me with a priceless
education, wonderful friends, and memories that will last forever.
I have been honored to help this theater continue to prosper and
be a part of this landmark venue.