Welcome to Ask an Admin, a series in which we talk with theatre administrators and theatre-makers working in Minnesota to learn about their backgrounds, their jobs, and what snacks they keep in their desks.
Programs Coordinator at Brave New Workshop
Tell us a little about yourself and your path to your current position.
My name is Marty Wessels, and I work at the Brave New Workshop Student Union as the Programs Coordinator. I grew up in Eastern Iowa and attended the University of Northern Iowa where I majored in Theater and Drama for Youth. Shortly after college I packed up my life and relocated to the Twin Cities. I chose to move to Minneapolis for three main reasons: 1) There were many theaters and arts non-profits here, so I felt that job opportunity was really in my favor. 2) The Twin Cities improv community is tremendous, and truly a top tier spot to study the art form. 3) My beloved Chicago Bears play here once a season, guaranteed.
Shortly after moving, I found myself working as an usher at the BNW and as a ticket rep with the Minnesota Orchestra. After about a year of cheerful service I found myself growing within the Brave New Workshop and accepting more and more responsibility. With my experience in youth programming, and my passion for improv, I soon found myself planning all of our youth and teen programs. I now happily spend all of my time working at the Brave New Workshop spreading the positivity and growth that comes from improv.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I always thought that being a DNR Officer would be the coolest job in the world. I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad, and camping regularly with the Boy Scouts.
What’s the best part of your job?
The absolute best part of my job is regularly being surprised and impressed by talented young people every single week. Teaching a skill and seeing students get it on the first try is an incredible sight that I will never get tired of.
When did you know you wanted to work in theatre/the arts?
Towards the end of high school I really started to consider it. I was incredibly social and very involved in my school, but nothing every made me feel as accomplished and fulfilled as speech and theater did. I knew that as I got older that many of my passions at that time would fall away, and I didn’t want theater and the arts to be in that category. With that in mind, I declared a theater major my freshman year.
What has surprised you most about your work/working in theatre/the arts?
When I first started my career in the arts I just assumed that I would sit down at my desk and plan some cool camps and classes for young people. I quickly learned that the process does not start or stop there. So much organizational work happens just to give you the opportunity to do your job. The work also doesn’t stop once the classes have been created. Students don’t just come out of nowhere! As an arts administrator you wear many hats, and that never really changes. The only thing that changes is how well you pull off that look.
Who gave you the best advice you’ve ever received, and what was that advice?
The best advice I have ever received was from an improv coach I had in college. She regularly told us not to skip steps, but to embrace the process. Sometimes the path to success can seem lackluster or tedious, but the process is as valuable as the results. Skipping steps is skipping experiences.
What’s the best/your favorite production you’ve seen in the last year?
I have two that I just can’t get out of my head. Indecentat the Guthrie was absolutely spectacular, and I am so sorry for anyone who missed it. The second is from this past year’s Fringe Festival, Swords and Sorceryby the Bearded Company. This was an improvised Dungeons and Dragons type of show that played at Theater in the Round. The Bearded Company always delivers incredible improvised narrative performances, but this stands out most to me.
You’re stuck on a desert island. Which three theatre-makers would you want to be stuck with (living or dead)?
My favorite college professor, Ms. Gretta Berghammer, Robert Lopez, Del Close
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to work in arts administration/your position?
Don’t be discouraged by the process. The person on the top of the mountain wasn’t just put there! If you show up to work every day, care about what you do, and care about who you do it for, you will get to exactly where you want to be. Don’t skip steps, enjoy the challenges.
Do you keep snacks in your desk/work area? What are they?
In the coffee cup holder that is my desk, I regularly keep trail mix, coconut La Croix, and Cheez-Its!