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.
Jessica Kray Martin
Box Office Manager and Marketing Assistant at SteppingStone Theatre
Tell us a little about yourself and your path to your current position.
I graduated with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in Production and Stage Management from the University of Northern Iowa. My wife Dylan and I are both from Iowa and moved up to the Twin Cities after her graduation in order to both pursue our careers in theatre. My first job in the Cities was working at the Guthrie Theatre as a Box Office Reservationist. It was an almost full-time job, but to help supplement my income and gain more connections in the Twin Cities I began working as a member of the Front of House and Box Office team at SteppingStone Theatre. I saw ways that SteppingStone could improve its box office operations and after speaking with the staff about my ideas, they created a position for me. I was hired to help with their database, marketing, and wherever else I was needed to better connect with patrons, which for SteppingStone is mostly students and their families as well as audience members. The position evolved into my current role as Box Office Manager and Marketing Assistant. Currently, I oversee our new ticketing system, manage Group Sales and Box Office, and make content for our website and social media.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a chef or a veterinarian. Both jobs are hard to do when you hate seeing blood.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the ability to give young people opportunities to be involved in the arts. Whether that be through seeing out MainStage shows, attending one of our Creative Learning classes, or both! Having access to the arts at a young age is important to me because it helps give young people the opportunities to collaborate with each other and explore their imagination. Arts access at a young age can help shape a person and give them skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Even though they might not have a career in the arts later in life, those lessons learned will make them a better collaborator, employee, friend, and artist (in whatever their art may be!).
When did you know you wanted to work in theatre/the arts?
When I was in high school. It was the first time I was involved with theatre in any way. I knew I wasn’t a performer so I worked on the run crew and pursued stage management in college. Being able to envision an entire production process and having it run as smooth as possible is important to me. As I grew older and realized I could have an administrative role in the arts outside of the actual rehearsal room helping patrons have the best experience possible when they attend theater and I knew that was where I wanted to be. I can still use my stage management skills of clear communication, consistency, and attention to detail but in a larger capacity to help theaters run as a business.
What has surprised you most about your work/working in theatre/the arts?
How small of a community it truly is. It’s very important to work hard and have a good reputation because we are all connected to each other in some way.
Who gave you the best advice you’ve ever received, and what was that advice?
The best advice I received was to just go for it. I try my best to never let my self-doubt get the best of me. This is a community where things move fast, and decisions need to be made quickly. We don’t have the time to get in our own way.
What’s the best/your favorite production you’ve seen in the Twin Cities in the last year?
Indecentat the Guthrie. Paula Vogel writes such detailed scripts and the Guthrie’s ability to give the show the space it needs to breathe was incredible. It was such fantastic storytelling and had beautiful production elements. There was a seamless interaction between past and present. The utilization of high tech design elements like the projections mixed with the tangible and physical elements like the sand made it an all-encompassing experience.
You’re stuck on a desert island. Which three theatre-makers would you want to be stuck with (living or dead)?
Caryl Churchill, Paula Vogel, and my wife Dylan Nicole Martin. The three together would have such interesting and in-depth conversations that I could listen to for hours.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to work in arts administration/your position?
People always notice when you go above and beyond. I wouldn’t have my current position if I hadn’t done that.
Do you keep snacks in your desk/work area? What are they?
Coffee and leftover J. Selby’s since I now work within three blocks of my favorite restaurant.