‘Sshwit, sshwit’ went the credit card machine when Mariko Hancock manually copied the face of a student’s credit card after selling him two tickets at the Castleton State College Box Office. Even though it doesn’t boom with tons of ticket sales, the box office – located in the Fine Arts Center — is a place where students and employees love to work.
Even after 16 years as the director of cultural programming, Hancock still creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that appeals to many students.
“We are kind of like a family,” said Victoria Brocious, a first-year student who has worked for Hancock since the beginning of the school year.
Brocious’ job is to sell tickets in the box office and usher at events.
“It’s a really great job,” said Brocious. “I enjoy working with Mariko. They [other employees in the Fine Arts Center] are great people to work for and I get to know other students.”
Like Brocious, many other students can be found hanging-out on the gray carpet-covered floors outside the center’s Casella Theater. Some of the students are waiting to go into work at the box office, while others are talking to their friends or getting their homework done in-between classes. The calm and tranquil mood is truly a sanctuary for students needing to get away from the chaos everywhere else on campus.
As Brocious begins her shift, the laid-back vibe of the box office becomes clear. She sits in a cushioned office chair waiting patiently for the few students who come purchase tickets. Now and then, she is heard politely helping students or faculty who ask her questions about performances or the Fine Arts Center.
Hancock’s office is located inside the box office. With her office door open, she is often in conversation with her student-workers. The respect that the students and supervisor have for one another is evident even to an outsider.
Hancock adds that many of her former workers maintain contact with her even after they graduate. This summer she will be attending another wedding for one of her previous workers.
Hancock also demonstrates the ambiance of this establishment in the way she talks about prospective artists.
“We treat them like house guests,” she said with a smile.
However, Hancock’s job is far from easy.
Besides Soundings work, she is also the performing arts presenter for the Arts Reach program. This is a program that allows local schools to bring students on campus to watch live performances.
To ensure that she has a schedule full of events without double booking, Hancock refers to her “Bible.”
Hancock’s “Bible” can be described as a tri-fold sheet planner that flips down to the floor when she holds it up by each corner. This is a master plan of all of the performances and lectures that will be taking place over the course of a semester.
Hancock is passionate about the arts, saying that they should be an integral part of every student’s life.
“You can teach any subject through the arts,” she said. “There’s no right or wrong when you are creating. It touches your soul more than reading about it.”
Hancock believes that it’s important for individuals to keep an open mind when they watch performances and every student should have the chance to watch a live performance.
“Live performance is everything,” she said. “Performers share their most intimate skills to total strangers. You can’t get that from MTV.”
Hancock doesn’t believe that students need to love every performance but develop an appreciation for what they see because it’s an important “sharing experience.” She points out that many students from local schools who participate in the Arts Reach program, never get to see live performances by people who get paid for their time.
She thinks it’s vital for students to see how much training and time goes into being an artist, while also realizing it’s possible to make a career and a life out of creativity.
It is not the ticket sales that make Hancock feel like she’s made a difference.
“When a student says, ‘I loved it,’ I feel accomplished,” she said.
After the programming is complete, Chad Voghell, who is the technical director, begins reviewing the technical needs of the specific show. His days can be very long.
“. It is not unusual on the performance day of a dance company or a theater performance for myself to work 15 plus hours” said Voghell. “The longest week I’ve had since I started here in 1999 was 92 hours. There are very few timecards I submit that don’t have overtime on them,” he said.
Hancock’s and Voghell’s jobs require a lot of dedication and hard work, not only from themselves but the students they employ.
“While the work is not constant, they [students] are always ready and professional to work with artists, actors, dancers, musicians, lecturers, anybody that comes in for an event,” said Voghell. “It is important to note that no matter what size the event is, it deserves the same amount of respect and professionalism.”
Freshman Soundings student, Shayna Rogers, said she appreciates the work and effort that Hancock, Voghell, and the students put forth in order to bring live performances to the campus.
“I really liked the one where the actor and the doctor did the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy,” said Rogers. “It really sounded like them. When the guy walked out of the room it was powerful, I wanted to cry. I thought it was going to be just another presentation, but it was good.”
Rogers also let her curiosity and humorous personality roam when she ended the conversation with a question.
“I’d like to know who staples all of the questions to the yellow cards?” she said. “That’s hard work! That takes time!