By Madison Montambault

Shakespeare in the Arb is a win-win all around. It builds a bridge between the academic side of the university and public outreach. The student cast and crew get to plan and perform in theatrical productions that provide fulfilling experiences for them and for community members. The performances themselves demonstrate the important role that nature can play in art. And it introduces the Arb to people in ways they may never have imagined. But Shakespeare in the Arb has its backstage world, too. Some of its unsung heroes are the student interns and workers who help support the production and performances in their roles as ushers and in the box office. In this post, student worker and future opera star Madison Montambault reveals what it’s like to work the ticket line, and how grace under pressure comes in handy on all sorts of stages.
When I first heard I’d be helping out with the box office for the annual Shakespeare in the Arb as a part of my summer work at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, I heaved a sigh of relief. Helping out with the box office meant I’d have the opportunity to work in an environment that felt like home.

As someone who has grown up performing onstage since the age of three, I have a versatile background in the performing arts ranging from dance to musical theatre. Today, I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s of Music in voice performance at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance with a goal of being a professional opera singer. So I couldn’t wait to get started on this part of my work here. That said, while I began my job this summer with a limited knowledge of plants and botany, I have learned a lot of cool things about plants so far!
A Shakespeare in the Arb ticket.
(Photo: Madison Montambault)
As we finished our last weekend of performances, I thought I’d write about my experience working behind the scenes rather than onstage where I usually am. First, it’s been a really great experience in many ways. I have met so many unique and interesting people while helping out with Shakespeare in the Arb and working for Matthaei-Nichols. That has been wonderfully refreshing with everything going on in the world today. It’s a nice reminder that there is still a lot of love and energy in the world. Great people do exist!
I’ve also learned a lot about myself. If you are good at multitasking and keeping calm in a semi-stressful situation while working with hundreds of people and tickets (and I didn’t realize I had these skills…) this is definitely the ideal job for you! Graceful multitasking is something I can apply to my life as a musician since there are so many components to think about all at once.  I didn’t know how patient and energetic I could be until I started working at the Shakespeare in the Arb box office. How our team interacts with each customer makes a world of difference in the audience experience. I think that’s one reason we’ve had such an overall positive Shakespeare season from the box office perspective: people love kind people, and love great theater, so they keep coming back and help us sell out of tickets.

A scene from the 2016 Shakespeare in the Arb.
(Photo: Madison Montambault)

And it wasn’t just Shakespeare tickets on the menu. We also generated a lot of new memberships. One of my favorite things about box-office nights was talking about memberships with people in line to buy tickets. All told, 20 people signed up for new memberships at Matthaei-Nichols. With discounts on Shakespeare in the Arb one of the many member benefits at Matthaei-Nichols, it’s clear that people are excited about supporting the organization and this great event while receiving a break on tickets.

People could purchase some nice “Shakespeare-abilia,” like
this Shakespeare bobble-head, Shakespeare insult bandages,
and Shakespeare in the Arb t-shirts.
(Photo: Madison Montambault)

What I’ve learned the most from this experience is that it’s all about how you treat others, no matter how stressed out or preoccupied you may be with everything you have to do. Being kind is not difficult and it makes the process much more enjoyable for everyone. Thanks for the great life lesson and the many new friendships Shakespeare in the Arb! It’s been wonderful.

Madison Montambault is currently working on a Bachelor’s of Music in voice performance at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Her goal is to be a professional opera singer.