Rachel Shapiro, senior at Northwestern University and TMU contributor
Recently, I got to speak with Lynne Schreur, the Senior Marketing Manager for Cirque du Soleil Theater Shows in New York City. At Cirque, she has worked on productions in Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York City, including Mystere, "O", The Beatles LOVE, KA, Wintuk, and Banana Shpeel. Her current projects include the productions of La Nouba at Walt Disney World Resort, the World Premiere of Zarkana at Radio City Music Hall and tour of Zarkana to Madrid, Spain. Prior to joining Cirque du Soleil, Lynne has worked for the Broadway Series at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia and at Disney Theatrical Productions in New York City. Lynne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, New Jersey and is a degree candidate for an M.S. in Arts Administration from Drexel University in Philadelphia. In addition, she plays the clarinet and is currently the Co-Vice President for Membership with the New York Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, the International music fraternity for women. She was a very interesting woman and had some great advice!
1. What advice would you give to graduating students? I have two pieces of advice that I give to graduating students when asked. The first is to make sure you're doing what you love because you won't be happy unless you are. My second piece of advice is to use all of your vacation days. The reason I say that is because I've known a lot of people who forget that their vacation days are part of their benefits package. They are your right and you have a right to use them. You should never let anyone make you feel guilty for using your benefits
2. If you could go back in time and speak to your college self what would you say? Take an accounting class. That's what my dad always says! Your dad is smart. So why accounting? Did you always think you were going to go into marketing and does it help with that? No, originally I was a music major and then I decided that I didn't want to be a teacher. So I decided to be a Communication major because then I figured I could at least work in the arts. I was focused more on the public speaking and the writing classes in college and it never occurred to me to take an accounting class. Then when I got to graduate school, I had to take a nonprofit accounting class, but because I had never taken a real accounting class, it was like a foreign language to me. Now I've basically learned it on the job, but I really wish I had had some background in it before I landed a marketing position.
3. What was your biggest mistake in your career? I don't think anybody can make a mistake in their career. I think you're handed choices as you go through your career and you make the best choices you can. I think if there was anything that I would do differently, it would be to go back to the internship I had in college that I left for the wrong reasons. I didn't understand what I was learning at the time in that internship, so if I could, I would go back and not leave the internship the way I did. I don't consider it a mistake because I certainly learned from it.
4. Where did you get your first job in the theater, and what was your big break? So finally I went to my graduate school advisor and basically said, "I need help finding a real job or I won't be able to stay in the program because I can't afford to live here." So she sat me down and we looked over my resume and we talked about what I liked and the different organizations I had been exposed to so far in the city, and I told her that I was interested in working for the performing arts center. She said she had a contact there and she gave me their information. I then cold-emailed the Vice President of Marketing for the Kimmel Center and gave them my information in case they had any openings in the future. The HR department called me the next day and invited me in for an interview! I went back to their website and all they had listed were internships, so I figured they were inviting me in to interview for an internship, which I couldn't take because it would be unpaid. I went in for the interview, anyway, because it's good experience and I would get to meet people. So I go for this interview and I am interviewing with the Director of Marketing for 20 minutes, and finally she asks if I have any questions about the job. And so I said, "Is there a job? Because I assumed I was interviewing for an internship," and she said, "No we have two assistant positions open." So she runs and prints out the job description and hands it to me and I see that every question I had just answered for her fit into this job description! And I ended up getting the job, so I was the Broadway Marketing Assistant for the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which would be my first real theater marketing job.
5. What are three habits that you think really contributed to your success? I would say, first, staying up to date. I read all the theater blogs to really stay up to date as much as I can with what's going on in the field, especially now that I'm back in New York. Even though we're not a Broadway show and we're not a Broadway producer, we're still part of that community, so I like to stay as up to date as possible. Second is staying current. My whole theory with the new trends when it comes to marketing is that you can't market in something new, like social media, unless you're doing it yourself or have at least tried it. Otherwise you won't understand what the audience is and the biggest piece of marketing is to understand your audience. I like to stay current by trying out the new stuff that's out there. The third one is staying connected. You want to stay in contact with the people in your industry who you have worked with in the past because you never know what someone who you worked with 5 years ago might be able to do to help you now or help the show that you're working on.
7. So what are you working on now and what are your plans for the future? Are you going to go back and play clarinet again any time soon? Well not at the moment because I am pregnant. Oh my gosh, congratulations! Thank you! What I am working on right now, besides wrapping up year one of Zarkana in New York, is its tour to Madrid, Spain after it closes here. We're just going on sale to the general public this week. It's insane because I have never worked on a show in a foreign market before so it's an incredible learning experience. We've brought our shows to Europe before, so I have been talking a lot with my colleagues on those teams to see what they've done. It's a lot of collaboration. And then the always delightful La Nouba in Walt Disney World, which I have been working on since I started with Cirque three and a half years ago. It's fun to work on that show because it's a very consistent show, but the longer I've worked on it, the more innovative we've been able to get in our partnership with Disney and in trying new things. Our next fiscal year is about figuring out what we can do to shake up the marketing plan since the show is so consistent. So those are the big projects I am working on right now along with being pregnant!