Launched in 2014, TheatreWorks Ambassadors’ Programme (TAP) was led by our long-time regular volunteer, Sara Lau as the first ambassador coordinator. As the first coordinator, she has gained a diverse experience through the programme such as liaising with volunteers, coordinating for Front-of-House (FOH) duties and managing events. Our engagement intern, Michelle Kee spoke with her to understand more about her role as an ambassador coordinator and her impetus towards arts volunteerism through TAP. Let’s find out more!
… at TheatreWorks, you get the opportunity to learn, there’s no immediate expectation…
– Sara Lau, Past Ambassador Coordinator
1 What was your impetus in joining TheatreWorks Ambassadors’ Programme?
At that point of time, I have been volunteering with TheatreWorks for a while. Because I have been constantly volunteering at TheatreWorks, they asked me if I was interested in helping them set up this new programme to manage and coordinate the volunteering process.
I was quite interested because I thought it was a way for me to go beyond just being a volunteer. Because after a while, the role repeats itself and while it’s still fun and interesting. (I wanted) to be part of the programme, to help create and curate, to really see what goes on in the setting up of Front-of-House, and how to properly organise an event, or part of an event at least. I thought it would further my knowledge and experience in the arts. So I gave it a shot, even though I wasn’t sure of what to expect, it paid off in the end.
2 What was your role as an ambassador coordinator?
My main role was actually to recruit and look after the volunteers. Instead of just seeing them as volunteers, they are also in a way friends and peers who are equally interested in the arts, who want to contribute the same way I want to contribute.
(My main role) is to attract people to come to TheatreWorks to volunteer, and to share my experience with them, talk to them and let them see what learning points they can take away, as opposed to just playing a particular role. They can take something away from the experience as well.
On top of that, I too, coordinated with Brendan (Engagement Executive), in terms of setting up the Front-of-House, what duties we need to fulfil, and how we can deepen the experience for our audience members.
3 How has this experience been different from your other volunteering experiences?
I would say that it’s one step above what I usually do as a volunteer, because I’m not only showing up to participate, but actually involved in the organising process. So in that sense, I have to straddle both sides and think about what the theatre company wants to present, and how they want to present it. I have to think about recruiting volunteers, having enough manpower, coordinating everything so that it all flows, that the volunteers can take something away from the experience, and we can create a good image or good experience for our audience members as well.
There are always a few sides which I need to think about, so it’s definitely much more than what I usually do at volunteering, because I’m attached to and representing an organisation, hence reminded of the objectives and goals to achieve, as opposed to just showing up and idle during duties.
4 How have you benefitted from this programme? What do you think are some of the skills you have honed?
In terms of skills, I think there is some level of marketing involved, because when I’m recruiting volunteers, I need to present a certain image and properly convey to them what we can offer them, in return for the help that they offer to us. Other than that, would be some event organisational skills. Writing skills are also very important because I am liaising with outside parties, and also within the company. Personal relations, because beyond being just a volunteer coordinator, I was also present in almost at every performance assisting Front-of-House, helping to look after the volunteers, but at the same time talking to the audiences and introduce the programme to them as well.
And you know, our volunteers here are not just people who show up randomly, but they are people who come back constantly to volunteer with us, because they find that it’s a worthwhile experience that they can gain something out of it. Since there are many aspects, project coordination is definitely very important, like making sure that all the different aspects of creating an efficient and effective Front-of-House are there.
5 What do you think was achieved through this engagement programme?
I think there’s engagement on both levels. The volunteers, because of the fact that they are ambassadors, they are familiar with volunteering with TheatreWorks, they can better talk and engage with the audience members as well. On the level of us engaging with the ambassadors, there’s a relationship that is built, it’s less touch and go, it’s more of friends and peers as opposed to strangers that come in.
So I believe that you’re engaging people on multiple levels, which is something that you don’t really see in other theatre companies. There is a lasting relationship, you are also building an important network in that sense. It is important because art is meant for a lot of people, it’s not just a specific group, so through volunteering, it’s a different level of engagement and the volunteers themselves also engage on different levels within the arts.
6 Do you think this programme is important to encourage volunteerism in Singapore?
Definitely, because I wouldn’t say that it’s easier, but it’s slightly less intimidating. Because sometimes when you volunteer for other companies, there’s that certain level of expectation that you need to immediately know how to engage with people.
But at TheatreWorks, you get the opportunity to learn, there’s no immediate expectation, like oh you must be at this level in order to join us as a volunteer. If you have no experience, we welcome. This is why the ambassadors’ programme is in place, so that you can learn from the staff at TheatreWorks, (as well as) the existing ambassadors and volunteers and pick up skills along the way. In the future if you want to volunteer at different organisations, you are able to. You know how to relate to the company, or relate to the audiences and the beneficiaries as well.
7 Why should more people be part of this programme?
Well… I can’t really say why, because I believe it’s personal, like for some people its whether they want to join or not. But I would definitely say to anyone who is hesitant in joining that, they shouldn’t be, because there is always something to take away from whatever experience you choose to go through.
By being part of this, beyond making new friends, you’re learning how to engage audience on the different levels and also understand and appreciate art as well. You will get to meet new people and get more insights into the company and to be people behind the organisation, which you otherwise would not get to see. As an audience member, you are there to watch the show.
As a volunteer, you watch the show but you also get to meet the people, better understand the performance and the entire organisation as a whole, why they do what they do. If you are interested in the arts, and you love the shows that TheatreWorks puts up, or you love theatre, it’s definitely a good opportunity and something that should never be passed up.
Interested in gaining more insights and interesting experiences in the arts? Click HERE to join our TheatreWorks Ambassadors’ Programme TODAY!