Family planning for the stage: Maryland Theatre's Jessica Green

May 21, 2012|By CHRIS COPLEY |
  • Jessica Green is operations manager with The Maryland Theatre. The theater's board of directors hired Green in January to keep a steady hand on the business side of the facility.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Jessica Green's life is a classic example of the old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know."

Not that she's unskilled. An experienced business manager and events organizer, Green has been operations manager for The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagers-town since January.

As theater manager, Green can incorporate her skills and interests in music, marketing and family activities.

But it was courtesy of personal contacts that Green found her way to the theater. And to her family.

A head for business

Green, 30, was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in New Hampshire. She called herself a tomboy — "I never wore a dress," she said — and in high school played soccer, lacrosse and tennis. She was a lifeguard during high school. She attended Marymount University in Arlington, Va., on a lacrosse scholarship.

In college, her interests developed. The former tomboy became interested in fashion merchandising. Not the artsy-designy side of the fashion business, Green said — the business side of fashion.

"People who think of fashion merchandising often confuse it with sewing and fashion design," she said. "I studied the display and the sales of fashion — how to sell, how to merchandise. In college I started working local fashion shows. Like when Nordstrom's would have a trunk show. I worked behind the scenes."

She got an internship with L'Oreal USA, the cosmetics and fragrance company. Green oversaw merchandising and sales for L'Oreal's outlet division. She was based at then-named Prime Outlets in Hagerstown. Green said she was thrilled to land a job in her field and near her family.

"It's even harder in Hagers- town, Maryland, to get something in fashion. I should have been going to New York City or L.A. or something, but I'm not a city girl," she said. "Plus, my dad's parents are here in Hagers-town."

Green traveled to L'Oreal locations, overhauling stores to increase sales. But then she married her husband, Corey, owner of Corey's Construction in Hagerstown.

"Corey grew up two houses down from my grandparents. So my grandma played matchmaker," Green said with a laugh. "I was still going to college down in Arlington, and she would tell me to come home for a dinner party that weekend, and I would come home from college and there would be nobody here but Corey. We didn't really have a choice. But it all ended well."

When Green gave birth to a baby girl, Halie, she decided she wanted to be a mom for a while. She stayed at home with the baby, then took a job at the newly opened Little Gym at Longmeadow Shopping Center in Hagerstown.

"The Little Gym was just a stay-at-home-mom kind of thing. I did gymnastics for 13 years growing up, so that's how that came about," Green said. "Then I wanted to continue my career."

Flexing her business savvy

A parent Green met through the Little Gym was Greg Weaver, owner of Antrim Way Honda in Greencastle, Pa. He hired Green to help get the dealership's gift shop established.

"So I got hired part-time to help him with the gift shop, and it evolved and evolved," she said. "And five years later, I was the operations manager of the dealership."

She was also the mother of a second child, a son named Cooper.

But Green wanted to get back into her field, merchandising and event organizing. So she worked her contacts. One person she spoke to was Benito Vattelana, president of the board of directors for The Maryland Theatre.

"I started talking to Benito because he was interested in my background as operations manager," Green said. "The theater has so many rentals set up, it's kind of programmed, so to speak. So I can focus on making sure the operations are running smoothly and then we can worry about what big name we can get in here."

Green said the theater has had several recent executive directors who were strong on artistic vision but lacked business discipline. That led to problems. The board wanted to get operations back on track.

"Pat Wolford was here for 10 years (until 2006), and very successful," Green said. "She ... kind of dug the theater out of a hole. Since she left, they have gone through a string of executive directors who ... were more the artsy types, and they didn't necessarily pay attention to ... where the numbers were and where the profits were. So, that's what they brought me on board for, to be more of an operations manager."

Running a theater

Green said the majority of the theater's revenue comes from renting the facility, either to traveling productions that rent The Maryland Theatre for a night or to local organizations or individuals who rent space for a concert or wedding reception or cocktail party.

"And there's another sort of rental category — other nonprofits like the Maryland Symphony (Orchestra), Hagerstown Community Concert (Association) and Barbara Ingram (School for the Arts)," Green said. "They use the facility numerous times each year. We work very closely with them. Technically, they're renting."

BISFA is a special case. The fine arts high school is two doors away from the theater, and students use The Maryland Theatre stage a dozen times a year for productions.

But Green said the relationship is much closer than that.

"Our stage is another one of their classrooms. Barbara Ingram students are in the theater five days a week, 20 hours a week," she said. "A lot of their dance classes happen here on our stage. All their gym classes are here. Plus their performances. It's an amazing opportunity for the kids."

Green breaks down theater operations into four broad departments — technical, meaning sound and lighting; the building, which is a historical landmark; concessions and ushering, which is run by a group of volunteers; and administration and accounting.

Green replaced the theater's technical staff outside contractors. She rehabbed an unused room into a meeting room for volunteers and board members. And she is negotiating and scheduling events into early 2013.

"We have dates blocked off on our calendar (for the MSO and BISFA) through 2016," Green said. "But as far as renting national shows or purchasing shows, we're six months to a year out. We are completely booked through December."

A private person

Green is a part-time employee. She works 25 to 30 hours a week, she said, which leaves her time to be a mom and wife. Cooper is now 1 1/2. Halie is 7.

"On my days off, I'm spending time with the kids," she said. "I take Cooper to gym class, story times. We do a lot of kids events. Go for bike rides. My daughter and I like to cook together and bake."

Halie attends school during the day. But she likes hanging out with her parents, Green said.

"Halie is a complete Daddy's girl. If she has the opportunity to choose which parent to go with, it's always Daddy," Green said. "My husband is into concrete and construction, fishing and all those type of things. But Halie doesn't really like to get dirty, so she's funny."

 Green said Halie's school class took a field trip to the theater. Green also likes bringing Halie to see productions onstage — a magic show earlier this year and also BISFA's recent production of "Beauty and the Beast."

"I grew up going to a lot of the local high school productions and I love plays," Green said. "We've always loved plays."

A vision for the future

Green said her family stands as a reminder of programming guidelines at the theater. She tries to schedule a variety of shows to appeal to a variety of Hagerstown residents.

"We try to reach out to all different types of demographics," she said. "We have the (Hagerstown) Municipal Band that we know appeals to an older generation. We have the wrestling event (and) our Bike Night fundraiser. We have Ron White, the big comedian, coming this fall. That's obviously a different (audience) than one would normally think of for something like ‘Beauty and the Beast.'"

Green's first job, as operations manager, is to keep The Maryland Theatre on solid financial footing. But she wants to give local residents and families — including her own — a chance to come to the theater for a variety of activities.

"Even before I worked here, just as a family, we always were getting out to festivals and kids events, and different performing arts events," she said. "I just think that's really important. I definitely plan to get more family events here."

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