When April Waldron, who grew up in Columbus and Florida, returned to Columbus in 1998, she tried her hand at being a Realtor.
“I was quite terrible at being a real estate agent,” she said. “In fact, I was never a good real estate agent.”
Her husband, Shane, was working on the telephone and computer lines at the Springer Opera House, and found out that the theater needed someone to work in the box office.
Waldron applied for the job and got her first job in a theater box office. In a year or so, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts was being built and applied for the box office job.
She stayed there for seven years before going to the Columbus State University department of theater for four years. In 2010, she returned to RiverCenter.
Right now, she’s the only full-time employee in the box office. Waldron laughs as she said two of her part-time staff are practically full-time. Marti Murano and Mary Collins both work 30-plus hours. Collins just graduated and is looking for a teaching job in the Muscogee County School District. Corey Campbell is still in school. Bridget Lewis and Amy Reed are Waldron’s “go-to gals for special events.” Lynette Stephens was the assistant box office manager, but recently became the new house manager. Waldron said she can still count on Stephens to fill in when she can.
We caught Waldron just before she headed to lunch earlier this week. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are your top priorities as box office manager?
Atmosphere. I’m really big on us -- the staff -- getting along. I think we’re the ones who have to set the tone. I tell them not to sweat the small stuff. Dealing with the public can be tough. I tell them not to take it seriously and to let things roll of their backs. I absolutely do not want any drama in the box office. I tell them that if there are complaints, that the complaints are about our policies, and not them. I’ll handle the policy issues. If you’re honest with people, they will understand. I am very nice to anyone in the customer service industry. On the other hand, if they are rude to me ... Being in the customer service industry is tough. I think every sociology major should work in a box office. I think they would be surprised how very similar people are. It’s very interesting.
How is working in RiverCenter box office different from the Springer Opera House and Columbus State University?
The only difference is that we have a broader audience than CSU or the Springer Opera House. Yes, we are speaking to the same people, but we go a little broader. With our rentals, we have gospel shows, the black comedians who do very well and the black musical comedy shows. That’s why you need to check our website often.
What’s your typical day like?
I’m here by 8 a.m. I am here for all the major events. On those days, I’ll work until early afternoon. That lets me pick up Ethan from school and go over his homework. And then I come back here.
When is Single Ticket Saturday and what tips do you have for people who want to attend?
It is Aug. 27. I’d tell people to go online. There will be a price list for all the shows. You can go ahead and get an idea of what shows you want to see. That is also the first day that you can add Broadway shows to the Combo Package. There will be plenty of staff that day to help you.
When is the box office most crowded and when is the best time to buy tickets for a show?
Right now, it may look pretty quiet but it may be the busiest time of the year. We’re getting season ticket orders in. Monday before a show is good. But really, there is no bad time. We’re always here during the lunch hour. It might pick up during lunch. It’s never an issue.
What compliments and complaints do you receive about tickets or seats at RiverCenter?
The only times we’ve gotten complaints is getting tickets for a few key areas. The most popular row is AA in the orchestra. That’s the row just behind the waist-high wall and Row A or the first row in the mezzanine. Season ticket holders fight over those two rows. Really, we don’t have a lot of complaints. Well, the temperature aspect ... That’s a balancing act with all the lights on the stage. I tell people to bring a wrap or sweater if they think they’ll get cold.
Who or what have you been excited to see at RiverCenter?
I’m a dance person. I still remember the show “Fosse” from the first season. And “Chicago.” I love to watch top quality dance. But I know that what I like is not necessarily what the community will support. We love the donors who help to bring in the classical ballets. But I like the really jazzy dance.
Who or what would you like to see at RiverCenter?
I have expensive tastes. I’m a classic rock girl. I love Elton John. When he was doing the small venues a couple of years ago, he would have been perfect for RiverCenter. I’m a huge Billy Joel fan. Shane and I came to see B.B. King when he came here. I love Eric Clapton. And I’ll be here when Coldplay charges less for shows. I would like to see good, adult comedy. I was sad when Kathy Griffith didn’t sell out. I looove her. But it’s difficult in our very conservative community. I would love to see really good comedy supported here.
How often do shows sell out at RiverCenter? Any memorable experiences with a sold-out crowd?
It depends. This is what I tell people: it depends on how much a show costs. Sometimes, a show that doesn’t cost too much that sells a half-house does better than a more expensive show that almost sells out. I wouldn’t do Jim Rutland’s (who is in charge of programs at RiverCenter) job for any amount of money. He has great taste and he gets input from people. Travis Tritt, I think, was our first sold out show during grand opening 2002. That was a fun time!
What advice do you have for someone who is new to town and will visit RiverCenter for the first time this season?
Go to our website. Picking up a brochure is great. But we have all these other events that are rentals.
What are the various ways that people can buy tickets? What is the most commonly used?
We have more people come in in person. Buying tickets through our website is picking up. I’ve liked tickets.com I have a good relationship with them. We have stopped phone sales except for season tickets. When I first came back, there would be 30 messages from people ordering tickets. That was not working. So we stopped. You can still buy tickets on the phone by calling tickets.com
What discounts should people ask about?
We have military, seniors, students what run about 10 percent. I tell people that it doesn’t hurt to ask. Each presenter has his own set of rules on discounts. We do have discounts available.
Do you get to see many shows or are you always working?
I’m usually working. But if there’s something I’m about to throw a fit to see, I can pop in for a few minutes. Until Coldplay shows up, then I’m there for every minute.
Does the workload get lighter in the summer when there are fewer shows?
It’s not. We’re busy now. We’re really busy with season ticket renewals. And we have had a lot of shows this summer. We’ve had a lot of good rentals. The tricky part is getting everyone’s vacations scheduled.
You used to have a RiverCenter gift shop in the lobby of the box office. Has it moved?
That was during my absence. I was here when it was being discussed. I thought it would be RiverCenter-related items like T-shirts, jewelry, mugs, postcards and posters of RiverCenter by local artists. It’s closed. We might try again.
If you could, what would you do differently in the box office?
I’m happy with it (after a long pause). There’s always constant change. It follows a basic format and it’s not monotonous. It’s the best of both worlds.
Well, there are times when I’m in my office (just behind the box office ticket booths) and working and working. I have to peek out to see if it’s raining. Then other times I’m out talking to people and goofing off. Not really. I’m talking to patrons. I like the chaos. I’m not cut out for work in a quiet workplace. My ADHA works well here. If I get bored, I can do something else for five minutes. When I get bored with that, there’s another something I can do for five minutes. I like coming in an opening the shows. It’s a good balance for me.