The Museum Adventure Pass and Saying “Yes”
Just a little blog post. By Heidi Bennett.
Saying “yes” is frequently a topic that comes up in self-help books, popular films and blogs. How many people make a New Year’s Resolution to “say ‘yes’ more?”
I am not one of those people. I usually have the opposite problem. I have trouble saying “no.” My actual 2012 New Year’s Resolution was to say “no” as frequently and emphatically as possible. Here’s a typical day for me “Yes, of course I will come see your 4-hour-long performance art piece.” “Yes, absolutely you can borrow my car for a month.” “You need me to re-design the entire web site in the next 2 hours? No problem!” “Yes, I’d love to dog-sit for 3 weeks.” You get the picture.
When the Cultural Alliance for Southeast Michigan contacted me about having the Purple Rose participate in this summer’s Museum Adventure Pass program, I had to weigh the pros and cons quite seriously. The Museum Adventure Pass, or MAP, is a program through Detroit area public libraries that offers free or discounted admission to local museums and cultural attractions. In their fifth year, the MAP program had the goal of incorporating as many organizations as possible, and to expand beyond traditional museums.
We at the PRTC were flattered to be asked, but there were many things to consider. On one hand, we love museums! We love libraries! We love bringing people into the theatre, no matter what the reason. On the other hand, we have strange business hours. We have a small staff that is already stretched quite thin. We are a non-profit and can’t afford to give away handfuls of free tickets, so what can we offer that people will actually want? But despite these reservations, we said enthusiastically and emphatically: YES!
We decided to open up our building for private backstage tours during weekdays. We normally offer tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for groups of 15-50, but these MAP tours would be different because we’d offer them to small groups or families, we’d make the tours personal, and we’d offer bonus merchandise and ticket discounts to those who came out with a Museum Adventure Pass.
I will admit it was a big undertaking. Between scheduling tours and leading 2-4 tours per week, it was practically a part-time job. When summer got really hectic (in the beginning of July), I decided we needed help. I sent out a desperate plea for volunteers through our volunteer email list (click here to subscribe). I was humbled by the wonderful response of excited people willing to spend their time helping us. We held a training session for the volunteers, and then I started scheduling tours. Because the tours were often scheduled on short notice, and all were during the workday, two volunteers in particular were used most often (either because of their availability, the fact that they live near the theatre, or that, like me, they couldn’t say “no.”).
Cynthia Avery and George Till were my rock-star tour guides this summer. They answered my phone calls and email without a hint of regret. They happily came to the theatre half an hour early to sweep through the building, turning on lights and propping open doors. They led their tours with passion, with respect, and with pride in this theatre. They shared anecdotes from their own personal experiences with the Purple Rose, and they elicited great questions from the visitors. George Till is known well in Chelsea for his participation in the Chelsea Historical Society and Civil War reenactments. He dug out old photos of the theatre building from earlier in the 20th century and taught us all new things about the history of the building and the town. Using volunteers for this project was the best decision I made this year. Not only did they make it possible for more people to come visit the theatre with the Museum Adventure Pass, but they also reminded me of why we do this at all. Their enthusiasm for and love of this theatre was contagious: they spread it among the staff and the visitors alike.
With the closing of On Golden Pond, we concluded our Museum Adventure Pass offering. But we had a great summer welcoming visitors behind the scenes. We made new friends, we worked with great volunteers, and we were reminded of how lucky we are to work in this business. I’m really glad we said, “Yes.”