Otterbein experiential learning meets Broadway for three communication seniors
Posted Apr 01, 2019
By (left to right) Jessica Metcalf ’19, Olivia Crago ’19 and Lauren Heberling ’19
Otterbein offers countless opportunities for students to learn about careers, first-hand, from professionals in the field. Seniors Jessica Metcalf, Lauren Heberling and Olivia Crago, all Communication/Public Relations majors, and Dance/Theatre students, took on Manhattan for an unforgettable experiential learning trip over winter break.
Students met with three public relations professionals that promote Broadway musicals and plays. Then the students enjoyed three musicals the public relations pros promote.
“Overall it was a trip of a lifetime,” Metcalf said. “To see how dreams can become a reality was informative, exhilarating and helped prepare us for the next steps for when we graduate this spring.”
The students met first with Philip Rinaldi of Philip Rinaldi Publicity. Rinaldi is the press representative for My Fair Lady and relayed how he got his foot in the door working in promotions. With a show as widely known as My Fair Lady, Rinaldi explained that the show more-or-less sold the tickets itself, so his angle was more to sustain high-ticket sales for the long run of the show.
“We learned there is not a singular way to get into the business,” Heberling said. “Rinaldi explained how everyone has their own path.” Rinaldi spoke of his long-term relationship working as Patti LuPone’s publicist in addition to his position at Lincoln Center.
Students next met with Jackie Green, account services vice president for Boneau/Bryan-Brown, one of New York’s most experienced theatrical press agencies, currently working on more than 400 productions on and off-Broadway. Green discussed how she worked on new shows such as Waitress, revivals such as Once On This Island, which the students were able to see, and long-term shows like STOMP. Green has personally worked with STOMP for almost 25 years and she revealed some of her tactics for unique publicity on a show that is not new.
“I think working for a fast-paced and intense company such as Boneau/Bryan-Brown is how I pictured the New York workforce to be,” Metcalf said. “They’re not going to slow down for you so you have to be able to find new angles, like Jackie was saying, to keep the shows you promote fresh and in front of the right audiences.”
The final meeting was with Associate Publicist Molly Wyatt, of Polk & Co. The boutique agency specializes in public relations, media campaigns and social engagements for productions. One of the shows Polk & Co. promotes is Anastasia, which the students saw later that day. As a younger professional, Wyatt was able to speak to the students candidly and explained how she moved from her small, private university in South Carolina to New York City.
“Molly knew what it was like right after graduation and feeling overwhelmed by which path to take,” Crago said. “She was able to talk to us about her journey in school and what decisions she made that brought her to her current job.”
The seniors also had a personal tour of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Before New York, students visited the Columbus Museum of Art to attend a Harlem Renaissance exhibit in preparation for their Apollo visit.
Then in New York, students had a private tour with Billy Mitchell, otherwise known as “Mr. Apollo.” Mitchell has worked at the theater since 1965 and has lived through its history. He has met musical legends including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and The Jacksons, as well as given a tour of the theatre to Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama. He explained the theater’s racial and musical history and transformation over the years and let students rub the lucky tree stump that lives on the Apollo stage, touched for good luck by every artist before their performance.
“Experiences like this come once in a lifetime,” Metcalf said. “I never thought I’d be able to do something like this during my college career. Meeting with professionals, face-to-face, in New York, was a dream and I am so glad our adviser had the connections to make it happen.”
Thanks to connections made through Otterbein, students were also lucky enough to meet with performers and receive backstage tours for most of the shows. Jordan Donica ’16, who had solos in My Fair Lady, had tea with students near Central Park and graciously gave a back-stage tour after the performance. He answered a load of questions and spoke to how his Otterbein education has prepared him for the success he has seen in the performance industry. He shared both how his life has changed and how he has managed to stay true to himself. He discussed his future plans and goals and even offered advice to the three seniors on how to hit the ground running following graduation.
In addition to speaking with Donica, the students met with other recent alumni and friends who are currently living in the city. While all are pursuing different areas within the performance world, they connect by a love of theater and their Otterbein education. They have now found themselves in the hub itself, New York City.
“The trip made me see the possibility of someday living in New York and made me more confident to pursue my dream career working for a Broadway public relations firm,” Heberling said. “It is something that I can picture now. It is more concrete. Otterbein helped me open the door, and now it is my turn to step through and work for my future.”