Leadership / 11.16.21
Chris Stasiuk: The Box Office Saint of the St. James Theatre in Manhattan
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Before Christine “Chris” Stasiuk became Head Treasurer of the historic St. James Theatre’s box office six years ago, she put together one of the most eclectic resumes in the ticketing business. She’s been in the industry since 1983 when, as a high school student, she started working concessions and then the box office at the Capital Theatre in New Jersey. After graduating college, she took a job as Assistant Box Office Manager for Metropolitan Entertainment, one of the biggest concert promoters in the Garden State at the time. She spent nearly a decade with the company before going on to Radio City Music Hall in 1996, serving as First Assistant Treasurer.
She worked there for 17 years until she accepted a position as Director of Ticketing for the New York Red Bulls pro soccer team. “I had done concerts and shows, and so this was my foray into sports,” she says, also playfully making mention of the six months she once spent working as Box Office Manager for an outdoor dinosaur museum.
Broadway was in her blood, though, and she began temping for various shows on the Great White Way. Jujamcyn Theaters eventually called her when a position opened with the St. James Theatre, home of such legendary shows as “The Producers.” She left the Red Bulls for the St. James, and it’s been her home ever since.
“I really love the project management side of things,” she says. “I love opening shows. That’s why concerts were such a great thing for me, because you’re opening a new show every single time. On Broadway, I love every aspect of my job. But you are doing the same show every single day. There is a comfort to that. But opening a show is amazing. It’s an adrenaline rush, and it is a lot of work!”
Stasiuk modestly says a lot of the success she’s had in her career has been due to luck. She also concedes that a lot of it has been about knowing the right ticketing system at the right time. By her count, she has experience on at least a half dozen such systems. “I believe networking, though, has been my strongest tool in being able to get a job, then the next job and then the next. My primary responsibility is managing every single ticket that is bought and sold for every performance. It really has to somehow touch my staff or me in some way in order to get sold. We have group sales. We have all of the inventory management. We have the CRM and the analytics that tells us who is buying what tickets. I also work within our [American with Disabilities Act (ADA)] guidelines and make sure our ADA requirements are met and that we seat people according to what they need.”
Stasiuk is also responsible for “dressing the house properly” when necessary. “Let’s say there’s a show where we didn’t sell the entire house,” she says. “Well, how do we make it look, for the folks on stage, that they are playing to a full house? It’s about moving people around, positioning them in areas where the applause booms and it looks proper for the performers and they have the feeling of a full house. Inventory management is one of the unsung jobs we do.”
She continues, “You also have to constantly be on call if there is a question about anything. In addition, you have to be able to communicate with the person who is standing in front of you, whether they are angry or there is a problem with their reservation or they just want to chat. People often consider us a bartender. They’ll come to the window and start telling you all this information about themselves. You’re behind a counter, and you’re giving them something that they want. So, very often, you’ll get things like, ‘Oh my daughter is coming here, and she lives in Arizona, and she’s bringing her husband and my two grandkids.’ And you have to be like, ‘Great!’ You often have to be their fixer. If something’s broken or they’ve had a crappy day, you’re the one who is going to turn it around.”
For sure, Stasiuk’s job is a challenge. But it’s one she does not shrink from, even when a show is not doing well (which is rare for the St. James). “Sometimes it’s just plain old timing,” she says. “You can be the show that opened up the same month as ‘Hamilton.’ Think about that. Think about any of the treasurers who opened their shows when that opened. It wasn’t their fault or the show’s fault of the ticket price’s fault. It was just timing.”
That is definitely the voice of wisdom, someone who has seen the ebbs and flows of live events over several decades. Still, she can call on the memories and experiences of her early days in the business and what she learned that nonetheless applies today.
“One of my mentors told me two things a long time ago,” she says. “The first thing is if you don’t know what you are doing, smile and nod through the conversation and then go find the tools to figure out how to do it. The second thing is when you are managing a staff and you’re hiring people, always hire people who are smarter than you in certain aspects. Surround yourself with intelligent people who might even be better than you. Don’t be afraid to hire those who are smarter than you. That’s how you create the greatest office! And in doing so, you will continue to learn.”
Because she received so much help and support along the way, Stasiuk is eager to help those just starting in ticketing and live events today. With regards to young women eager to achieve some of the success she’s had, Stasiuk concluded, “I think building a very broad network of folks is probably the most important thing they can do. That’s tough when you are first starting out, because you don’t know anyone yet. If you are still in college, work in the school stadiums and join those concert clubs. Take the crappy paying job at first and start building from there. Take on the bigger projects that are frightening, because ‘frightening’ and ‘big’ is going to end up preparing you for the next job. Never burn a bridge. Put everyone into your phone and contact list. Keep in touch. Let people know what you are doing. And be aware that you are going to have to pay your dues.”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing