HT: Keeping theater alive behind the scenes
By Joel Pierson | HT Columnist
April 12, 2020
Our “someone you should know” this week might not be a familiar face on local stages, but three arts organizations couldn’t do what they do without her smiling face behind the scenes. I’d like to introduce you to Cassie Hakken.
H-T: Tell us about your background and what brought you to Bloomington.
Hakken: I grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. I was always one for theatricality, performance, music and pretty much anything creative. I started learning guitar when I was 10 and have been singing since I can remember.
My major introduction to theater was through Circle Theater, a community theater in Grand Rapids. Because my dad served as a member of the board of directors, we got to see a lot of behind-the-scenes action.
I decided to pursue both business and theater in college, which led me to Indiana University. I was able to double major in both business (management) and theater and drama. I expanded my work into the technical side of the theater and became a stagehand at the IU Musical Arts Center.
In 2016, I became the managing director of the Jewish Theater of Bloomington, working directly with Audrey Heller. This was my first official introduction into the business side, and it was a fantastic way to start. Since then, I have taken on additional responsibilities, recently organizing our 15th anniversary celebration.
During college I also worked with IU Summer Theater, Stages Bloomington and stage managed a couple of JTB productions. During my senior year, I produced and directed a collection of short science-fiction plays.
During my senior year, I started as the marketing manager for Cardinal Stage. In May 2019, I was able to start working with the Bloomington Academy of Film and Theater as an extension of my position at Cardinal. I am the director of marketing and am working to make BAFT a core part of the Bloomington arts and culture scene.
H-T: What drew you to the theater companies you work with?
Hakken: What drew me to JTB was the passion behind all their projects. Audrey and the board of directors are so dedicated to JTB’s mission, not only to produce works that speak to the Jewish experience but creating theater that is engaging for all and of high artistic quality. I also value the diversity that JTB brings to the theater community. I am not Jewish but love the opportunity to dive deep into a different culture, religion or moment in history.
Cardinal has been a fantastic place to work; I love our team, our mission, and the shows we produce! I have always wanted to work for a theater company that produces a wide variety of shows throughout the year, especially musical theater. Having a professional theater company in Bloomington is such a vital asset to the community.
H-T: What do you do in your capacity with each?
Hakken: At JTB, I arrange for rehearsal space, oversee all marketing efforts, maintain the website, coordinate ticket sales and box office operations, act as the house manager, organize talkback panels, search for and assist in writing grant applications and help with overall season and strategic planning. Most of the major managerial decisions are made by Audrey Heller, and it’s great to be able to work alongside her.
At Cardinal, I oversee the marketing department. I formulate and execute all marketing and publicity efforts for productions and special events like our annual “Rocky Horror” screening. This includes our email, social media, advertisements, print materials and mailings and any community outreach-based events. I work with many local media agencies and businesses to establish ongoing relationships and sponsorships. I really love how community-facing this position is and the amount of creativity involved on a daily basis.
At BAFT, I plan and oversee all marketing efforts including social media, graphic design, events, publicity, market research and media advertisements.
H-T: What is the most rewarding aspect of your jobs?
Hakken: Helping to produce live theater and being a part of sharing that with the community. There is no better feeling than a full house (as a performer, audience member or member of the administrative staff)! I love getting to be creative and creating a unique voice for these organizations.
H-T: What is the most challenging part?
Hakken: Quite honestly, having time for it all! I think one of the most challenging parts of arts administration is getting people to understand the value of the arts and its necessity. Creativity is such an important part of childhood development, and the theater is a great way to develop kids’ empathy and tolerance, get them out of their comfort zones, and help them to think outside the box.
H-T: What do you like to do for fun?
Hakken: I love to sing and I play the guitar, and often do so with my partner, Ben Jackson. I have been trying to learn to play the bass but haven’t had enough time on my hands (until now). I am a really social person, so I spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends and family. I also enjoy traveling and hope to continue to do so after the pandemic has subsided.
H-T: What has the COVID-19 situation made you realize, that you might not have thought about before?
Hakken: Just how important the arts are to so many people, even though they may not realize it. Everyone is at home watching TV and movies and listening to music, and I just hope this engagement with entertainment transfers to live performances once we are able to get back to normal.