Staging Magic with Ashleigh Tucker Pollock
KS: You’re the Special Events Manager and Rental Coordinator here at The Music Hall, can you tell me a little bit about what it is you do?
Ashleigh Tucker Pollock: Technically, I am in two different departments which means that I have my hands in a bunch of different pots! As the Rental Coordinator, I get to work with different community organizations to bring in live programming and corporate conferences, as rental clients to both of our venues. As the Special Events Manager, I am responsible for The Music Hall’s larger fundraising events such as our annual Kitchen Tour, our online auction in November, and our Gala such as this year’s An Affair to Remember on Saturday, February 11th.
KS: You’ve created a 1920’s speakeasy, a 1940s Officers Club, and now a 1950s mid-century modern cocktail party, where do you find inspiration for your themes?
ATP: Creating a themed party is one of my favorite parts of planning events, especially as we travel through the different decades. At the event’s conception, I immediately get to work making a vision board so that I can start thinking about certain themes, trends, styles, and the history from that chosen time period. Once I finish the vision board (or sometimes it becomes multiple boards), the ideas really start to emerge. This also helps me dial in on one specific setting for that period. For example, choosing the difference between hosting a 1950s Sock Hop party versus this year’s theme: an intimate cocktail setting in a living room from the 1950s. Both can be so different!
KS: You manage all of our special events. What is one piece of advice that you would give an aspiring event manager?
ATP: There is no such thing as being too organized! Some might say I take this to another level, but in truth, you never know when your next great idea is going to happen. Keeping track of details and logistics while you are working on half a dozen events at the same time is vital. One way I manage my thoughts is with my favorite app called “Workflowy”. Also, it never hurts for an aspiring event planner to learn basic production based knowledge, such as theatrical lighting design, rigging, and AV equipment.
KS: This year you’re taking guests back to the 1950s, do you have a favorite design element from that period?
ATP: My favorite element (that we are also recreating on stage for this year’s event) is the introduction of conversation pits in people’s homes. I am obsessed with the idea of having a gathering spot in the round for a large group of people, smack in the middle of a living space that is meant to bring all together. Couple that with a great, low hanging lighting fixture and a mid-century modern coffee table in the middle and you have the recipe for an authentic 1950s party.
KS: Of all of the Gala’s that you’ve coordinated, do you have a favorite?
ATP: I have to admit, I think this year’s event An Affair to Remember is my favorite so far. Because we are converting the stage into a 1950s living room, the best part for me is accurately recreating what a typical living space from that time period would look like. Imagining what type of rugs were used or which style of lamps or vases were favored is a fun challenge. It almost feels like you are working on staging a set for a play or movie.
KS: We’ve heard from University of New Hampshire’s Conferences and Catering Executive Catering Chef, Michelle Fiumara-Montgomery, about what to look forward to in regards to the menu, what can my blog readers look forward to with this year’s Gala?
ATP: Besides the delicious menu provided by UNH Conferences and Catering, readers can also look forward to being transported back in time. In addition to the living room set, there will also be a backyard patio scene so it will seem that you are moving from one part of the house to another. And in the style of Lawrence Welk, there may or may not be a bubble machine too – you’ll have to see for yourself!
KS: Before each event, do you have a ritual or good luck charm?
ATP: After the complete set-up of an event is finished, I like to do a final walk through to see how everything connects together. This gives me the opportunity to find problems before they become potential issues and to make any last minute tweaks. I consider The Music Hall’s Gala Committee as well as our exceptional Production Team to both be my good luck charms. WIthout them, this would just be your average party.