Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Where are they now? Former interns and workers reflect on their time at Eisenhower Auditorium

By Erica Brown

Throughout Eisenhower Auditorium’s 50 years in existence, it has become a second home to many work-study and student interns. Some former workers and interns shared their stories about graduating and moving into careers, some in the performing arts or a related field.

Charles Buchanan:
From work study to real-world arts career

Charles Buchanan’s career in the performing arts began at Eisenhower Auditorium, where he worked in the Arts Ticket Center from 2003 to 2008. Today he is the senior director of marketing and audience development at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“Working at Eisenhower Auditorium showed me that careers in the performing arts exist,” he said.

Buchanan also had the opportunity to serve on the Center for the Performing Arts Community Advisory Council, where he became acquainted with what happens behind the scenes at Eisenhower Auditorium.

After graduating from Penn State University in 2008 with degrees in political science and labor and employment relations, Buchanan pursued a career in the performing arts from theatres in New York City, Detroit and Sydney.

“Without a doubt, if I had never worked at Eisenhower, I would not have gone onto a career working across the performing arts—from my current role at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and previous roles at the New York Philharmonic, Sydney Opera House, the Public Theater and more,” he said.

Anna James:
From passion projects to professional experience

“When I was an advertising student at Penn State looking for internship experience, Eisenhower Auditorium was the perfect combination of my personal and professional interests,” said former marketing department intern Anna James.

James always loved the performing arts. Growing up, she was a dancer and heavily involved with theatre. When she came to Penn State and was looking for an internship as an advertising major, she stumbled upon an opening in the communications department at the Center for the Performing Arts.

She served as a communications intern at the Center for two semesters in 2016. She assisted the marketing staff in promoting and preparing for performances in the auditorium, and she wrote articles highlighting the Penn State alumni in select performances during the Center’s 2016 season including an interview with a Penn State alum who was touring with the production of “Rent.”

“I loved being a part of the behind-the-scenes energy working in the office on a performance day,” James said. “Knowing that a touring cast and crew was loading into the theatre that I interned at was the coolest feeling.”

James graduated from Penn State in 2018 with an advertising/public relations degree. She works at Johannes Leonardo, an advertising agency known for its Volkswagen and Adidas advertisements.

“Eisenhower Auditorium was an excellent stepping stone from my college career into my professional career,” James said. “The longevity of my time there allowed me to set a solid foundation and learn a variety of skills. Most importantly, it opened my eyes to the possibility of combining personal passions with career goals, and that insight has guided me throughout my career.”

Tracy Noll:
From by-chance employee to director of business services

“The staff at the Center quickly became like a second family,” said Tracy Noll. “We not only enjoyed working together but got together outside of work.”

Growing up in rural Penns Valley, Noll said she never expected to work at the box office at Eisenhower when she first came to Penn State in the late 1980s. But after visiting a friend who worked at the box office multiple times, she was soon offered a job.

Thirty-five years later, Noll sits adjacent to Arts Ticket Center box office as the Center’s business services director. She said she has many interesting stories from her time with the Center for the Performing Arts over the years, including meeting the founding members of the Goo Goo Dolls.

“I encountered a short gentleman dressed in black from head to toe, including a black knit cap, as I was leaving,” Noll said. “We had a nice little conversation and I left, assuming he was part of the crew. As I sat in my seat waiting for the show, the curtain slowly rose and I quickly saw the lead singer, John Rzeznik, who was very recognizable, and then looked to the left and there was the guy I had talked to earlier, who turned out to be Robby Takac, the other founding member of the Goo Goo Dolls.”

She said she also has many fond memories of seeing her daughter growing up, enjoying and experiencing events in the building.

“I loved bringing my young daughter to performances, and begging her to go home at intermission because she had school the next day,” Noll said. “Even at the more challenging events like modern dance, I couldn’t pry her out of her seat. Seeing the arts through her eyes made it all the more special.”

Noll’s work with Eisenhower Auditorium has inspired her daughters to work at ticket offices in Pennsylvania.

“My colleagues in the ticketing industry always talk about how no one ever goes into ticketing thinking it will become your career, but it really sucks you in,” she said. “It’s an exciting environment where there is something new happening all of the time.”

Kat Shondeck:
From graduate school transient to State College resident

“When I came to Penn State for graduate school, I was naturally drawn to the Arts Ticket Center at Eisenhower Auditorium,” said Kat Shondeck, a longtime fan of the performing arts.

While an undergrad at Rutgers University, she was heavily involved in the performing arts, serving as the chair of the Performing Arts committee with the Rutgers College Program Council. She later worked in ticket management at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

She said she has many fond memories of working at Eisenhower Auditorium—one of her favorites being a speaking engagement by President George W. Bush in June 2005.

“His Secret Service came out ahead of time, and basically set up office in our office,” she said. “They were just a bunch of fun goofballs but were very good at their jobs when they needed to be.”

After graduate school, she was hired full-time at Penn State. She recently worked as an associate director for Penn State’s Annual Giving team. Her work with the Annual Giving organization led to her becoming a project manager in Penn State’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.

Shondeck continues to work in the performing arts, and she is a choreographer with the Williamsport Community Theatre League.

“Tracy always made sure the office was not just a place to punch in and punch out,” Shondeck said. “I made some life-long friendships there, and no matter how busy or stressful things were, we'd always find a way to laugh it out.”

Erica Brown is a freelance writing intern at the Center for the Performing Arts. She recently graduated (May 2024) from Penn State with degrees in advertising/public relations and English.