Shannon Emerick didn’t set out to become one of the best and most beloved directors of marketing and communications in Houston. She’s an actor, after all, and she’s been working professionally at it since graduating from Yale. And she still takes roles on the Main Street Theater stage, but her full-time job is handling the communications/marketing needs for the company’s three programs: MainStage, Theater for Youth, and education & outreach.
Emerick has come to see a harmony between her dual roles. “There are a lot of similarities between being an actor and a marketer,” she says. “I think the most powerful part about theatre is human connection: that we all share in a moment in time and where we get to walk around in each other’s shoes, in their stories. Getting to help tell stories, both as an actor and as a marketer, is deeply meaningful to me personally.”
Houston media professionals, including yours truly, see that translate into great work over and over again. Emerick is especially astute at matching story ideas to outlets, while supporting but never crowding critics or arts journalists. “She doesn’t ever try to steer the subject matter in interviews, which I appreciate,” says Houston Press editor Margaret Downing. “Shannon is a professional who understands we’re not going to love everything her theatre does, and she always provides a wealth of accurate information, which just makes every journalist’s job easier.”
Of course good marketing is not just about media but about audiences as well. That’s why Emerick created the very successful Part of the Arts program, a series of free events designed to give audiences a chance to connect with productions through first readings, pre-show discussions with designers and directors, talkbacks, and other special events or lectures. But her desire to bond doesn’t stop there. “Shannon’s first instinct is to connect,” says Main Street Theater executive artistic director Rebecca Green Udden. “She connects with strangers she sits next to on Megabus or Southwest Airlines and converts them into subscribers before the end of the trip. She has created much of the success we enjoy today.”
Between acting, marketing, and chatting with strangers on buses, you’d think that Emerick would have precious little time for anything else. You’d be wrong. In addition to all her work obligations, she has an even bigger responsibility at home as a single mother to her preteen son. Emerick says she’s able to balance it all thanks to the environment Udden, who she calls her mentor, has created at Main Street. It’s a place where getting your work done well and taking care of yourself takes priority over punching a clock, a flexibility Emerick recognizes as “rare and amazing and not something I take for granted.”
Nor does she take for granted the chance to have a hand in all the theatre’s communications. “Even if I’m not onstage, I feel very connected to the art and our artists,” Emerick says. “That means a lot to me.”