Meet the Staff

Detroit '67 StageNotes

Meet the Staff: Mike D’Avirro, Call Center Manager

By Melinda Graber, Marketing Apprentice

Mike D'AvirroTell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Newington, Connecticut; and I’ve lived up and down the east coast. I graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. I spent roughly half my life in the restaurant industry before switching gears to the arts.  I’m now entering my 12th season at Hartford Stage. I’m also celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary this February, and I’m a proud dad of a first grader. I’m an avid sports fan and a season ticket holder for our UConn Huskies.

Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.

My first live theatre experience is one I’ll never forget because I was dragged there kicking and screaming. I was not interested in seeing The Nutcracker. My mother convinced me to give it a try, saying that we could leave early if it was horrible. At intermission, she grabbed her coat and said, “Let’s go.” I asked that we stay a little longer. It was magical.

The Call Center Staff: Back row-Mike D'Avirro and Todd Merrell. Front row-Linda Young and Darlene Herrick
The Call Center Staff: Back row-Mike D’Avirro and Todd Merrell. Front row-Linda Young and Darlene Herrick

Take us through your day-to-day responsibilities as Call Center Manager.

The Call Center works in concert with the Marketing Department and Box Office in featuring upcoming shows. Daily communication with patrons is essential for keeping the theatre full and building audience appreciation. Each year, we sell and process thousands of full-season subscriptions, mini packages, flexible EZ Tix, single tickets and annual renewal orders. I’ve never seen a sales team assist customers with the attention that my team does. We follow up twelve months a year with every single ticket buyer. My three experienced callers and I readily offer show and age recommendations, as well as being your personal sales contacts.

We heard a rumor that you were a chef before coming to Hartford Stage. Please tell us about that and how you decided to make the switch to working at a theatre.

I’m professionally trained in the Culinary Arts and spent many years in the hotel/restaurant industry. I was fortunate to work in both Washington, D.C. and in Miami, Florida. I was Bill Marriott’s personal home chef for all of his outside catering events in Bethesda, Maryland. I’ve met and cooked for President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton. My adventures included many meals for stars, including Muhammad Ali and Gloria Estefan. It’s an exciting industry, but nights, weekends, holidays and 70-hour work weeks were the norm. As I got older, I wanted to start a family. I wanted to have Thanksgiving in my own home. Eventually, looking for a new challenge and change of pace, I entered the sales and kitchen design field.

I was getting my sea legs in sales and would pick up part-time shifts in the sales department at my local theatre in Miami. It was there that I learned how to talk about upcoming shows and sharpened my skills as a sales person. Eventually, I moved back to Connecticut and thought Hartford Stage would be an exciting place to work. Its art, direction, costumes, and stage design are all world-class. The caliber of productions here makes my job enjoyable, and I feel that I am making a positive contribution to my community.

The Call Center team has been working together for a long time. What keeps that family together so well?

I’m fortunate to work with three very loyal and talented callers. My assistant Darlene Herrick (7 years), Linda Young (13 years), and Todd Merrell (14 years) all strive to convert single ticket buyers into repeat customers who, over time, become season subscribers. Patrons trust our opinion and can count on us for informative, friendly conversations, unlike the huge ticket vendors where nobody knows your name. In this age of the internet and fast, impersonal practices, this is a valuable and vanishing experience. We build relationships with our patrons. I’ve sold to families who have taken their young children to A Christmas Carol for the first time. I have maintained contact with these families over the years, and now their kids are graduating from college. We take our customers on a journey every night. To see our small venue transform from the moving train in Murder on the Orient Express to the gorgeous wooden staircases of Heartbreak House is pure magic.

What is your personal motto in life?

All life has balance, but it often takes a lifetime to find it.