Huntington Senior Director of External Relations David Dalena recently spoke with Sita and Anik Merchea and Rumena Manolova and Alex Senchak, two couples that were instrumental in The Hunt’s founding. Read a complete transcript of the conversation below, and learn more about The Hunt and its perks online.
THE HUNT: How did you first become involved with the Huntington?
Anik & Sita Merchea
RUMENA: The arts have always been a part of our lives. Alex has a background in theatre, and our first date was to see an opera. After we moved to Boston, we got tickets to the Huntington's amazing production of Candide. It was one of the best things we had ever seen, and we knew we needed to come back.
ALEX: As recent arrivals in Boston, we were looking for something to be a part of. Our families have always supported the arts, and having a theatre of the stature of the Huntington in our new city made us feel at home. The Huntington's programming isn't just entertaining, but it's so . . . substantial. And the audience is so diverse. We felt we fit right in.
ANIK: We began attending 35 Below events as a way to see great theatre and meet new people.
SITA: The Huntington quickly became something we cared about. Huntington shows are such great productions, and 35 Below and The Hunt are perfect ways for us to be a part of a major Boston institution. We've found that our backgrounds and skills really differ from those we meet at the Huntington and that they can really help complement its efforts to build support from a new generation.
THE HUNT: In your eyes, what makes the Huntington unique?
Alex Senchak & Rumena Manolova
RUMENA: We love that by operating the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, the Huntington is an anchor for other theatre companies, and we love being able to attend theatre right in our own neighborhood.
ALEX: Everyone at the Huntington is so responsive and helpful, whether we need to exchange our tickets or purchase more, each encounter is always so personal.
ANIK: There's a different way of thinking in the theatre. It's not business first, and it's intriguing to see how people with artistic backgrounds approach their work. Their different way of approaching and solving problems, with unique, creative approaches helps me think differently about how to approach my own.
RUMENA: I'm so impressed with the artistic world that the Huntington creates. Like Anik, as a business person, I spend much of my time finding solutions to complex financial and legal challenges. I'm fascinated by how directors, designers, and actors address the challenges of telling complex, human stories with such creativity.
SITA: We always feel as though giving to the Huntington is so different from our other volunteer activities and aspects of our lives, such a nice change of pace from our daily business lives. Young professionals often meet people with similar backgrounds and share a more homogenous set of skills.
THE HUNT: Why have you taken on a leadership role as a 35 Below Ambassador and in The Hunt?
ANIK: We like to think we were there when the 35 Below Ambassador program began. We didn't know it was a new program, but when we became aware, we felt like the cool kids on the block to be asked to be a part. We've been lucky to become personal friends with the Huntington's amazing artists and lucky to be able to help build a tremendous community of other theatre lovers that we're thrilled to be a part of.
SITA: Yes, our personal relationships have really motivated us. We actually feel guilty when we miss a play! And the opportunity to see our friend Bevin [O'Gara, director of Becoming Cuba] directing a play is very personal for us — it's a powerful feeling to know that we can help our friend realize her artistic vision.
ANIK: It's a great privilege to be on the ground floor of a new, grassroots effort at an established cultural organization. For us to be able to have an impact on an institution like the Huntington is tremendously gratifying.
ALEX: Being donors and members of The Hunt gives us a stake in Boston and makes us more a part of the community. And, as we've grown closer to the Huntington, Boston has become a real home for us. The Huntington is one of our anchors. Seeing great performances, meeting others who share our interests, and going to restaurants after performances and talking about what we've seen — sharing these great experiences together has made us closer as a couple.
Members of The Hunt enjoy the Venus in Fur 35 Below party from a private lounge on the side of the stage.
THE HUNT: Any final thoughts?
ANIK: My personal goals are to help increase awareness of the Huntington and other arts organizations and that our commitment will motivate other young professionals to get involved.
SITA: I'd encourage anyone who is culturall curious to come to the Huntington and to see its great work. You'll feel like you're a part of a community, and I suspect that this will motivate others to get involved, just like it did for us.
RUMENA: Socially, intellectually, artistically — the Huntington engages all of our senses. Seeing a whole spectrum of work builds sort of an artistic history for us. Attending feels like a gift that I would like to share with other members of my generation.
ALEX: We're so proud to take a stake in the Huntington, and we would encourage everyone to join us.
The Huntington's 35 Below program is one of many initiatives to make theatre accessible for all, offering $25 tickets to any performance and hosting related pre- and post-show events for patrons aged 35 and under. This fall marked the launch of The Hunt, a special annual giving program for young donors. The Hunt's goal this season is to raise $10,000 to be the Scenic Design Production Sponsor for Becoming Cuba, and as of this posting, we're more than halfway there.