Katherine Lawlor, GALA Hispanic Theatre

For the past 2 months I have been volunteering as an usher at the GALA Hispanic
Theatre in Columbia Heights, Washington D.C. through American University’s Community Service Learning Program (CSLP). I knew that after completion of 40 hours of service I would receive an extra credit added on to my Spanish class but I did not realize the many other more valuable benefits I would receive.

As an environmental science major, I recognized early on the value of knowing a second
language, particularly Spanish, so I work and do research with and in other countries and I decided to pursue a Spanish language minor. Once I learned about CSLP, I saw an opportunity to serve the local Latin American community and improve my Spanish speaking ability. I was right, since working at GALA and actively trying to speak in only Spanish, I have noticed much greater fluency and confidence in my Spanish speaking.

As an usher, I arrive in my black professional clothing ready to greet the guests and
hand out programs. That much I expected, but I was surprised how much of my job is really engaging with the guests, talking with them (mostly in Spanish), and making them feel welcome. I was also happily surprised to learn that the ushers get to watch the shows as well so I have significantly increased my knowledge of Hispanic theater and films. Once most people have arrived I help them find their seats in the theater and take my place in the back. Although part of my job is monitoring the audience- and occasionally asking people to not take photos or use their phones during the performance- I still get to enjoy the film with the audience. During intermission and afterwards as well, guest love to speak with me and others about the show and progress of the plot. I help clean up the theater then I head home with the other volunteers. That is an average 4 hours of volunteer service at the GALA and I love it. Although my job is simple, it is also integral to the production of a show or film.

I will continue to volunteer at the GALA until the completion of my Community Service Learning Program and I hope afterwards as well just for fun. I love helping theater arts as well as the Latin American community in DC. I have made close friends with some other regular volunteers as well as my supervisor that I know will last longer than my assigned 40 hours. Overall, I am happy leaving the theatre every weekend with the knowledge that I had helped the production, practiced my Spanish, and got to know the staff and guest better.


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