Living in Pismo Beach – Connie O’Henley

Living in Pismo Beach, where we connect you with some of our favorite people who live and work on the Central Coast. Those community and business leaders who make living on the Coast such a unique and diverse experience.

Episode #1

Connie O’Henley
Executive Director of the Clark Center for Performing Arts

Connie King O’Henley from the Clark Center for the Performing Arts joins Ashlea Foster Boyer, Shannon Bowdey & Jordan Hamm on Living In Pismo Beach.

Ashlea Boyer:

Hey guys.

Jordan Hamm:

Hey.

Ashlea Boyer:

Hey, how’s the second week of the heat wave treating you?

Shannon Bowdey:

So hot. Just so hot. Just got back from showing property to Pescadero and I am so hot. So hot.

Ashlea Boyer:

Jordan, weren’t you there yesterday in North County?

Jordan Hamm:

Yep, went to Paso, it was super dusty and windy and hot. So that was fun, but beautiful homes.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yeah, definitely, gorgeous area. [crosstalk 00:01:01].

Jordan Hamm:

I know. Yeah. Came home to sprinklers all over the trampoline and just water all over the yard. It was so much fun. Boys are very energetic.

Ashlea Boyer:

Well, I think I promised Holly that we would get out Jack’s old wading pool and let her take a swim in it. We’ll see how she likes that later today, but I made Michael come up with a dinner that required zero indoor cooking today. So we’re looking forward to having some steak from Arroyo Grande Meat Company.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh, yum, delish.

Jordan Hamm:

Wish I could come to your house.

Ashlea Boyer:

I know, right? If you guys didn’t stop by CalFresh lately, they have corn three, no four ears for 98 cents.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh, wow.

Jordan Hamm:

Wow.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yeah. Okay. Well, I’ll give a little bit of intro about me. My name is Ashlea Boyer and I have two of my favorite people joining me, Shannon Bowdey and Jordan Hamm. Hey guys, today we are excited to have Connie O’Henley join us from The Clark Center.

Ashlea Boyer:

Connie came to the central coast from Northern California in the 80s to go to Cal Poly, sorry Connie about uncovering your age, but she’s due to raise a family and has led several nonprofit organizations locally. She’s currently in her 12th year, I think as executive director for The Clark Center for the Performing Arts in South County.

Jordan Hamm:

And she has just been a huge attribute to her community. She started at YMCA and has also worked at the Central Coast Salmon Enhancement. And she’s now at The Clark Center as the executive director. So she’s had an amazing career here and has just contributed so much to our community.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yes. And I first met Connie when I first joined the Pismo Beach-Five Cities Rotary Club, and I was blessed with having her as my mentor and she’s been a great mentor and now friend and I just feel very fortunate about having Connie as a friend.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yay. So let’s bring her on in. Hey Connie.

Shannon Bowdey:

Connie!

Ashlea Boyer:

Hey, there she is. Oh, look what she’s got behind her. Yay. Well, are you staying cool? You’re cool in the theater. We were there yesterday and it’s nice and cool on hot days. So that’s a good place to be.

Connie O’Henley:

It is a very climate controlled building that’s for sure.

Ashlea Boyer:

That’s awesome. So our first question, just to give viewers a little bit of a background on the theater, if they’re not familiar, how it operates as a nonprofit and who it’s meant to serve, who it serves on a regular basis.

Connie O’Henley:

Great, we are a nonprofit organization. We work hand in hand with the Lucia Mar Unified School District that owns the building, but we actually manage it on a day to day basis. So we’re responsible for all of the contracting, all of the booking of activities, all of the tech support, and then all of the fundraising that goes along to take care of this beautiful facility for all of our community. Last year, we have a little over 370 rental days. Everything from talent shows to professional touring shows to dance recitals to business symposiums. So it’s a really busy space that the community uses for all kinds of things.

Ashlea Boyer:

That’s awesome. Amazing.

Jordan Hamm:

That’s great. So, Connie, what has been your biggest challenge since this shelter at home, mandate that we’re having right now?

Connie O’Henley:

Well, the first big challenge is March through June are our busiest months. About two thirds of our activity happens within a three month period. And so we’ve canceled over a hundred events. And so just the communication. How do you communicate with 1,000 different patrons on $100,000 worth of tickets that they’re holding and what do they want to do with their tickets? Do they want to hold on to them because we’re going to postpone and do concerts later, do they want to use them as a gift certificate and then that whole communication piece, as well as trying to help our renters navigate it. We’re getting phone calls even now. Well, should I cancel my show in September? Should I hold it, when should we do this? And we just don’t know.

Connie O’Henley:

So that continues to be the biggest challenge is the unknown of what’s happening now that we’re over that bump of handling all the ticket people. This also is our busiest time for planning. This is the time of year that we’re booking all of our season for next year. We’re securing all of our sponsors, we’re recruiting new members and donors for next year. And so how do you do that in that climate and learning what we need to do. What next season is going to look like? When’s it going to start? What kind of shows all of that. So that’s the biggest challenge now, once we got through that initial shock of how do we let all these people know and communicate with all these people? Now, how do we move forward?

Shannon Bowdey:

Yeah. So Connie, I know you work with a lot of artists and they tend to march to the beat of their own drum. What is the most interesting request that you can think of that an artist has ever requested that has come to The Clark Center?

Connie O’Henley:

Most interesting. Most of them are the really odd food choices they have, everything from a very specific granola bar or a juice drink. And we have to go on a hunt, one show needed, Wonder Bread.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh wow.

Connie O’Henley:

Now, we found out that Wonder Bread is no longer sold in California.

Ashlea Boyer:

What did you do?

Connie O’Henley:

We didn’t have it, though fortunately, we started looking because all of us were like, well, that’s weird, I don’t remember ever seeing it in the stores here. And so we were able to get them to buy a loaf somewhere else and just bring the packaging with them that they needed it for a prop.

Ashlea Boyer:

Oh, funny.

Connie O’Henley:

[crosstalk 00:07:30] Has to be pink flowers, not red flowers on the stage and those kinds of things. What we do find really interesting is sometimes the writer looks very, let’s say pretentious, very specific, lots of different needs. And when the artist actually gets there, they’re like, Oh no, we didn’t need that, we don’t need that. That’s fine. [crosstalk 00:08:01]

Ashlea Boyer:

I remember there was one a while back that, because I’m on the board and so I hear some of the stories and wasn’t there one that said he confessed to you that the only reason he had those details was so that he made sure you read the entire contract or something like that? So that you got down deep enough into the contract?

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh yeah. [crosstalk 00:08:24] The paragraph at the bottom, it says, just kidding, just making sure you’re reading it. There’s a group of lady comedians that we’ve had that have a hilarious one. Every other paragraph at the end of it says, “And chocolate would be nice too.” So we’ve had some fun ones.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh that’s funny. Oh wow. So, because artists are such interesting people and everything without mentioning any names, of course. What is your most memorable experience with an artist, good and bad?

Connie O’Henley:

Well, good is easy. Any time you get invited into a tour bus with one of your most favorite country music stars to drink tequila, it’s a good time.

Shannon Bowdey:

Wow, lucky girl.

Connie O’Henley:

So, that’s always fun. Not so fun is finding out that when your artist gets here after a very challenging communication, getting them there, that they have no voice, that they have laryngitis, and they may not be able to sing to the full house you have sold. And we’re not really sure how that’s going to happen.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh my gosh. That’s crazy.

Connie O’Henley:

That was probably the most challenging one of the 12 years here.

Jordan Hamm:

Wow. So, Connie, what do you think the future is going to look like now that we’re talking about just phase reopening of things? Do you have an idea yet as what that’s going to look like?

Connie O’Henley:

Well, there’s certainly a lot of communication, a lot of ideas, a lot of thought going into that, I’m actually part of a round table of the art community leaders in our art community, in San Luis Obispo County, different venues, different performing groups.

Connie O’Henley:

And one thing that we’re working together on is a survey that we’re going to send out to all of our patrons at all of the performing arts and live arts, live entertainment venues, and the County is what are patrons going to be most comfortable with. So that’s going to be a piece of it too, because it’s two fold one it’s going to be, what is the County, the state, the CDC, going to allow us to do and when? What’s capacity going to look like? What’s social distancing going to look like? What’s personal protection equipment going to look like? What’s going to be required? So that’s one hoop to jump through and then what’s going to make people comfortable to come back because we want people comfortable coming back as well. And so what does that look like?

Connie O’Henley:

So fortunately as we keep talking about the silver lining in all of this, it’s really brought together a fabulous group of people locally, and then also statewide and nationally that are talking about this altogether.

Jordan Hamm:

Oh, that was great. So you have some support.

Connie O’Henley:

There’s not a lack of information out there.

Ashlea Boyer:

There is certainly a lot to comb through. Especially what phase you might be in the phase reopening because there’s a lot of gray area between what constitutes phase three and phase four. But yeah, I think it’s all about comfort level too, I agree.

Connie O’Henley:

Well, and we’re different. We have 600 seats, so does that put us in to the phase three or are they just going to leave everybody who happens to be a theater in phase four? So there’s questions that still haven’t been answered. And I think that there just isn’t an answer yet. We’re continuing to watch that, but certainly planning for the future, really excited about the future and how we can come back stronger.

Connie O’Henley:

I’ve challenged all of our staff to take this unscheduled downtime and really look at our systems, our facility, our operations, and how can we make our organization better moving forward, better communicating with our patrons, offering services. One of the things that, I was reading an article this morning about one theater down South, they’re actually looking at the possibility of doing live streaming at the same time. So they can charge a live streaming fee for the patrons that don’t want to come in and still open the theater for those that do want to come in and do some sort of a combination of that. So it’s interesting how creative people are getting, which is fun and to hear all these different ideas instead of just the doomsday stuff.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yeah, that’s good.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yeah. In our community, that streaming idea is interesting. Even in our community for the people, I was just thinking we have an older couple that had been having challenges, making it to all of our shows, but loved to come and see the shows. And if we can provide that to folks like that in the future, regardless of the health risks involved, that would be a neat add on that we pivot and learn something new. Well thank you so much for coming on and being part of our show and I just want to welcome you to our first show. So thanks for being our first guest and we look forward-

Connie O’Henley:

Thank you for inviting me!

Ashlea Boyer:

We look forward to being in the theater with you and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yeah. Thank you, Connie.

Connie O’Henley:

Thank you.

Ashlea Boyer:

Thank you so much for tuning into our show and stay tuned next week when we’ll have a new guest on and I’m Ashley Boyer.

Jordan Hamm:

I’m Jordan Hamm.

Shannon Bowdey:

And I’m Shannon Bowdey…

Shannon Bowdey, Jordan Hamm & Ashlea Boyer:

with the Pismo Beach Homes team.

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