Many hats: Malena Collum, Thingamajig box office manager

Photo courtesy Thingamajig Theatre Company
Malena Collom wears several hats with Thingamajig Theatre Company, in residence at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

By Bill Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW
If you’ve placed a call to order tickets for Thingamajig Theatre Company’s 2019 Broadway in the Mountains musical summer season — “Ring of Fire,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Who’s Tommy,” “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Alice in Wonderland” — then you’ve most likely spoken with Thingamajig’s box office manager, Malena Collom. (First name pronounced Ma-LEE-na.)
As she explained during a short break between shows at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, a box office manager for a professional theater company in a small town like Pagosa Springs is likely to wear a surprising number of theatrical hats.
“My current jobs are front-of-house manager, box office; occasional bartending; scenic run crew in ‘Mamma Mia’; videographer in ‘Tommy’ — which I learned in one 30-minute session with Stevie; I’m props manager for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’; I was one of the directors for the children’s play, ‘Aladdin KIDS’; I was assistant director for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ … and a bunch of other miscellaneous jobs,” she described.
She laughed. “I think I’ve learned a lot about how to run a theater, which is pretty cool — in case that opportunity ever arises in the future. I’ve learned a little about pretty much every aspect, and that’s great. I can now say that I’m no longer just an actor.”
Collom grew up in the small Texas town of Magnolia and is a recent graduate of Texas A&M at Corpus Christi, where she specialized in Shakespearean and dramatic acting.
But she had already begun prepping for an acting career as a junior in high school.
“In ninth grade, I decided to do both acting and swimming … and I found that I was more passionate about acting than I was about swimming,” she explained. “Acting was really the only thing that made me content.”
At a Houston-area audition event, where 41 colleges had sent representatives to select potential acting students, she said she was terrified. But she ended up getting call backs from 21 of the 41 schools. She arrived at Thingamajig this summer with a degree in hand — in acting and directing — but will be heading back to college at the end of the summer to work on an additional degree in graphic design.
The summer in Pagosa has been educational in its own right.
“It’s been hard work, but I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “And I’ve been able to make great connections with people, which is awesome, and I think it will help in the future … I’ve gotten close to a lot of people who I didn’t know before. I wasn’t expecting to get super close with anybody, so I think that’s going to make the leaving harder than I had imagined.
“I’ve learned a lot of technical skills, so I have a lot more to put on my resume.”
The experience of becoming a real family of repertory actors and technicians is more perhaps intense than usual at Thingamajig Theatre, because the theater founders — Executive Director Laura Moore and Artistic Director Tim Moore — constructed a huge house near Lake Pagosa: the Actors’ House.
“Almost all of the actors and technicians live together in the house,” she said. “I’m living in the ‘bunk’ with the girls … It’s a lot of fun. I was a little nervous about it at first, but everybody gets along really well. We hang out a lot, which is really cool. We’ve become a family; we’ve always got each other’s backs.
“It’s nice to come home to people who care about you and who want the best for you.”
The most surprising thing about Collom’s summer experience, she said, was “How small Pagosa is …”
“I thought, yeah, Colorado, any place that has a professional theater is going to be a pretty big city. Huge. When I arrived, I was so shocked; you guys don’t even have a Target!” She laughed. “So it was obvious this was a really small town …
“And one of the things that surprised me about the theater is how many tickets we sell, for being such a small town,” she said. “Every patron who comes to the theater, they come up to me and say, ‘Thank you so much for having this [theater] here, because it’s like we have a little getaway.’ It’s pretty incredible how supportive of the arts everyone here is.
“You don’t find that, often, in Texas. My high school and college were both ‘all about sports.’ So it’s nice to be in an environment where the public respects us for what we do. They see that we’re passionate about theater and that’s why we picked this job. We do it to change lives. …”
She laughed again. “Or else we’re certifiably insane. Probably some of both.”
Thingamajig Theatre Company is an award-winning professional 501(c)(3) nonprofit theater in residence within the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Its talented actors, directors and designers come from across the U.S. and around the world to produce musicals, comedies and dramas year-round. Their mission is to provide high-quality theater experiences at a low cost to our community, thereby making art accessible as well as providing a major economic driver for our tourist industry. They also provide youth, many of whom are recipients of scholarships, with low-cost, hands-on educational opportunities to see and participate in professional productions of important plays.
For more information, visit pagosacenter.org or call the box office at 731-7469. Collom will happily answer the call.

This story was posted on August 6, 2019.