Up Close: Profile of the Manager of Stage Shows & Character Experience at Hersheypark
Jen Paul started her journey with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) in 1990, originally hired as a cashier at the front gate of Hersheypark. Jen has been a part of the HE&R team for quite some time, and with her years of experience in the entertainment industry and her love for great talent, she has been able to continue to grow within the company. Today Jen is the Manager of Stage Shows and Character Experience at Hersheypark. Jen is very busy supporting the Entertainment department in any way that she can, but we were still able to sneak in an interview to find out even more about her experiences, accomplishments, and much more.
Do you have a passion for talent and entertainment? Do you need a part-time job? Come out and join us at our Hersheypark Job Fair on Tuesday, January 9 from 3 to 7 PM at Giant Center. Applicants have the opportunity to apply, interview, and be hired on the spot! If you’re interested we encourage you to apply online in advance to save time and secure an interview slot here.
Q) Tell us about your career. Where did you go to school? What was your career path prior to joining Hershey?
A) I am the Manager of Stage Shows and Character Experience at Hersheypark. I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Education and a minor in Sociology. I worked part time in the Admissions Department at the front gate of Hersheypark from 1990 – 1998. I then transferred to the Entertainment Department and went full time in 1999. When I graduated from college, I worked full time at Milton Hershey School as a houseparent. I was in a pilot program student home where we had sixteen girls from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and I worked daily with a houseparent couple. Working at the school allowed me to not only gain an inside understanding of everything the Hersheys’ were about, but it also allowed me to continue to work at Hersheypark during the summer and throughout the school year.
Q) Walk us through your career so far at Hershey.
A) I graduated from Middletown Area High School in 1989 and began working at Hersheypark in May of 1990. I was a cashier at the front gate. I had to wear a uniform that consisted of a flowered peach tab collar button up shirt and rust colored culottes…very stylish for a seventeen year old, and much different from the different colored polo shirts our teams wear today! I believe the gate price was $16.95 for a regular admission and everyone paid mostly in cash. I worked all through college (and then some) with Admissions (now known as Guest Services) and moved through the ranks until I became the coveted “blue tag” supervisor!
In 1999, I applied, interviewed, and was awarded the Entertainment Administrative Assistant position. In Entertainment, I have held various positions, mostly being responsible for the resident shows, booking the smaller concerts inside the Park on May and September weekends, and anything costume character related. Currently I oversee the character program, the resident stage shows, the smaller concerts that happen inside the Park, and I assist with just about everything we do in Entertainment (costuming shows, Hersheypark In The Dark, Treatville decorating, Breakfast entertainment, etc.). There is never a dull moment in Entertainment.
Q) Why did you choose to work for Hershey?
A) I grew up in and around Hershey. I respect the Hersheys’ (Milton and Catherine) story and I admire their philanthropy. I am proud that the company I work for contributes directly to the school that the Hersheys’ founded. I am passionate about living the Hersheys’ legacy and paying their kindness and generosity forward.
"I am proud that the company I work for contributes directly to the school that the Hersheys’ founded. I am passionate about living the Hersheys’ legacy and paying their kindness and generosity forward."
Q) What's your biggest accomplishment since joining the Hershey team?
A) The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is a highly reputable organization known throughout our industry and I have the pleasure of serving on the Entertainment Committee, this year and the next two years! It is quite an honor to be recognized by your peers across the industry, who nominate you for one of ten seats. I absolutely enjoy networking with people from across the industry, sharing stories, ideas, and expertise with them!
Q) What's your favorite show at Hersheypark?
A) I couldn’t possibly have a favorite show! I love them all for different reasons! Mostly it is the personalities of the people that make the shows happen! The Dance, Dance, Dance show has always had some of the most talented dancers I have ever seen! The Hersheypark Band has the most talented and engaging musicians that I have ever met! The Soda Pops play all of the music I love to hear! Character Commotion combines all of the talents of several groups together with the Product Characters and makes for a really fun time! The harmonies of the Choc a fellas make for beautiful music! The EdZOOcation team keeps me smiling! The precision of the Cocoa Rhythm Factory not only sound awesome but they are so much fun to watch! The animals in the Aqua Theatre are so loving that they melt my heart!
Q) What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A) When we are rehearsing our shows, those are very long weeks, but once they open it is a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. What is even better is when our cast and crew members make it on Broadway, Vegas, or in television, film, or on tour with artists or shows! I love knowing that their hard work has paid off for them and it all started when they were in college working a summer job in HERSHEYPARK!! I am so proud of them and privileged to know that I had a little part in their successes.
Q) What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the entertainment industry?
A) Each year, I have the privilege of speaking with many middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students about my career. There are a lot of young people that are very interested in the various aspects of my job, mostly the booking side, but they want to know all about my work here at Hersheypark. I think the one thing to remember about working in this industry is that this not a Monday through Friday 9-5 job…we work when there is work, with people in different time zones and sometimes through the night. It is a lot of organization and preparation, but the end result is so worth all of the time and effort that goes into it!
Q) What's the best perk of your job?
A) The best perk of my job is that no two days are ever the same! I travel to New York City several times a year to workshop our shows. I travel to theatre conferences every year to hire the people that have the best personalities and are also talented. I also have met a LOT of people through this job. Celebrities, musicians, co-workers, and industry professionals…I am still close with most of them, you can build great relationships with people by working in this industry.
Q) What does a typical day consist of?
A) There really aren’t any typical days for me. Every day is different. Over the summer, I pretty much handle personnel issues and ensure that we are staffed and ready to entertain our guests each day! Right now, I am speaking with agents that represent bands that would like to play here…there are SOOOOO many out there, and I only have dates for 16 of them.
I am also getting ready to start traveling to theatre conferences to hire people for next year’s shows. We are working on our shows for 2018 (themes, number of performers, dressing rooms, etc.) while maintaining the Christmas show that is currently running in the Park. In addition, we’re hiring and scheduling the characters as well as the hosts right now, while working on our hiring plan for 2018.
Q) Tell us something folks might not know about you.
A) My parents actually met at a Hershey Bears game. My Mom is from Hershey and my Dad is from Middletown…I grew up in Middletown with my two sisters.
I now live in my Grandparents’ home on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey and I absolutely love it when people see my address and ask questions…like, “is there really a Chocolate Avenue in Hershey?” Or “does it always smell like chocolate in Hershey?”
I enjoy Penn State Football, Philadelphia Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles…I am a proud Aunt to a one year old niece and a three year old nephew…oh wait, everyone knows that about me…