Thoughts from 2012 Alum Luke Virstis on Working as an Agent at William Morris Endeavor

Luke Virstis

Luke Virstis (2012 alum) shares some insight on what it's like working at one of the most respected theatrical agencies, William Morris Endeavor (WME), and how Penn State has influenced the person he is today.

Catch us up on life post-graduation: 

Immediately after graduating I moved to NYC to act. I had a few gigs here and there, but was just feeling unfulfilled overall. At that time one of my many survival jobs was working in the box office at Second Stage, one of NYC’s largest nonprofit Off-Broadway (and now Broadway) theatres. During their run of Little Miss Sunshine they needed a new assistant box office manager and offered the job to me. I felt like it was the right place and right time so I accepted the position and shifted my focus to theatre administration. It encouraged me knowing that I was contributing to making theatre happen every day and I quickly realized I had a passion for working on the business side. I worked my way up to box office manager and oversaw ticketing and subscriptions for two seasons at Second Stage.   

 

When/how did you join the WME team? 

I joined WME in March of this year (2016) after three rounds of interviews.

 

What led you to start working at an agency? 

I knew I didn’t want to work in box office and customer service forever, but wasn’t sure where to go next. One of my mentors at Second Stage suggested I look into working for an agency because the work exposes you to all areas of the entertainment industry. That’s especially true at WME, who not only represents all types of different artists, but has recently formed its own production branch and continues to grow in new ways every day. 

 

What do you think is the biggest misconception about agents/agencies? 

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that all agencies are the same. They’re not. Agencies come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, WME has over 6,000 employees and our reach is global, but it’s not right for everyone. A growing artist is often going to get more out of a smaller agency, but everyone’s journey is different. 

 

Biggest lesson this job has taught you:

Treat every single person with respect. You never know when an intern might be the next big executive.

 

Now being on the other side of things, what advice would you give to theatre professionals who want to build a career? 

I think you have to be invested 110 percent on either side. Those building a career on the creative side should constantly educate themselves. This shouldn't be limited to taking classes, but also seeing shows, movies, watching TV, and reading everything. Also educate yourself about the business because in the end, you're your best advocate.

 

How has your time at Penn State influenced the person you are today? 

I still firmly believe that my time at Penn State was spent with some of the kindest, most dedicated, and genuine people I’ve ever met. Not only did I get amazing training at an outstanding university, but Penn State taught me what it means to be a good person in this business. I’ve strived to create a community in NYC based on those qualities because now, more than ever, it’s not just about getting ahead, but building meaningful relationships.

 

What's the best/worst job you've ever had? 

Can it be the same job? The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I worked as an electrician’s assistant and aided in the construction of a local Starbucks and Rite Aid. Talk about worst job ever—I had no idea what I was doing and grunt work galore. It was also the best job ever because it instilled a strong work ethic in me and even to this day I appreciate knowing that even though I could do it again, I don’t have to.

 

Something you've always wanted to do/learn: 

Something I’ve always wanted to do I actually recently checked off my bucket list. I joined a bird watching group! I’ve always been interested in birds, but finally went for it this past fall and spent Thursday mornings identifying birds with other bird nerds in Central Park. Also, I’d love to learn to play guitar.   

 

Do you have a dream creative project if you were given $1 billion and all the resources you wanted? 

I can’t even fathom having $1 million let alone $1 billion, but if I did I’d love to open my own theatre that provided funding, resources, and opportunity to all sorts of diverse theatre artists. Many theatres already do this, but $1 billion would mean endless prospects. While the venture wouldn’t be final production-focused, I’d also like to allow free access to audiences that don’t have the privilege to see live theatre. 

 

Do you have an idea of what is calling to you next? 

I’ve only been at WME a short time, so it’s hard to say exactly what I’d like to do next. I’m enjoying my time here and am learning so much every day. Other areas that have piqued my interest are producing and general management, but time will tell. 

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