This past Tuesday, Apr. 25 I had the distinct pleasure to meet with Lauren Koranda ‘23, a well-spoken, intelligent, creative, flexible and hard-working thespian who ventured into the sports entertainment world this spring. Koranda worked for the Philadelphia American Hockey League (AHL) team the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the past semester as their Game Presentation Intern. An unexpected opportunity that quickly became a “life-altering experience,” according to Koranda.
Before Koranda was a key member of the fan experience at the PPL Center, she was a kid with a dream. A dream that was borne from the high-energy performance of the Cheetah Girls. This experience ignited a lifetime of passion for big concerts. “I was so fortunate in my childhood that my family loved going to concerts and for big ones would travel across state lines to see people multiple times on the same tour. Having those experiences of seeing the same concert multiple times, it’s like seeing a theater production here multiple times, your eye gets more refined, the more times you see the same thing over and over again. I think that really hooked me. I was like, I want to know what is going on behind the scenes to make this happen.”
Koranda brought her passion for art into the work environment when she served as a marketing intern at the Barrington Stage Company where her boss, Christopher Castanho, remarked on her LinkedIn, “I could not give Lauren a HIGHER recommendation. She picks things up quickly, understands branding at a very high level, and takes initiative on all projects she is assigned.” While this wasn’t initially her dream job, Koranda knew the path to becoming the woman behind the curtain would be highly competitive. “The biggest thing that I did for myself in my time here was keep myself open to possibilities. Because without that, the things that I am proudest of and that were most fulfilling to me would have never happened if I had stayed on the very defined path that I thought I was supposed to be on, or that I saw other people on,” said Koranda.
An internship for the Phantoms first appears as a job in sports management, but Koranda’s vision saw the other side of PPL Center’s business strategy: event hosting. “It’s a big part of why I was drawn to an internship at the PPL Center, because it was a foot in the door that is pretty hard to come by when you’re a college student. Entry-level in big concert industry jobs are very hard to come by and I thought if I can put this on my resume and spin it the right way, it might catapult me to hopefully [be in] that world too.”
This flexibility has given Koranda a breadth of experiences within the Muhlenberg theater department; additionally, she is an R.J. Fellow and Writing Tutor. These experiences and accolades are demonstrations of the intelligence, creativity and communication skills that Koranda brings to the stage, the office, and now the ice. “I came to Muhlenberg to do theater, to be a director specifically. That’s what brought me here. And I’ve gotten to do so much of that. Since my first semester, I’ve gotten to assistant direct and associate direct and direct my own things and work on new plays, new musicals, classics, huge shows and small shows. I really do feel like in some ways, I’ve gotten to do it all.”
Besides her specific career plan in directing, Koranda has allowed herself to explore other roles. “I even got to stage manage, which was not something that was on my radar before college, but I got invested in it [because] it’s here.” Stage management gave Koranda a new understanding of the detail and logistics required for the production of high-quality entertainment. The same level of diligence that is expected by the Philadelphia Phantoms. She added, “Those were skills that I feel catapulted me into this internship as well. I’ve also gotten to work in the theater department’s marketing office, which was this huge box I wanted to check,” said Koranda.
Koranda originally applied as the video production intern but the hours conflicted with her ambitious schedule. Ron Gaita, the Senior Director of Game Presentation and Creative Design for the Phantoms saw Koranda’s skillset and hours as a great fit for the Game Presentation Intern. “All of the off-ice games with the fans, or things that go up on the video board, or promotional things from local business sponsors that are in the game that helped create the environment of entertainment are so essential to especially the AHL, or any minor league team,” explained Koranda. “There are unfortunately not enough diehard hockey fans in the Lehigh Valley to fill an 8500-seat arena for 36 home games this season. So, you need to have the full fan experience for people that gets them coming back for more, even if they don’t know hockey. If you don’t care about hockey, even if the team is not playing well you need something that gets people coming back.”
Sports entertainment was a foreign idea to Koranda, she entered the position with her theater skillset and a lifelong passion for the energy that is brought into concert venues. She describes her first day on the job saying, “[I] felt like I was kind of thrown into the fire and [needed] to prove myself in a situation where the person [was supposed] to be there to interview players on media day couldn’t be there. And so I did it. And it was literally my very first day and [I had] that opportunity to prove that I was capable and competent. It sent me on a good path where they were willing to trust me with more and more things and random things here and there.”
A key to the experience of fans in the PPL center is the music that is pumped through the jumbotron, “And my boss, Ron is like a killer at DJ-ing every game.” So, when Koranda wanted to play a new song, the pressure was on. A theater kid at heart, she was inspired by “The Phantom of The Opera,” which sparked a search for a heavy metal cover of the hit Broadway musical. Gaita loved the creativity and the song became the new power-play song. “Hopefully, they keep it and I’ll come back and I’ll hear it for years and years,” said Koranda.
Besides the incredible journey that has been her internship, Koranda wishes that her peers could learn from her experience as a theatre lover in a sports environment, so that they may dispel any previously ingrained stereotypes. “I think the biggest thing that I did for myself was I always prioritize and lead with respect, I think that [a] lack of consideration is ultimately a lack of respect, and having that respect, having consideration could do a lot on this campus.”
Not only did Koranda leave an indelible mark on the fan’s experience by bringing together her life passions, but she will continue to shine as a beacon of Muhlenberg’s excellence, as she has realized the dogma of a liberal education. Following her graduation this May, Koranda has been offered a position at the Wells Fargo Center working for the Flyers and living out her dream of helping produce concerts. “Some of my favorite concerts I’ve seen have been at the Fargo Center for major artists that mean the world to me and having those memories and now knowing that I’m going to be making them for the future me out there somewhere, it’s overwhelmingly amazing,” said Koranda.
Very compelling article.