Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The balance of our 2011 Woodward Interns share their experiences this summer

Westport Country Playhouse is home to one of the nation’s preeminent theater internship programs. The training of emerging professionals in the theater has formed a vital part of our mission since 1946. Graduates of our program include Stephen Sondheim and Mary Rodgers Guettel, among many others.

While on campus, interns work directly with senior staff and gain crucial on-the-job experience in a vibrant and innovative theater. Over the past few weeks, our 2011 Woodward Interns have shared a little bit about their experience at the Playhouse this summer.  We're sad to see them go!

Bryan Hunt

I’m originally from Littleton, Colorado but headed south to Southern Methodist University to pursue a degree in theatre.  Two years ago I graduated with a BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in directing.  After college I assisted several directors at the Dallas Theatre Center, Goodman Theatre and the Great River Shakespeare Festival where I also worked as the Education Director.  When I heard in early February about the directing internship at the Westport Playhouse I jumped at the opportunity to apply.  I met David Kennedy a few times while I was a student in Dallas and was a great admirer of his work, and knew of Mark’s distinguished career as a theatre and opera director, so an opportunity to work along side both of them as well as Nicholas Martin would be an incredible opportunity. 

Assisting these three directors on all five shows this season has been everything I was hoping and more.  I was encouraged by all three of them to share my opinions about rehearsals and often my notes would be given to the actors.  This was also the first chance I’ve had to be involved with a project where the playwright was living and in the rehearsal hall.  During Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Terrence McNally was in the room and offered an enormous amount of encouragement and also notes.  His plays employ a very specific style, which we named “McNally speak,” that the actors and Mark had to wrap their minds around.  It was a great experience for me to observe Mark working with Terrence to honor the original vision of the play as well as fully realize this specific production.  I also had the opportunity to direct a reading of a new play in the on-site rehearsal space. 

This theatre truly breeds great art and great artists.  When I arrived in Westport in March, I was greeted with open arms and found a real sense of community at the Playhouse.  Something I’ve gleaned from my time here is that to run a successful theatre company, the staff and artists need to work together as a family. It has been an honor and a privilege to spend my time here the past 5 months and I look forward to my last six weeks here working on Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Amy Pen

My name is Amy Pen and I am a native Houstonian who migrated to Northern Texas to attend the University of Dallas. Last May I received my BA in Drama and ventured up to Connecticut to work with the stage management team for the Playhouse’s production of The Circle. I knew I had to come here when I read about the great artists who worked here and the proximity to New York City without actually having to live there.
Currently I am working on the stage management team for Suddenly Last Summer in addition to helping out with wardrobe (which is another interest of mine!). My duties include getting to the theater early to make sure the stage, costumes and actors are ready to go for that day’s performance(s).
So far I have learned so much, and not just about stage management. The most rewarding things I have been learning about are how other departments work and how I as a stage manager can help them and how we can work together. Theater is such a collaborative artform!
I am so excited to be staying on as an intern for the final show of the season, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and I hope that by the end of my internship here I will be a better stage manager by knowing more about the field and more about communication. But most importantly, I hope to continue to share my love of theater with as many people as I can reach!

Charles Minshall

My name is Charles Minshall and I attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. I came to the Westport Country Playhouse for an opportunity to better the quality of my work and as the general production intern, I have had plenty of opportunities to do just that.
In my position, I have been able to work across most of the spectrum of theater production with professionals from various areas. I am currently helping build the set for the upcoming production during the day and running the current production at night. Building the sets has been an adventure. Be it helping construct a giant rusty steel box or routing out floor boards for a forced perspective raked deck, there is always something interesting to work on.  But that's not the only way to have fun around here, working with the electricians has been equally as fun.  Last week I was in a chair hanging 15 feet in the air aiming the lights through the set's ceiling. As fun as all that is, the best part of this internship is working with experienced professionals who are constantly helping me to be more accurate and efficient with my work.
Overall, I hope I will be a better carpenter and stage hand when I leave the Playhouse.  At the very least, I will return to WWU with a revived love for theater and after I finish my last two years of school, I will take what I learned at the Playhouse and use it throughout my career as a stagehand and designer.

Stephanie Wesdock

After hearing about the Playhouse’s phenomenal internship program from a classmate who had participated in it last summer, I felt very confident that I’d made the right decision about coming to Westport after graduating this May from the University of Miami.  The idea of being close to NYC and working in such a well-respected and historical theatre appealed to me, and my previous experience working in company management was so enjoyable that I thought I’d give it another shot! 

I’ve learned many new things this summer, including how to calculate payroll for the actors, crew and scene shop, as well as how to fill out the weekly reports required by the various unions.  I’ve learned what patience and knowledge it takes to edit a website by updating the chronology of plays and hoping I didn’t click any of the wrong icons!  By simply hanging out in the production office and listening in to the many conversations that occur, I’ve gained an enormous amount of insight into what it takes to put on a production at this theater. 

I came to the Playhouse hoping to further my knowledge in any way possible so that when I leave here, I am that much closer to understanding what it takes to become a professional in this business.  I find it fascinating and very helpful when I get to hear about how the budgets for each production are formed, what the pay scales are for actors, stage managers, crew, or day labor, what logistics are involved with setting up different events or figuring out how many Equity vs. non-Equity cast members we can hire based on projected transportation and hospitality costs. 

Following Bruce (the Playhouse’s esteemed Company Manager) around all summer has taught me that it’s the little things that make this theatre feel so welcoming.  Whether it’s something small like running to CVS to get contact solution for an actor or something big like throwing a margarita night or a staff cookout, Bruce has showed me how to make a work environment enjoyable by keeping morale high.  During my time here, I’ve talked with and listened to many theatre professionals through intern seminars and on many trips to and from the train station.  I’m so grateful for all of the invaluable advice, lessons, and tricks of the trade that everyone has been willing to share with me this summer.  

Photos by Kathleen O'Rourke

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