Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 Woodward Interns Spill the Beans!

September 25, 2012

The 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.

While on campus, interns work directly with senior staff and gain crucial on-the-job experience in a vibrant and innovative theater. Westport Country Playhouse offers internships in both production and theater administration. Applicants must have completed at least two years of college and be able to demonstrate a commitment to their chosen fields.   Learn more about the Woodward Internship Program online.

A few members of our 2012 Intern class share some thoughts about their summer:

Nathan Norcross
Directing Intern 

Originally from Kansas City, I trained at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts (BFA - Acting). It wasn't until after college that I transitioned from acting to coaching friends on their audition material to teaching acting to directing. Recently completing my first year in the MFA Directing program at Florida State University, I was looking for an opportunity to spend this summer learning hands on in the industry.

Though I've been fortunate to assist a number of times in my career, the opportunity to work here alongside those who have successfully provided artistic leadership for major regional theatres was the draw. Hoping to be an Artistic Director myself, this experience is proving insightful both IN and OUT of the rehearsal room.

Assistant Directing is a bit of a chameleon job in the theatre, shifting based on the needs of each director. I’m thrilled to be working with four distinct directors on four diverse plays, and grateful to be learning in conversation with them rather than simply in observation of them. Additionally, it's always useful to be in a rehearsal room with work in front of you - purely for the mental exercise of ascertaining the challenges of the work and brainstorming possible solutions.
It has been a pleasure supporting the work that we bring to the WCP stage. Though theatre is transitory at its core, I trust the relationships I've formed here at the Playhouse (with fellow interns as well as the directors) will continue to grow throughout my career.

Nik Walker & Jenny Latimer in Into the Woods, 2012
Photo by T. Charlres Erickson

Megan Watters
Scenic Painting Intern

Since graduating college at Emory University in Atlanta, I have had the opportunity to travel the country working different theatre jobs. From painting in Charlottesville, Virginia to taking on a design internship at PCPA in California, theatre has brought me coast to coast.

After having spent a year traveling, I knew I was ready to make my way to NYC – the perfect place for a scenic artist. However, I was under no allusions that transition to the Big Apple would be an easy one. I needed a stepping stone, and that is what led me to Westport Country Playhouse.

For logistical reasons, Westport was an ideal locale for a summer internship - only a short train ride to the city. Also, like other theatres in the tri-state area, WCP works with many New York City designers and directors, providing an excellent landscape for networking. However, once I did my research on WCP, I realized that there was so much more to this theatre, and it became my unequivocal first choice. I enjoy the emphasis put on education with both intern seminars and symposiums which provides a nurturing and academic workplace. I also revere the breadth of theatrical styles represented in the 2012 season. From Moliere to Sondheim to a brand new work, the artistic direction of this theatre is clear and dignified. Before I even got here I knew it would be the type of place I would be proud to write on my resume.

After having been at WCP for a full summer, I can assure you that my expectations were met and exceeded several times over. Not a day goes by that I do not learn something new about my profession or just about life, art, and culture from the brilliant and accessible staff members. In the presence of so many people that have truly helped to shape and support American theatre, I feel honored and lucky, but never intimidated. More than anything I feel like a member of the family, and as such, I feel tremendous support. At times, it is hard to be uprooted and live so far from my home, but at WCP I rarely feel any unease. Taking an internship at WCP has given me the confidence and the assurance that I needed before making the big move to the city. All I really have left to say, is thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Westport Country Playhouse, and New York - Here I come!

Maureen Anderman in The Year of Magical Thinking, 2012
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Lisa Kimball
Properties Intern 

I decided to accept an internship at the Playhouse because I have heard such great things about the work that is done here from so many different people.  I saw this internship as an opportunity to learn more about the field of technical theatre because the Playhouse does shows that are technically challenging.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first arrived but I was surprised at how close-knit everyone at the Playhouse is.  When we first got here, I am sure many of us were scared to meet the people we would be working with for the summer, but everyone was extremely welcoming; they even had a welcome to the Playhouse BBQ on our first day of work where we got to meet everyone.  And they were excited to see us! 

I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the technical theatre not only in my area of internship (props) but also in set building, electrics and many other areas.  I also got to learn more about the office side and what is takes to run a non-profit theatre.  I am excited that I have worked for the Playhouse and that I got to meet so many different people.  Each person I met had their own story and they were always willing to talk to me and offer advice.  The Playhouse is such a special place and I look forward to coming to see more productions in the future.

Nadia Bowers & Marc Kudisch in Tartuffe, 2012
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Casey Grambo
Arts Management/Finance Intern 

I am a recent graduate of Fairfield University with a degree in Theatre. I came to the Playhouse expecting to learn a lot. First, I expected that I was going to get a crash course in Finance, an area that I was not familiar with, and a further understanding of how a not-for-profit theatre budget is formed and executed. Second, I expected to be learning about how Arts Management functioned, because until this summer I had no prior experience.  

I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to be centrally placed in the office, and since every department has to deal with money, I also became a sort of information hub. I have come in contact, even if it is just by a sheet of paper, with nearly every person and thing that makes the work at the Playhouse possible. I was not only learning QuickBooks but also about Union regulations, the ebb and flow of donations, the cost of eight pounds of Mylar glitter, and much more. 

I am leaving Westport Country Playhouse a more experienced and well-rounded theatre maker. In addition to my front desk and accounts payable duties and learning experiences, I had the opportunity to dabble in event management and execution through working at Playhouse events headed by the development and marketing departments. Also, my Westport experience and theatre education was further enriched by the opportunity to prepare for and sit in on meetings with the Board of Directors. I have learned at these meetings how to the board functions as supporters of the Playhouse and the art form and the ways in which the staff effectively communicates and collaborates with the board. The intern seminars offered great insights into different aspects of the business, but I think the most important idea to take away from all of the paths of theatre life that we heard about, is that everyone starts somewhere and that opportunity is there for those who are interested in seizing it. Finally, the positive and passionate working environment at Westport has furthered my understanding of stewardship and how to cultivate a community through the positive treatment of patrons and co-workers. 

This summer has been a gift. The Playhouse is an outstanding example of passionate people working to create theatre that is meaningful to their community. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of this family and to partake in creating theatre worth talking about.

Paul Anthony Stewart, Alexis Molnar
& Bobby Steggert in Harbor, 2012
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Caroline Wilson
Wardrobe Intern 

Spending my summer at Westport Country Playhouse, I learned even more about the workings of a non-profit theater than I thought imaginable. As a Textile and Apparel Design major who aims to go into costume design, I had some theater experience in my lifetime but was looking to gain a lot more, which I certainly did. While at Westport, I learned many new things every single day. I not only gained a great deal of experience in the department of wardrobe from my informative and hard-working supervisor, Lisa Ficco, but also in the general area costume design from Designer Ilona Somogyi and her assistant Pat Van Horn, who Lisa and I assisted for the production of Tartuffe. Taking a character from a script to a sketch to a physical costume was a simply fascinating process for me to witness and be involved in that will come in so useful in my future as a costume designer. The most challenging part of the whole summer was definitely tech weekend for Tartuffe, where I had some of the longest but most exciting workdays of my life!  

I wasn’t expecting to gain so much knowledge about theater in general, but I learned so much by just being in the theater, walking through the hallways and office, and talking to the employees or other interns about various positions from production to development to directing. Before I began my internship at the Playhouse, I knew that the theater was non-profit. However, I didn’t realize quote how important the support of the donors, members or the town of Westport was. Their interest in the Playhouse’s rich history, their support of the upcoming productions there, and their love of theater in general is what keeps everything running.

Woodward Internship Program, class of 2012
Photo by Kat Gloor
Allison Collins
Development Intern 

I bopped around a ton as a kid, but my family finally settled down in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was a landmark year: I started middle school and I fell in love with theater. Through the education programs at Shakespeare & Company, I was able to immerse myself in theater, both as an actor and as an education artist. I headed off to Yale, where I earned my B.A. in Renaissance Studies while also being very active in the campus theater scene. When senior year came, I decided to apply to graduate schools for Humanities and apply to jobs as a theater teacher, and see what happened. I got the best of both worlds: I deferred my acceptance to NYU in order to take an apprenticeship at Hartford Stage. 

One of the major decisions we make as people committing to the world of theater is to accept the inevitable instability: jobs often come with short contracts and low salaries, and you have to move where the work is. I wanted to find a way to be in theater but still have a “normal” job with the possibility of (relative) stability.  

Most people enter an internship like this with concrete goals of what they want to learn and how they plan to build their resume. I, on the other hand, was trying on a department to see if it fit; what better way to do that than with a summer internship? That isn’t to say I’m not building my skill set – my newfound competence with the software Tessitura is one of the best things that could happen to my resume – but I’m also building a sense of myself and where I want to end up.  

I love theater, and it will always be a central part of my life. Working in development is a great opportunity to share that love with people who are likewise committed to making great theater happen. Whether it’s sending thank you notes or chatting at an event, the act of creating a community of theater lovers is palpable in everything our department does. I have met some truly wonderful people, both fellow staff and generous patrons, and I will finish this summer proud to have been a part of the wonderful work at Westport Country Playhouse.

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