Upon the close of spring semester of my junior year at Chapman University, I scrambled to find an internship that not only interested me, but would push me toward a career path I wanted to follow. This balance of interest, stability, and availability in a career is a struggle I share with many of my fellow students. What field? What career path? Will I enjoy it? Will it challenge me?
I had declared Theatre Studies as my second major at the end of my sophomore year, and I was hoping to find an internship that involved the theatre. Luckily, in late spring of 2017, a classmate told me that there was an Assistant Stage Manager internship position available at the Laguna Playhouse on their upcoming production of Hairspray. I quickly applied. As I read the requirements of the position, I noticed that the show would require 40 hours of work each week for the first 3 weeks of rehearsal before the show started, but my blood was up. I knew I would be putting in more work than I needed to, but I also knew that 1) I needed an internship and 2) this internship could give me a wonderful view of a profession I was considering for the future. Within 10 days, I was hired by an east coast production company as the Assistant Stage Manager for Hairspray under the guidance of Production Stage Manager, Kelsey Gerdon.
During rehearsals, I was in charge of doing the rehearsal report, which meant that I was in charge of documenting everything that took place: what time rehearsal started, what song we were working on/for how long, when a break was taking place, etc. I exceeded my ASM responsibilities by keeping my own prompt copy of the blocking (or actor movement on stage) for scenes as well as taking music notes (where cuts needed to be made in the music). During rehearsal, I would continuously work on maintaining a detailed list of the props we already had and the props we needed as well as continuously update any other stage management paperwork. When the show finally started: I was in charge of writing the performance report as well as monitoring the stage right wing, which included responsibilities such as: opening and closing the main curtain, flying The Corny Collins Show sign on and off stage, presetting props or set pieces, helping with quick changes, and informing Kelsey if any injuries or issues came up within the cast. Having all of these responsibilities taught me a lot about what it takes to be a good stage manager as well as the importance of communicating with your team.
This internship also taught me the importance and value of effective communication across all teams: the Production team, the Stage Management team, and the Cast. Many problems we faced in this production were a result of poor communication. Being a Communication Studies major, I have learned to be more observant and analytical when a communication breakdown occurs. This was essential in my role at the Laguna Playhouse.
In the entertainment industry, it is imperative to build connections and relationships with people for future jobs and opportunities, and this show taught me the importance of staying connected, the importance of always putting my best foot forward, being patient, and never being afraid to ask a question. Looking back on all of it now as we are in our final week of Hairspray here at the Laguna Playhouse, I am thankful that Chapman required me to have an internship because (if I’m being honest) there is no way I would have applied for this job in the first place. This production of Hairspray has probably been the hardest production I have ever been a part of as my patience was tested, my work was challenged, and my actions were questioned. But, it has also been the most rewarding experience as it taught me a great deal about a future career, the expectations of this type of position, and, most importantly, a great deal about the person I am and the person I want to become.