Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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My last week at CST

Friday, August 15, 2014 2:32 pm

I wrapped up my internship this week. I was truly really sad to leave. It became clear to me this morning, as I didn’t head in to work, that there was never a morning I dreaded work or didn’t want to go in. I looked forward to work every day. Not many people can say that and I feel very lucky to have felt that way about my summer internship. At the end of the day, I’m not sure casting is my chosen career path. However, if I ever open my own theatre, the skills and lessons I learned at Chicago Shakespeare will aid me immensely. Most small theatres do not have in-house casting departments; it is a luxury for the larger houses. If I were to open a theatre, my partners and I would have to do everything. My knowledge of how to organize and run a casting session would help us in running a professional company. I am also leaving with a much larger sense of who the actors are in this city, as well as what theatres are doing what kind of work here. Before I started working here, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to move to New York City or come to Chicago after graduation. At the end of this summer, I am pretty confident I will come back to Chicago. It seems silly to not come back here and make use of the connections I have made and the knowledge of the theatre landscape here that I have gained.

I am so grateful to have worked with and met such incredible people at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. They welcomed me as part of the team for the summer and I can’t imagine having worked anywhere else. I saw twenty-two plays this summer, for free. I am so thankful for the ability to have done this internship!

Theatre in Chicago

Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:47 am

I’m so excited about the theatre happening in this city. I am anxious to graduate so I can move back here and be a part of it all. The artists here are so generous and the community, so welcoming. In my office, I have felt that my opinions and suggestions were valid from day one. Theatre has also made this big city shrink considerably. I pass people I know on the street, in the el, or at shows, at least two times a week. The longer I’ve been here, the more frequently I run into friendly faces. People in this community are really cheering each other on. I cannot imagine trying to pursue a career in the arts without this supportive community. It could so easily be cold and competitive. I appreciate the intentional efforts I have witnessed to help and welcome other artists.
This past weekend, I was given the privilege of witnessing a part of CST that most are not privy to. I was invited to a reading of a new project being developed for the upcoming season. CST commissioned the musical version of Sense and Sensibility to be created for this theatre, with hopes that the show might move beyond CST as well. A stellar cast was brought in for the reading, and I was able to watch the beginning of a much larger project, one with a lot of potential. It was particularly interesting to me because I will be able to see the final production next summer, whereas many shows I have helped with I will not be able to see into completion. The music in the production is so unique and beautiful. I have been stretched most this summer during the moments after seeing a production. My coworkers and I always dissect what we have seen, and I feel I am growing in my ability to carefully articulate my thoughts about a show. I can more easily differentiate problems with a script from problems with a director from problems with a performer, as well as successes stemming from each camp. I believe Sense and Sensibility; the Musical will be well received by the audiences at CST. I was so grateful to have been able to come see such a special event.

Navigating a Mini-Crisis

Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:21 pm

The past few days I have had a front seat to the first mini-crisis since I’ve been working at CST. The actress signed on to play Goneril in the upcoming production of King Lear, dropped out late last week. Rehearsals begin in ten days, so our department has been hastily looking for a replacement. My boss has had such an admirable attitude through the whole process. After some reconnaissance on the actress, he has accepted that perhaps this show wasn’t a good fit for her. Calmly, he has moved on to find a new Goneril and has done so with patience and laughter throughout the week. So easily he could get fired up and anxious, creating a stressful environment for our office. However, I have watched him take what comes and work towards a solution with serenity. I have watched how a crisis has been minimized and dealt with smoothly and will remember the impact his approach for a long time. I can’t believe this internship is almost over- I feel I have really become a part of this office and wish I could continue to work here. My position is not necessarily a perfect fit for me, but I truly love the people I work with and look forward to seeing them every day. After this job, I will more carefully take into consideration the people I will work with and for because I now recognize the importance of that element.

Communication and Computer Confusion

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 3:19 am

This week has been a lot about communication in the age of computer confusion. The artistic office is hard at work casting and developing the last show in the season, a new musical. It is a musical version of the novel Sense and Sensibility. There have been a lot of communication problems in this office surrounding this project for a couple of reasons:
1. Our casting director was on vacation and unable to attend the New York casting trip so members of the artistic department lead the troops. They know what happened there. We are trying to piece it all together.
2. The composer/writer behind the project is constantly creating new dropbox folders for his updated drafts and sharing them with different people every time. No one has the same drafts and no one knows if they are missing the most up to date draft.
3. No one is talking about these issues. Until today

Things finally came to a head today as one of our team rather lost it in the confusion of it all. Is the score I have in my dropbox at all the same as the one you just sent the actors via email and the one the intern just printed out and mailed to the actors? I think from now-on we will be more diligent about communication regarding drafts and I think one of the artistic team members will give our writer some guidelines about how to send updated drafts. The process of developing a new musical has surely been expedited by the internet, but in an age of electronic sharing, communication needs to be valued and considered! I will remember this if I am ever collaborating via the interwebs for future projects.

Learning the Theatre Landscape of Chicago

Thursday, July 3, 2014 3:06 pm

First off- sorry for the delayed post! Our internet has been malfunctioning.
The casting director is on vacation this week and next which feels like a temporary promotion. The casting assistant, Laura, has taken the reigns and I have stepped up to her position. Practically, this has left us with one large responsibility in Bob’s absence. The Oberon understudy for this summer’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, had to drop out last minute. As Bob is traveling on an Alaskan cruise ship and has no Internet or cell phone service, he gave us permission and direction to find the replacement ourselves. So Laura and I got to call in some actors and hold our own auditions. I was the reader again and helped facilitate, but this time, I also got to help deliberate the decisions afterwards with Laura. The temporary promotion has been fun for us, albeit stressful. Laura and I work very well together and I’ve been learning so much from her. I am grateful that she is invested in growing me as an artist and helping me figure out the best path for me when I graduate. She wants to help connect me with an actress in the city who is pursuing both casting and acting careers successfully. It’s a hard combo because it is hard to work in casting as an actress in a way that doesn’t appear self-serving. Laura thinks it can be achieved and I really appreciate her working to help me explore my career options.

I have been seeing tons of plays because the only form of payment this theatre can give me is free tickets! So far, I’ve seen about ten productions including the opening night performance of This is Our Youth at Steppenwolf theatre featuring Michael Cera, Tavi Gevinson, and Kieran Culkin. I was very excited to get the opportunity to go because AAP is producing This is Our Youth at Wake in the fall. It was very well done. I find it difficult to critique a production of this caliber with the same articulation as I can about the storefront theatre I see. Those shows I have opinions about. At this level, it is hard to know what to think. I hope by the end of the summer I will have improved in my ability to talk about all kinds of theatre.

New Responsibilities

Monday, June 16, 2014 3:22 am

This past week we have been working to set up some general auditions. Theatres hold generals to try and see some new actors that they haven’t seen yet or recently. One thing I really like about this theatre and specifically the casting department, is that they don’t write people off. Bob, my boss, considers that with training and time, actors can improve. He recognizes that maybe the last time he saw the actor, he or she had an off day. He doesn’t shred their headshot and refuse to see them ever again. Bob believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt and, frankly, I think that is a smarter way to operate in this business.

I have been delegated more responsibility regarding these auditions, which is encouraging, but also scary. If I scheduled the wrong people or scheduled people at the wrong times, it could mess up the flow of our day. This past week I had to communicate with the agencies and wanted to make sure I was being efficient and professional in those interactions.

I am very excited because we had a couple of people come in for some quick reads and I got to be the reader last week. The reader is the person who reads the other character(s) in a scene with the actor auditioning. It was a tricky task because I wanted to act well, but as a reader, you also have to just be focused on your scene partner and really not try to upstage him/her in any way. I get to be the reader for some understudy auditions this week too, so I’m looking forward to that. Being asked to be the reader was, at first, very intimidating. If I had been handed a straight play to read, that’d have been one thing. But Shakespeare is a whole other ball game. I have not had training in analyzing Shakespearean text and felt unprepared for the task. I was surprised, but I found it so exciting to work on the scenes! Every time I discovered the meaning of a word or phrase, I felt like I was solving a mystery. The scenes began to unfold before me and it was so satisfying to really dissect the text. I’m looking forward to working on more scenes for these auditions this week!

Acting or Chipotle?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 2:01 am

I don’t know if I could work in casting. I’d like to think I have the right instincts and a good artistic eye. I have been surprised at how relational the business is and would really welcome that part of the job….but casting is so administrative. I knew this heading in. I expected the filing, the phone calls, the scheduling. After a long semester at school, I couldn’t wait to use my brain a little less and just do menial tasks and cross off items on a to do list. I was excited by the company I’d be working for and to be a fly on the wall, watching the magic happen.
My first week was like that. I enjoyed the tasks given to me and the excitement of working with well-known artists in this city was invigorating. This week, THE Bob Mason has quickly become like any boss. THE Amy Carle is just an actor that came in for an audition with many other actors on a Tuesday afternoon. These names are big in Chicago theatre, but the shine has worn. So now, I wonder, is this work exciting to me?
Right now, casting feels like the biggest FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) inducer around. We see these great people. We get to cast these amazing people. And then we go back to the computer, the phones, the emails, and they get to go work on an amazing production and conjure up their own form of beauty and mystery and magic. I wish I could see it and be a part of it.
On the other hand, I watch these actors come in, drenched in sweat. The buses weren’t running and the el was late, and their bags are filled with three more costume changes for the auditions that they have to get to on the other side of town within the hour. They pray we are running on time, that we will see what we need to see to give them a job that will barely pay rent on the apartment that’s two hours commute out of the city. We sit in air-conditioned offices. Those working in these suites and cubicles get benefits, consistency, schedule. They can take their families on vacations. They can GO HOME at the end of a busy day. The actors audition all day and then, if they are lucky, go do their shows all night. Those are the ones who are working. The ones we aren’t seeing are working day jobs and submitting for auditions and hopefully auditioning for theatres that can maybe pay them a stipend.
So where does that leave me? I can’t help but feel like these are my two options. I can sweat and run and do what I love, or I can do something I like and sit in an office knowing that I can get Chipotle for dinner and go to the dentist occasionally.
But there is another option. Perhaps, if I’m smart and strategic, I can find a way to be my own boss, to do what I love, support myself, and be able to create the work I want to put in the world. I want to try and balance that equation. For now, anyway, I will savor where I am and learn all I can from this opportunity. I don’t know if it is for me long term, but I am truly enjoying working at this theatre.

My First Week on the Pier

Monday, May 26, 2014 9:27 pm

I arrived at the office on Navy Pier in Chicago and was quickly informed I would be given the full orientation tomorrow, but today was going to be crazy and I needed to get prepped very quickly. My first day as the casting intern for Chicago Shakespeare Theater was indeed kind of crazy. There were two different rounds of auditions that day, for entirely different shows, and I had to learn quickly how to organize and introduce the actors. It was not too difficult a task, but the pace was quick, and I was anxious to do it all right.

Everything I did not know about Chicago theatre became wildly apparent to me on this first day. The reader for the audition and my supervisor discussed recent shows they had seen, a conversation I could only observe, and I announced an extremely well-known and established actor in Chicago as if the room had never met her before. But I had expected these hiccups and this awkwardness. I had sold myself as a competent, responsible, completely qualified candidate to get the job, and now, I just feared I would not be able to live up to my pitch. But the artistic suite, my new home for the summer, was filled with the kindest, warmest individuals. The Artistic Director, Barbara Gaines was the first to stop by the office to come welcome me and introduce herself. I was immediately at ease and found it was not difficult to anticipate needs and figure out what needed to be done. Most of my anxieties dissipated on that first day, and I was able to relax into my job.

The rest of the week was far less hectic. I went to see the theatre’s production of Henry V on Thursday night. That day, Bob, the casting director, and Laura, the associate casting director and my supervisor, had both suggested they felt some specific way about the production and were interested to hear my response. I brought my mother with me that night, and sat in my amazing and free seat, praying that I would see and feel whatever it was that I was supposed to see and feel. I wanted them to approve of my artistic taste and agree with my diagnosis. But art is so subjective and I feared I wouldn’t get it right. By the end of the play, I confided in my mother, and said, “Mom, I hated Henry, the lead of the entire show. What am I supposed to say to the casting directors?!” The next day, I trotted carefully, but honestly, and came to find that both Laura and Bob hated Henry too. It was a huge relief and confidence boost that we had all agreed. It was a reassuring way to end my first week, knowing that maybe I could be good at this. I’m excited to go back after my first week of working as a full-time intern, so I think that’s a good sign! I am also pretty excited about this view.

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