"An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down." -- Maria Callas
Clayton Becker will spend this summer putting that quote to the test. The sophomore theater major from Arlington, Tex., has been awarded an internship with the highly regarded Santa Fe Opera (SFO), and he is more than excited at the opportunity.
“I got the internship by going to the Southeastern Theater Conference (SETC) in Atlanta, Georgia, in early March to interview,” Becker said. “There were two main places I wanted to apply, the other being the Theater of West Virginia. I didn’t think I was going to get Santa Fe Opera until the last minute when I got a text saying ‘Check your email.’ It was Santa Fe. They had contacted me finally. I got the job.”
Located seven miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Santa Fe Opera has been in business since 1956. SFO is internationally known for introducing new operas as well as for its productions of the standard operatic repertoire. Since its inception, the Santa Fe Opera has staged over forty American and eleven international premieres, and has commissioned nine new operas.
This season’s performances will include “Faust,” “La Boheme,” “Griselda,” “The Last Savage,” and “Wozzeck.”
Becker decided to become a theatre major while he was in high school, he said, but his interest in theater started back in 8th grade at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School. He started in sound work there, then acted in his first show, ‘Fairy Tale Court Room – Trial of the Wicked Witch,’ and did the sound and lights for it.
He participated in every show in high school starting in his sophomore year, beginning by working on the set of “What I Did Last Summer.”
“I worked on the set mostly,” he said. “I learned the skills I needed to build very quickly. My greatest accomplishment was designing the set for ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.’"
Typically, he said, he was in charge of set construction. However for his last show, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," he was promoted to Technical Director, the first student Technical Director in over ten years.
“I loved the theatre and still do,” Becker said, “so I decided to pursue the art here. I haven’t decided what I want to do in the professional theatre yet, but that’s what the internship and education are for – to help gain the skills and experience, and to see what I love doing most.”
Becker’s internship will run from May 22 thru August 17. “It will cut into a week of school,” Becker said. “But it’s worth it. For 14 weeks I will be stage crew – running scenes, making scenes changes, helping the shop, striking sets, resetting stages during turnovers, swapping one set for another set. Lots to do. Opera sets are huge, and I’m excited. They said to look forward to 16-18 hour days. This is the real thing.”
Becker credited his previous theater work at Ozarks as helping him prepare for the work ahead. “I’ve worked in shop here, run the light board and sound board. I’ve done most of the major tasks,” he said. “This is a continuation of that, on a professional scale.”
Becker also highlighted the importance of a class he’d taken with Walton Professor of Theatre Dr. Pat Farmer called “Internship Process.”
“We had to build portfolios and resumes, which Dr. Farmer checked, and business cards,” Becker said. “You also send out five letters to theater companies who will be attending SETC, and it all helps you get a little better acquainted with the theaters you might want to work with.”
Becker pointed out to a happy bit of serendipity in his interviewing for the SFO internship. “It turned out my interviewer was from the same town I attended,” he said. “He mentioned I’d said I was an Eagle Scout and asked me what my project had been. I told him it was rebuilding my high school’s outdoor theater stage. He asked what high school and I said James Martin High. He looked at me kind of funny and asked, ‘Since when did Martin get an outdoor stage?’ It turned out he was a 2001 graduate. He spent an hour talking to me. It worked out well.”
There are only a few things to do between now and May 22.
“I signed my contract,” Becker said. “I had to go to the doctor and get my breathing tested to make sure I could wear a respirator when spray painting or using hazardous chemicals. And now I just have to pack and get my airline tickets. They’re paying for my travel. I’ll stay in an apartment dorm complex about seven miles from the theater and carpool with the other interns daily. Only one month to go!”