From the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to the high plains of New Mexico, University of the Ozarks theatre students hit the road this summer to take part in several internships that led to increased knowledge, improved skills and greater confidence.
A total of six theatre majors participated in summer internships. Utah Robertson and John Davis worked with the stage crew for the Santa Fe Opera House in New Mexico; Annie Williams served as a costumer and seamstress for the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre in Mars Hill, N.C.; Lauren Charters worked as a director and teacher for the Genesis Children’s Theatre in Plano, Texas; and Darrick Conroy and Katelyn Nichols worked for the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival in Durant, Okla.
Students (from left) Lauren Charters, Utah Robertson, Annie Williams and Darrick Conroy were among six theatre majors who gained valuable skills, knowledge and confidence during summer internships this year in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.
Several of the students talked about their internships during a recent presentation sponsored by the University Theatre.
Robertson and Davis had the opportunity to work at one the premiere opera houses in the United States. Established in 1957, the 2,100-seat Santa Fe Opera House has staged more than 40 American and 10 international premieres, and has commissioned 10 new operas.
The Ozarks duo worked on the sets of four productions throughout the summer, including on an elaborate bamboo set for the production of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. They spent the summer setting up and tearing down sets and gaining invaluable experience working on large-scale productions.
Robertson was tabbed the "most dangerous man at the Opera," after fracturing two fingers in a sliding door incident as the crew was moving a large set. But even that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the internship.
"It was a great summer experience," said Robertson, a junior theatre major from Iowa Park, Texas. "The main thing I came away with from the internship was how important it is for everyone to work together to accomplish some very large tasks. The importance of teamwork and everyone working together is something that really stuck with me."
Williams, a senior theatre major from Fort Worth, Texas, worked with costumes on four productions at the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this summer. Her duties included doing laundry, building and purchasing costumes and doing alterations. One of her highlights of the summer was creating a distressed cooking apron for a scene that centered around exploding tomatoes.
Williams’ schedule ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, during the busy tourist season.
"I feel like I learned a lot during the entire summer," said Williams. "Working with different people with different personalities was something that was a learning experience. Sometimes you work with difficult people and you learn how to keep your cool, do your job and stay professional."
Charters, a theatre major from Frisco, Texas, worked as a director and teacher at the Genesis Children’s Theatre, a family-owned theatre that works with children from grades 1-10. She directed several short children productions for groups in grades 1-4 and 4-8. Her myriad duties included director, costumer, scenic change artist, sound designer and choreographer.
"The first class was the play Despicable Me and I had seven students in grades 1 through 4; I was terrified at first," Charters said. "But it ended up being so much fun. It seems like with each class I gained more confidence and relaxed more. With the third class, I decided to not script everything out and let the children write the script and have a say in what happened. That was very special because you could see that they took a much more active interest in the play because they helped create it."
At the end of her internship, Charters was offered a returning position with more responsibility at the theatre for next summer.
"I found out this summer that I absolutely love working with children," Charters said. "This was the first time I had really worked with children, and a light just came on for me. That experience changed me and made me realize that this may be something I want to do with my career."
Conroy, a theatre major from Mabelvale, Ark., worked as a public relations intern and stage manager for the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival for seven weeks in June and July. His PR duties included photography, writing news releases, designing postcards and posters, and working PR events.
"The first time I got my news release published in the local paper was pretty exciting," Conroy said. "I learned how much goes on behind the scenes in promoting an event, and that was neat perspective."
Conroy also worked as stage manager for the production of Legally Blonde: The Musical. Among his responsibilities were track blocking, taking directorial notes for the technicians, calling light and slide cues and preparing the rehearsal space.
"I feel like I grew as a theatre major this summer," said Conroy. "I learned things that I can bring back here to help me be better and to help our theatre program be better."