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The Intern Files: My First Day as a Goodman Intern, Part 2

July 2, 2013 by Goodman Education

By Kendra Benner

I stepped in the theater, and a smiling security guard greeted me. He handed me a guest pass, and I rode up the elevator to the fourth floor, the Education & Community Engagement department’s home.

When I pictured business offices, I had always imagined something from, well, The Office. Drably dressed employees, a curmudgeonly boss, and empty white walls. But the Goodman’s offices were far from ordinary. I saw employees smiling and laughing, there was a woman wearing aqua blue skinny jeans, and the walls were lined with autographed posters from productions past – including a poster from A Christmas Carol featuring a jolly Scrooge. I knew I had chosen the right place.

I met the outgoing Education interns who would teach me everything I needed to know. We entered the narrow room where the interns were housed, which they dubbed “The Intern Closet.” I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh or not, so out of my mouth emerged a half-hearted nervous giggle.

Where all the magic happens: the intern closet.

Where all the magic happens: the intern closet.

I was tasked with learning the ropes of my job in the next eight hours. And what ensued was a whirlwind of crash courses.

“Do you know how to Mail Merge?”

“Okay, I just finished updating the manual. You should probably start reading it.” [Commence reading 100-page binder]

“Have you heard of Tessitura?”

“So we’ll be in Little Village the 18th, Humboldt Park the 22nd, Rogers Park the 25th, and Pilsen the 29th.”

“Okay, so to access the program, you enter this password every time, then you look at the keychain, then you enter that password that pops up, and then you’re in.”

And finally:

“Oh! Today we’re having the Bob Forum.”

“What’s the Bob Forum?” I asked. It sounded important.

“All the interns get to sit down with Bob Falls and we basically can ask him whatever we want.”

Um — pause. Bob Falls. As in Robert Falls? As in the artistic director of the Goodman? On the first day of my internship I was meeting the commander-in-chief of the theatre. I wasn’t sure if this was a fluke or divine intervention.

Robert Falls

 

I racked my brain for things I wanted to know: What is the process of commissioning a play? What is your approach to directing? How do you feel about theater critics?  I had all of my questions ready to go, but once I got in there, I simply wanted to listen. I listened to Bob talk about his childhood in a small town in Illinois, his directing experience in college, his love for the Chicago theatre scene, his path to the Goodman, and his more than twenty-five years spent as artistic director here, putting on new plays and re-imagining classic ones.

Between all of the anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom, I really heard one message – one that I’d heard before from Mr. Dennehy. As an artist, you simply have to go for it. Try anything. Explore everything. Move to the other side of the country. Fly across the ocean to Africa. Befriend people you have nothing in coming with. Apply to an internship you think you have no chance of getting.

Because there’s nothing worse than questioning what would have happened if you had gone for it – and there’s nothing better than knowing the answer.

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The Intern Files: My First Day as a Goodman Intern, Part 1

June 27, 2013 by Goodman Education

By Kendra Benner

All my life I’ve been told it’s important to have a dream job.

What’s mine? I have so many interests – theater, journalism, education, entrepreneurship – I’ve never been able to pick just one job.

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Contemplating a future in journalism circa 1999.

My dream was more about where I was working than what I was doing. For me, in my teenage years and in college, my dream was to work at Goodman Theatre.

I think the special culture of the Goodman is infectious – once you experience it, you want to keep coming back for more. I got my first taste when I was seventeen. I was part of Cindy Bandle Young Critics, a program for Chicagoland girls where I learned how to write reviews of plays and improve my reporting skills – a perfect combination of my beloveds, theatre and journalism. Every other Saturday morning I trekked to the Goodman for the program workshops, excited to find out what amazing actor, director or writer I would get to interview next.

Fast forward two years. I entered my freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a precarious university choice for a staunch northerner. A lot of people were surprised by my choice to go to school in that foreign land (also known as the South). But, I think it makes sense in light of the story behind it – a story that was written by the Goodman.

One of my most memorable moments as a Young Critic at the Goodman was hearing Brian Dennehy speak about his career in theater. He told us that to be successful theater artists, we had to continuously step outside of the theatre world. He said the key to becoming a great person of the theatre is being a great person of the world – study subjects you’ve never explored before, meet people from all corners of the Earth, and jump into all colors of experiences.

His words simmered in my mind for months. When the time came to choose between UNC and a university closer to home, I thought of Mr. Dennehy’s advice. Great thespians jump into the unknown, and “The Southern Part of Heaven” was definitely an unknown. It was a scary prospect, but when I thought of Mr. Dennehy’s words, the risk felt right – and my decision to don light blue and white was official.

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Posing at halftime during my first UNC football game.

As my decision to be a Tar Heel was set in stone, so was my dream to work at the Goodman. My love for risk-taking, my taste for live performance, and my passion for theater as an avenue for social change – so many things about me were shaped by this theater. I wanted to use my passions to give back to the organization – and discover how much more there is to learn at Goodman.

For three years my dream lingered in my mind, until the moment in early February when I told my Dad, “I have to be a Goodman intern.”

I dove into the application process. The Goodman had many different internships to choose from, but I set my sights on the Education & Community Engagement internship. Theater has been a special teacher in my life, and I wanted others to experience that, too. I admired the Education department’s belief in using theater for social change through its educational programs – like showing high school students students the power of their creative voices in the General Theater Studies summer program. This was definitely a movement I wanted to be a part of.

Three months, seven resume drafts, two interviews and one overjoyed “I got it!” phone call to my parents later, and my dream had come true.

Enter, the first day of my internship. I felt excited and prepared – and I tried to walk with the post-makeover professional confidence of Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada.

 one time an assistant left the desk because she i dont k - Andy Sachs

 There were five minutes until I had to leave for the train station. I started to pack up my bag when I realized – there was no packing list for internships. What kind of stuff was I supposed to bring? I didn’t want to be the awkward-exploding-backpack kid on the first day, but not having enough supplies would be embarrassing.

Commence frantic Googleing. An article from “InternQueen.com” popped up. That sounded legit. I shoved everything in my bag that the article listed – a notebook, five pens, makeup, hairpins, socks, comfy shoes, an umbrella, train schedule, mints, cell phone, laptop, pony tail holders, my Goodman ID and a train pass.

Me, overpack? Never.

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Striking a pose at the most happening place in Naperville, the train station.

Next stop: Union Station. I hopped on the train and surveyed the people who surrounded me – businesspeople – iPhone in hand, shiny shoes on foot. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Naperville anymore. That was until…I sat on the train directly across from a girl from my high school. “Hey, Kendra! How’s school going?” she said cheerily, breaking my cover as a classy urban professional. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.

As I stepped out of Union Station, bombarded by the sun’s reflection off the Chicago River below and towering skyscrapers above, I was completely taken with the city’s beauty. Wearing the glassy-eyed gaze of a first-time tourist, I didn’t care. My dream was finally coming true, and I felt like the city knew it and was welcoming me in as one of its own.

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Cue George Harrison…this sunshine is beautiful!

My dad and I made the 20-minute walk from the train station to the Goodman, and from the first to the last step, he jokingly tried to pump me up for my first day on the job.

“Hey, Kendra,” he said with a smirk. “Wouldn’t it be cool if, like, you were interning at the Goodman or somethi— Oh, wait. You are!”

I laughed. “Yeah, you’re right Dad. It is pretty cool,” I said, trying not to make a scene in case one of my soon-to-be coworkers was near me. But on the inside, I was bubbling with excitement.

Check out the second installment, coming next week!

‘The Happiest Song Plays Last’ at Goodman Theatre Proves True the Title – by Olivia Day

May 29, 2013 by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Goodman Theatre’s production of “The Happiest Songs Plays Last” does an exuberant and well-balanced dance between drama and comedy. The final play of the trilogy follows Yaz (Sandra Marquez) and her cousin Elliot (Armando Riesco) as they find love and themselves through music and culture.

Yaz is living in her home in Philadelphia trying to restore the run-down neighborhood she lives in by feeding anyone who needs food and bringing a cornucopia of plant life to her otherwise desolate hometown. Along the way she finds herself in a predicament brought upon her by her famous, do-good music teacher Agustin (Jaime Tirelli), and her unwillingness to say no. Elliot, a marine, finds himself on the other side of the world as the lead in an action-packed movie about war with Shar (Fawzia Mirza), a seemingly normal but confused actress who is ashamed of her Egyptian ethnicity. While Elliot is naturally good-natured, when he is in Jordan he is trying to put to rest the demons from his first kill. With the help of Ali (Demetrious Troy), his Iraqi friend hiding in Jordan, Elliot learns a little something about culture in the Middle East as well as himself. Then, when an event stuns all, the characters must learn how to cope with their demons and move on.

During the play, the music of old Puerto Rico rings through the theater as the musician (Nelson Gonzalez) plays tunes on his cuadro, a guitar-type instrument. The cuadro in the play has the honor of playing the role of unifier. It unifies Agustin to Puerto Rico and his past. It unifies Elliot to his childhood, and it unifies Yaz to Agustin, the love of her life.

Although the show is the last part of a trilogy, to see it without having seen the first two plays does not detract from the experience. “The Happiest Song Plays Last” is more than capable of satisfying the audience’s need for good theater and entertainment, as it plays off basic human senses.

The actors who play the characters delve into the innermost emotions that would surely have been felt by anyone who experienced what they did. Riesco does a lovely job of playing a boy who has seen and done awful things, but he manages to keep a smile on his face most of the time, despite the inner turmoil his character is going through.

While protest is the play’s theme, it does not come across as what connects the characters. That is not to say that the play’s message is unclear, but there would be more depth to it if protest was more of a main theme, and not so much a side note.

Overall, “The Happiest Song Plays Last” is a debut that should not be missed. A tale of love, loss, hope and redemption, this play is sure to tempt the emotions and the laugh box.

By the Way Meet Vera Stark – by AnnMarie Welser

May 29, 2013 by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

There’s a secret behind Hollywood: deception. Behind the glamour and fame lies a trail of treachery and betrayal. Lynn Nottage’s “By the Way Meet Vera Stark” shows the story of Vera Stark and her road to fame while unmasking the dark side of the bright city. Set in the 1930’s Hollywood, Vera Stark started from the bottom. A maid to the famous Gloria Mitchell, Vera’s job was making sure the basket case didn’t fall apart in an audition for the role of her life. Vera’s fate takes a turn when  she gets cast in a Hollywood movie, ironically as a maid. This sparks Vera’s successful movie career, yet she is always placed in stereotypical roles. The story then fast forwards to a group of characters analyzing Stark’s life and career, revealing the truth behind Vera.

The highlight of the production was the acting. With comedic and hard hitting roles, the actors stole the show. TaRon Patton, as Lottie McBride, proved that there are no small parts by making the entire audience laugh and bringing much levity to the play. With a story within a story, all actors were able to play two completely different characters. Patton was a prime example of this as she played the hilarious role of Lottie and completely transitioned to the serious analytical role in the second act.

Director Chuck Smith gave this production an outstanding Chicago premiere. Adding in wits and great stage movement, the play was easy to follow. Yet dealing with the long standing topic which is still relevant today, the play is a bit of a handful. While trying to portray countless topics such as the injustice of minorities, African American rights, and the inequality of minorities in Hollywood, 2 hours and 30 minutes seemed unfit to hold all these issues which have been brewing for decades.

Nottage emphasized the role of African American actors of the thirties. Only seen in stereo-typical roles, many had to go back thus acting in the way public had perceived them. Although the story is fiction, the theme is still relevant today. As the play shows many actors and actresses are treated unfairly due to race, gender and their backgrounds. Nottage sheds light on the biased side of Hollywood as African Americans, even today, are placed in roles resembling slaves, maids or gang members.

Through the story of Vera Stark Hollywood’s truth is revealed. “By the Way Meet Vera Stark” is a play of substance, sparking discussion and along with laughs.

 

‘Measure for Measure’ links modern day to Shakespearian time – by Olivia Day

May 15, 2013 by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Goodman Theatre’s “Measure for Measure,” directed by Robert Falls, offers an unoriginal but wildly entertaining perspective to a classic Shakespearian tale. Set in New York City in the ’70s, the play relates issues of race and hierarchy during the disco decade to issues of love and hierarchy in Shakespearian Vienna.

The actors involved in the play do a fantastic job of portraying their characters. Whittaker is incredibly believable in his portrayal of Angelo as a power-hungry egomaniac with no morals and no values. Opposite of him, Escalante does a wonderful, over-the-top performance as Isabella, who is hardheaded and stubborn in her morals, values and beliefs. She presents Isabella with as much strife as Shakespeare intended. The actors, overall, successfully portray what 17th century London was like, with corrupted power figures in office and excessive religion and morality.

“Measure for Measure” follows the duke of the city (James Newcomb) as he disguises himself as a priest and directs the flow of government within the slums of Vienna. Claudio (Kevin Fugaro) has been sentenced to death by Angelo (Jay Whittaker), deputy in charge of the city until the duke “returns,” for being engaged and impregnating a woman, Juliet (Celeste M. Cooper), outside of matrimony. Isabella (Alejandra Escalante) plays Claudio’s audacious little sister who is determined to convince Angelo to let Claudio live. The plot twists when Angelo promises to free Claudio—as long as Isabella gives her virginity to him. The play results, not surprisingly, in death for one and a happy ending for the rest of the characters.

The plot is not difficult to follow, but the aspects that Falls brings to the play, such as the slow transitions, when the characters walk slowly across the stage to move into a new scene, are unnecessary. The transitioning characters between scenes is interesting, but leaves the mind wondering, “Why is that in the play?” Falls would have been better off leaving them out of the play, seeing as they don’t have a real purpose.

The last scene is a dance to a Donna Summer’s ’70s hit “Last Dance” performed by all of the characters. It is easy to see why Falls chose the hit song as a backdrop for the last scene, but it is unclear why it is needed at all, besides to amuse the audience. Even though the song is unnecessary, it is understandable as to why Falls includes it. The amusement is worth the confusion, as the last scene is one of pure fun for the audience and probably the cast too.

“Measure for Measure” at Goodman Theatre takes an overused modern version of Shakespeare and gives it life again. By the end of it, the audience will be abuzz with awe.