Engaging the Community: The Education Interns

November 11, 2010 in Blog by Willy-Landon

Elizabeth and Willy, modeling this season's SSS study guides. Picture by Teresa Rende.

Not to be left behind, the Education Interns found time to interview one another.  Since we last left the duo smiling on the roof top, a veritable world of events have gone on in office life.  There have been Teacher Workshops, Student Matinees, and a talk back or three.  Willy and Elizabeth reflect upon their accomplishments, trepidations, and highlights of the past two in a half months.

Below, Willy questions Elizabeth about the highs, lows, and unique moments of the EACE internship.

WL: What’s been the most memorable moment of your internship?

EM: Wow, we’ve asked these questions to everybody, and now I can’t… Oh! It actually happened at the Cindy Bandle Young Critics meeting. I had the opportunity to read aloud a part of the study guide in front of the room of high school students as well as women journalists who were there. So, yeah, I had the chance to read an article that I’d written for the Candide study guide – just a couple paragraphs.

Which article was it?

The Voltaire and Satire.  The experience of standing up and publicly reading something that I’d worked on aloud, to a room of different ages and experiences was pretty cool. And also the post-show parties have been sort of a surreal experience. And the teacher workshops – I’ve really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspects of the internship.

What have been some of your greatest challenges?

Ah… we do a lot of multi-tasking. And, realizing when it’s okay to let go of either an email or an article, and know that I can come back, pick it up, and it will be fine.  And also learning how to prioritize things that are going on, so that, if I’m researching for an article – I can have the ability to drop that and run down to the cage, grab water for an event, and run back upstairs and make thirteen copies of something and then once that’s over, sit down again and resume my work. And, not let that throw me, and not let it be put on pause for too long.

What have been some of your greatest achievements?

I’m very proud of the study guides that we’ve put together so far. I like that they’re research oriented and creative and collaborative. I enjoy the teamwork aspect of them, where we feel comfortable being able to bounce ideas off of one another as a department. All the way from the beginning of the process, where we are trying to think of things to put in the guide, and the whole brainstorming idea. And, I think, especially with the Chekhov study guide, I feel that we really sort of hit our stride in some points – where you can see where that collaboration, creativity, and scholarship has come together to create a pretty cool product.

Elizabeth, showcasing The Seagull. Picture by Willy Landon.

What’s one new skill that you’ve learned on the job that will help you in the future?

I thought it was something I was good at until being here.  Just being thoughtful about communicating. And, being open to collaborative ideas, in different formats – not just projects. Whether that’s sharing ideas or making sure that something that happens gets communicated to everyone involved. And it’s very easy to get to be, not necessarily narrow-minded on purpose, but just to have tunnel vision when you’re working on a project and forget to widen your scope to include everyone involved so that everyone’s on the same page as a group.

What have been some short and long term goals?

A short term goal was to – and still is – to visit different areas of the administrative staff. I’m slowly making my way around; I had a conversation with the Literary Director, which was very inspiring – it got me thinking about a lot of different life choices. I would like to keep that momentum up and that courage, and knock on other doors, and talk to different people about skills that they have. Long term, those are sort of forming still. I think, just developing confidence and thinking big – learning to think big and synthesizing ideas and listening, and again, communicating clearly to different people.

What have been some pros and cons of Chicago life?

Pros – there is so much to do. I am from a small – for the past nine years, I have been in a very rural, isolated town and there’s absolutely nothing to do. There’s not a large artistic scene.  There’s not really any theatre, there’s hardly any music. If you’re an artist chances are you’re by yourself in your basement doing something, and your weird friends will come over and look at your stuff and go “Oh, okay, you’re an artist.” So, it’s really nice to be in a city where art is a credible career. And adults will get to see your work, and your peers – and it’s a really big deal. It has the potential for great things. So that’s definitely a pro. A con is… the city is so sprawling that it can be challenging to see everything. I’m currently living in a quote unquote suburb; it’s a suburb that’s a twenty minute train ride into the city, so I’m actually closer to downtown than some of the actual parts of Chicago proper. But, sometimes an event will happen that’s two and a half hours away so just having the stamina, and the funds, to travel to these different places.

I would definitely agree with that. What’s been your favorite play, or any number of your favorite plays, that you’ve seen since living in Chicago?

I really like The Seagull. I’ve seen different venues, a couple two-man shows. I saw Peter Pan at Looking Glass, which was really creative and fun to experience, but so far The Seagull. Just for originality. And studying Chekhov-I’ve never seen it so lively and entertaining and spontaneous. I really enjoy the just, childlike aspect of some of the characters sometimes. And the way it catches you off guard and makes you laugh at moments that aren’t supposed to be funny.

Switching gears and study guide covers, Elizabeth polls Willy on his move to the midwest, love of festivals, and trials with In Design.

EACE Inerns

Willy and Elizabeth showcase Candide and The Seagull Study Guides. Picture by Teresa Rende.

EM:  All right. What has been your most memorable moment of the internship?

WL:  I’ve had a couple.  The first student matinee yesterday was quite a memorable experience.  Just dealing with so many students and adults in one place, and trying to organize everything, (administrative responsibilities are something I’ve been trying to get to used to anyway) this was something beyond the realm of what I’ve experienced, and… just trying to work that out. But, I would say the most positive element of that experience was doing the post show discussion with the Candide cast on stage afterwards.  Just being in that space, on that side of it, with the cast, able to hear what they had to say, and being able to facilitate a conversation with that cast and this group of amazingly well behaved students was great. There was definitively an energy in the room.  It was very inspirational.  But also, a couple weekends ago, the first Hektoen Institute workshop was very interesting.  It’s especially interesting comparing the two of them. Just seeing how these wildly different age groups interact with the theatre in very similar ways.  It seems everyone, regardless of experience, can approach theatre with a sort of childlike innocence.  Especially if they’re new to it, and it was just really interesting.  Being able to work hands on and not so hands on, on different levels with these different age groups.

What’s been your greatest challenge so far?

My greatest challenge has been scheduling all these meetings. Time management is something I got slightly better with in college.  But, it’s very interesting keeping up with making sure you’ve contacted the right people at the right time, and you’re allowing the right amount of time for a response, and keeping everything straight.  That goes for everything.  Principals, to students, to the Cindy Bandle Young Critics program, so all of that. And, also the new software that we’re learning… the two biggest software programs we’ve learned are Tessitura and InDesign.  Working in both of those has been very challenging because there are some similarities to programs that I’ve worked in before, like Tessitura is a database and InDesign is a design program, so there’s certain things I’ve been able to pick up on a little bit. But, I don’t think I can begin to scratch the surface of Tessitura until I devote myself to it.  InDesign has just been… harrowing. It got to the point around when we had to send The Seagull guide to print, I believe, I started dreaming in InDesign.  It’s been difficult to get the hang of. (laughs)

So, how about your greatest achievements of the internship? Once you’ve mastered grids and seating charts.

I’d say my greatest achievement has also been InDesign.  Getting these guides out has been such a stressful but rewarding experience.  We contribute all of these articles.  We have to write so many articles per show, regarding either the production itself, or historical context, or modern context. I feel like it’s been great for me because it allows me to sort of draw on my most recent experience, such as research, so I’ve learned all these tricks that I’ve been able to implement here.  When we finally get these study guides in print, that’s when it really hits home.  When you look at it and you think, ‘This is what we’ve contributed to.  I designed this.  I did the layout for this.”  Finally seeing something, that I’ve designed, in print, on that level is not something I’ve experienced before.  So I consider that a wonderful achievement.  And also, any of the post show discussions -  any time that we’re able to connect with the community. Sorry, there are so many things that I find challenging that at the same time, all of my challenges and achievements, I feel like, for this internship, and I’m sure you and the other interns can relate, kind of go hand in hand.

Very true. So what’s one new skill that you feel like you’re taking away from this?

Administratively, I’ve learned how to better schedule, I’ve learned better ways to manage my time, how to prioritize.  I’d like to think that prioritizing has always been a strength of mine.  But, I definitely think that I’ve learned new ways to do that and news to organize myself. I’ve definitely learned etiquette and, I guess, style for formal administrative writing – emails, memos, requests, that sort of thing, versus the creative writing/essay structure that I’m used to. Also, just the sheer amount of software that we’re learning right now that is so applicable.  The new education website.  All of the Word Press and html that goes into that as well as our design software and Tessitura. I feel like I’ve learned more in the past couple months than I have in a very long time.

What are some pros and cons of Chicago life that you’ve experienced?

Pros – and I’ve said this to a bunch of my friends already.  Pros are that on the East coast, I usually get made fun of a lot for… being too slow.  I’m sort of from the mid-Atlantic eastern shore region, so we’re kind of a slower people anyway. I get made of fun by my friends from New York and New England when I don’t move fast enough, and I feel like Chicago is just more my pace.  Midwesterners are also so friendly and welcoming.  Chicago is such an open city and has so much to offer.  I’ve seen more theatre in my past couple of months here than I have anytime since I was in London.  Chicago is one of the best cities for that.  And, aside from theatre, just all of the festivals.  They have arts and crafts fairs, free art exhibitions, food festivals, whether it’s Oktoberfest or another kind of fest, or the Daley Plaza farmers market.  And there are so many cultures colliding and so many communities that make up this greater whole. As far as cons go, I can sum all of my cons up in The Red Line.  I hate the Red Line.  It’s slow, it’s unreliable. I live off of the Wilson stop, which is very… educational,  I get a definite experience each time I go there. And also, just getting used to – I don’t feel like I’ve given up any freedom by not having a car, I feel like it’s kind of liberating. Not having to worry about – well, driving around Baltimore, and that sort of thing, you always have to worry about parking, getting your car towed – worst feeling ever.  So, I don’t feel like I’ve given up any freedom, but I feel definite cons come from just how long it takes to get everywhere.  Because, you’re so dependent, like, if one of the buses or one of the trains is delayed for any amount of time that can seriously affect your commute.  It’s been difficult getting used to that.

What are some of your short and long term goals?

Willy, contemplating the study guide. Picture by Teresa Rende.

I hope to become much more comfortable and confident in myself, especially when it comes to talk-backs.  Getting back in that mindset of allowing myself to be present on stage in front of an audience, and really contribute, and not be afraid to guide a conversation and project.  That works as a long term goal as well.  As far as short terms goals go, become more familiar with InDesign.  Become an InDesign guru, if possible because design is also something I would like to go into very much.  And, become much more familiar with Tessitura.  I would also really like to learn grant writing, and more of the operations of the Casting and Literary department.  Those are two areas I’m also very interested in.  As far as long term goals go, I really want the Goodman Theatre to be something on my resume that really reflects what I’ve learned, and that I really am able to take those skills and find ways to apply them.

And what’s been your favorite play that you’ve seen so far in Chicago?

I’m going to have to list at least four, for different reasons.

Do they have any order?

No… they’re all across the board.  One of the first plays that I saw that I really liked was Frost/Nixon at Timeline Theatre.  It was wonderful.  I didn’t see the film, I’ve never seen the film.  But, seeing that show in a smaller space.  I don’t have too much familiarity with historical plays, but I was just amazed by the creative license that they were able to take with this particular production.  And there was this one really great scene in particular with Nixon and Frost when they were, Nixon is (I hope this doesn’t give too much away) but Nixon is drunk one night and he calls Frost, and even though physically, they’re supposed to be in two completely different places, the way it was blocked they had them sitting right next to each other on stage in the two chairs that are used for the interview process, and that was just very powerful for me. And also, The Seagull has been just incredible.  Seeing this entirely new approach, I mean new for me, to an entire production on a professional scale, seeing how well that it’s worked.  It’s been really interesting going to several different performances and seeing how it can be completely different from performance to performance. That ensemble feel is something that I really love.  Going with the ensemble feel, I also really liked a smaller show that I saw – 1001, a modern adaptation of Arabian Nights by Collaboraction at the Chopin Theatre.  It was great because at lot of my training in college occurred in smaller spaces – smaller, intimate black box spaces, so I really loved being able to get back to that and seeing just what an ensemble with a fairly minimal but very precise and effective and creative use of lighting and set, how all of that can contribute to such a powerful performance in a very small space.  And of course, it had its problems, but I really enjoyed it as a whole.  And of course, Candide.  It just fills me with joy every time I hear the overture, and the Act One and Act Two finales.  They’re incredible.  And, At Home at the Zoo which we saw last night, which closes on Sunday. I wish I could still tell people – go see it!

Candide Post Show

The EACE Interns host the Candide Student Matinee Post Show. Picture by Teresa Rende.