INTERVIEW: Goodman Interns: Where are they now?

June 14, 2011 in Blog by Jasmine Lake

Please state your name, Goodman Internship Position and Season:

Rachel Kraft: Rachel Kraft, Goodman intern during the Summer of 1986 and the 1986-1987 season. Within that year I worked in casting, education & community and marketing/pr.

Kate Lipuma:  I was an Artistic Intern at the Goodman in the summer of 1993.  I was then hired as a full-time employee, working 6 seasons at the Goodman.

Stephanie Farina: Stephanie Farina; Sound Intern, Fall 2007

Kristin Idaszak: Kristin Idaszak, Literary Management Intern Summer 2007

Tim Speicher: Tim Speicher; Development Intern, Fall 2007

Dan Rubin: Dan Rubin, Literary Intern, Fall 2007

Brian Sutow: Brian Sutow, Casting Intern, Summer 2007.

Jessica Lind: Jessica Lind, Education and Community Programs Intern, Fall 2009

 

Please state your current position(s) and theatrical company(ies) with which you work.

RK: Executive Director, Lookingglass Theatre. This is my sixth season with Lookingglass.

KL:  I am the Executive Director at Writers’ Theatre.

SF: I am the sound engineer in the Owen Theatre at the Goodman Theatre.

KI: Associate Artistic Director, Collaboraction, Literary Manager, Caffeine Theatre

TS: Marketing Manager – Victory Gardens Theater and Artistic Director – The State Theatre of Chicago

DR: Publications and Literary Associate at American Conservatory Theater (San Francisco)

BS: Co-Artistic Director – No Rules Theatre Company; Actor in the National Tour of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” – The Kennedy Center, TYA Program; Writer/Director – The Open Dream Ensemble

JL: I currently work at Lookingglass as their Education Assistant. I also work part time with the Department of Cultural Affairs as a House Manager and at Steppenwolf Theatre as an Assistant House Manager. I also am involved with a casting company that was founded through my internship at the Goodman, Two Birds Casting. (http://www.twobirdscasting.com) I am the Communications Director for Two Birds Casting.

 

How did your Goodman internship prepare you for your current position/role(s) in theatre?

RK: The Goodman internship confirmed for me that I wanted to make a career and life in Chicago’s arts community.   As corny as it sounds, I saw a family of professionals come together daily to create art.  That commitment and expertise inspired me to find a place where I could do the same.

KL:  While I spent most of my years at the Goodman working in Development, I will always be grateful for the time I spent as a member of the artistic team, working with Michael Maggio, Bob Falls, Steve Scott, Mary Zimmerman and more – truly a dream team.  I got to participate in casting, dramaturgy, season planning, the education programs and more – it was a very enriching experience.

SF: I essentially learned everything I know about sound from my internship. The sound internship launched my sound career. Prior to getting the full-time job in the Owen, I worked freelance around Chicago as well as at the Goodman for 3 years. All of the jobs outside of the Goodman came from contacts I made at my internship. From designers that I worked with to colleagues I met on my internship all insured my success in Chicago Theatre.

KI: My internship at the Goodman was really what launched my career in theatre, especially in Chicago theatre. On a technical level, I learned how one of the most vibrant literary offices in the country is run, which was invaluable when I became a literary manager at a storefront theatre company and figure out how to organize my own little literary office. But on a more abstract level, I began to learn how all of the members of an artistic staff come together to create and implement a company’s aesthetic.

TS: My Goodman internship taught me how a professional non-profit functions from day-to-day while providing me with connections that laid the foundation for my administrative and artistic careers.

DR: Interning at the Goodman shows you what it takes to make a major regional theater operate. For one thing it relies on the herculean efforts on capable, creatively-minded, underpaid employees—who work in non-profit arts because they believe that a job can be about something more than making money. It really opened my eyes to the sacrifices theater-practitioners have to be willing to make for their craft. It also taught me that theaters rely on self-starters. You have to be able to look at a situation and figure out how to make it better. How to make it more efficient. Because the non-profit world is all about making more with less. Finally, it taught me the importance of camaraderie. Our intern class was amazing, and I cherish them as my first professional theater family. Being an intern is not always glamorous; let’s be honest, it rarely is. So having colleagues you can rely on is huge. And beyond the interactions with fellow interns, it pays to be genuine and kind to everyone you work with.

BS: As the Co-Artistic Director of a young theater company I am forced to wear many hats.  Given my time at Goodman, it is not surprising that one of my favorite jobs has been managing our casting. The quality of our casting is the fundamental aspect of our work that has put us on the map so quickly in DC, with papers like the Washington Post noting from our very inception that our work was unusually well cast for a company of our size.  I attribute this in no small part to having had the opportunity to pick Adam Belcuore’s brain for three months and learn how to really view an audition.

We have also received much praise within DC’s acting community for the positivity and generosity of spirit we show in our audition room.  Having a bunch of actors feel safe and invigorated when they come in to audition for us has undoubtedly helped to raise our profile in the community.

I will be the first to admit that I was a little bit of a cocky and opinionated college student when I went in to work with Adam.  I was incredibly impressed by the humility and kindness he showed to actors in auditions and I have tried to carry that with me.

JL: Through the internship at the Goodman, I was given a leadership role in organizing the Student Subscription Series, along with assisting my Co-Intern with the Cindy Bandle Young Critics Program. I was able to see how the education department truly interacts with all other departments, from production to development to marketing. My professionalism, interpersonal and time management skills that I acquired while working at the Goodman have been put to daily use as the Education Assistant at Lookingglass, as well as my other jobs around Chicago.

 

What was the biggest challenge you face during your tenure as an intern and how did you overcome it?

RK: The biggest “challenge” was deciding which department I should try to intern in.  Spending a season at the Goodman meant that I got to rotate between three very different departments.   The irony is that the one area I said I didn’t want to intern in was development (I was intimidated by fundraising as many people are) and that of course, was the department that I came back to work in when I later joined the Goodman as a staff member (1993/Associate Director of Development and 1994-2005/Director of Development)

KL:  I was very shy and very young – but was given tremendous trust and responsibility, which was so important to me.  And I was given the opportunity to sit in on meetings in other departments, participate and plan events, attend rehearsals – basically be a sponge.  Even in a short time, I was given this amazing crash course on the operations of the theatre.

SF: I was not very knowledgeable in sound engineering when I began my internship, so everyday was a challenge to keep up. I was very eager to learn and David, Nick and Lilly, the sound team at the time, were very eager to teach me! There were numerous occasions when I had no idea how to do what they asked me, but as I made mistake I did not get reprimanded, but it was simply emphasized to learn from my mistakes. This principle is something that I still remind myself everyday and it continues to prove extremely helpful.

KI: I was the script assistant on Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, which entailed distributing script changes among the directing and stage management teams and 14 actors.

TS: I had never lived in a city before, and I knew literally no one in Chicago. So, I felt pretty overwhelmed, and I was unemployed outside of my internship. But, I made a lot of friends with my fellow interns, I sold my car (hooray for the CTA!), and I never regretted it for a second. I was hired just a few weeks after my internship ended.

DR: Theaters don’t slow down to show you how they operate. You have to grab onto the man’s coattails as he is flying down the street. At the same time, the best theater practitioners are not always the best teachers, and you sometimes have to teach yourself to learn by watching.

BS: Organization.  I was an aspiring actor who had never worked in an office before.  I remember it taking me awhile to learn how to manage my workflow successfully.  I think there were some pretty embarrassingly obvious things that Adam had to point out to me in the first couple of weeks.  I can be pretty awkward and counterintuitive in my approach to work, especially when I am feeling uncomfortable.  However, by the end I was happy that I was able to consistently stay ahead.  So much so that I started systematically cleaning out the casting files, which I don’t think anyone had done in ten or so years.

JL: Truly, time management was one of the biggest challenges. The Goodman Education and Community Programs Department does so much all over Chicagoland, and yet, only has two staff members and two interns. There are many facets to Education Administration, and sometimes you can lose sight of what the end goal is. But when you are able to go to a Student Matinee and see 600 CPS High School students engaged in a performance and talking up a storm at the post show discussion, you remember all your work was entirely worth it.

 

What surprised you during your internship at the Goodman? Feel free to list a single experience or a general note about your internship.

RK: The Goodman staff invested so much in the interns that it was a pleasure and an honor to roll up my sleeves and do whatever was required – even if that meant hours copying documents!   Because a context was given for whatever project I worked on I felt a part of the process no matter how small my role.

KL:  N/A

SF: How easy going and welcoming everyone was to the new sound intern :)

KI: I was surprised to learn how many people in the administrative staff are artists in their own right–and very talented ones. Some of them run their own companies in the city, others have vibrant freelance careers. I met one of my dearest and closest friends and collaborators because she was working in the development office at the time.

TS: I was surprised by how friendly the staff was to me.  I felt like they treated me like a peer from the first instant I walked through the door, and I’m still in touch with many of them now.

DR: I remember being surprised how many staff members left “work” to go work on other projects, often off Loop plays. I was like, “Wait? This isn’t it? You don’t get a job in a theater and settle in?” The truth is, there are a lot of jobs in major regional theaters that are not artistically satisfying. The woman who is in charge of the internship program and coordinating with local high schools might prefer to be directing. The guy who is working with newspapers for ad spots might prefer to be an actor. The guy reading scripts might prefer to be writing them. It was a wake up call to realize that a job in the theater was not the end goal—finding the right job at the right theater was. And, for most of us, that means multiple jobs at multiple theaters.

BS: I hope this isn’t misinterpreted, but it was the regularity that the office staff was able to find in their day-to-day work, and in the collectedness with which they processed the art in the city around them.  I was in a space where every encounter I had with art tended to elicit a reaction from me of either ecstasy or horror.  No matter what, I had a passionate view about everything I saw.  I observed from people on the staff that reacting manically to every piece of art was not a necessary ingredient towards striving for excellence in my own work.  In other words, it is possible to have a deeply critical eye without driving yourself crazy.  I know this sounds strange – or obvious – but it was really important that I learned that.  You can really burn yourself out otherwise, especially when you are sometimes seeing a show almost every night of the week.  Beyond this, it was important for me to realize that artists are almost never attempting to create something bad, but it happens to all of us. I still get completely invigorated when I see excellence in the theater, but I hold a lot more compassion and understanding for people if their work falls short of their aspirations.

JL: I was surprised at how much a well-oiled machine this theatre is. Everyone is willing to help with a huge project. Whether it is ushering for the Student Matinees or putting hundreds of cookies into plastic baggies for the Community Day in December, those that work within the theatre in any aspect are really willing to help you out in any way they can in a crunch. Even with the occasional paper jam.

 

What did you like best about the internship? This can be any aspect small or large alike.

RK: I got to spend over an entire season with the Goodman which took me from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to PAL JOEY.  Even though I primarily worked in the “administration” of the theater I felt like the interns were given many opportunities to be close to the art.

KL:  N/A

SF: By far the best part was making the contacts that launched me into my sound career.

KI: Playing kooshball with Mark Wing-Davey and the Passion Play company.

TS: I loved listening to Daft Punk in the intern office and leaving spontaneous “Hulk Smash!” notifications all around the office.

DR: When I was there, the marketing, development, dramaturgy, and literary intern were all squashed into one closet of a room, and we had some stellar, running jokes. We wrote them all down at one point . . . I’m not sure who has that list . . . I might have it actually . . . I also loved being one of the few people in the office confident in my copier-fixing abilities. I also loved being in the rehearsal room, especially on the new plays.

BS: I really enjoyed getting to be around marvelous Chicago actors. When you are studying to be an actor at a conservatory, you can get really swept up in a false image of success that only includes Broadway, television and film. Chicago actors are awesome because they tend to be a group of people that are involved in their craft for all of the right reasons.  You find a lot of grounded people who are doing this because they love their craft and they love telling good stories. I have a lot of respect for any artist who knows what really feeds their soul.

JL: I really enjoyed the camaraderie that my internship class had with one another. We were all on this bizarre, wild journey together. Most of us were just out of college and were experiencing our first Chicago winter together. (Freezing, of course.) It was good to know that you had a partner in crime in all the departments.

Working with the Chicagoland teachers through the Student Subscription Series and Dramatic Integration was also truly wonderful. The amount of time and effort they take to ensure they are giving their students all that they can is inspirational.

Along with that, the intern forums were very informational. We met with different artists, actors, teachers and theatre professionals across Chicago and were able to ask them anything and everything. It allowed me to have a greater respect in every way that you can embrace art in your life.

 

Do you keep in touch with anybody from your intern class?

RK: I’m not in “meaningful contact” with people from my intern class but a number of my intern supervisors went on to become friends and future colleagues/mentors of mine.

KL:   Yes, I keep in touch with fellow intern Michael Lonergan, who has remained a very dear and special friend to me.

SF: Yes, I work at the Goodman so I see people I met on my internship everyday!

KI: I’m facebook friends with all of them :) And the theatre community is small–people come in and out of your life in frequent and surprising ways.

TS: I’m in touch with literally every one of my fellow interns. They’ve gone from being my officemates to being my peers in the industry locally and nationally.

DR: The woman who was our intern coordinator when our term started and I became really close friends. She was just at my wedding! I’ve been in contact with a couple people from my class on a professional level, which is an amazing feeling. We’re slowly taking over! Watch out!

BS: Unfortunately, I don’t really.  I grew really close to one of the other interns who was this incredibly kind person.  I remember trying to send them a really long letter when they were going through a personally tragedy, but the post office kept returning it to me so I eventually gave up.  Other than that, working in DC has sort of put on hold some of my ties from Chicago.  That said, I am totally delighted whenever I run into anyone I know from the Chicago theater scene.

JL: The Fall 2009 Interns get together as much as possible. We’ve seen shows together, bowled (we’re pretty bad at bowling) or gotten together at Emerald Loop (a frequent 2009 intern haunt.) With Facebook and texting, I know this Texan girl not too far away from the people that helped me through the coldest winter of my life.

I also work with Hannah Fenlon with Two Birds Casting extensively. Hannah (former Goodman Casting Intern) came over to my schmed (my cubicle) when I was an intern and talked to me about website coding. As the Education Intern, I had to learn how to code in HTML in order to post EACE information on the web. She was looking for someone who would be interested in coding a website for a new casting facilitation company she and her friend, Erica Sartini, were creating. We had a meeting, and the rest, as they say, is history. I never would have thought that coding I learned as an Education Intern would be so important in my everyday life.

 

What is your favorite single memory or moment from your internship?

RK: The first day of my internship my supervisor told me to go watch a matinee performance of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE directed by the late Michael Maggio, Goodman’s then Associate Artistic Director.   Talk about a day of bliss.  I was affiliated with this incredible theater that created great art.  I went home walking on air. Certainly that memory is enhanced by the fact that I later joined the staff and that eventually Michael and I married.

KL:  I remember hearing that Michael Maggio was a huge Prince fan and that he had tickets to the Prince concert in town.  The next day, I covered Michael’s door with Prince pictures, but I covered Prince’s face with cut-out’s of Michael’s face – and he loved it!  I think that collage stayed on his door for months.

SF: I don’t really have a favorite moment, it is more just the energy that I remember the most. I was working as a front office agent at the Hyatt Hotel at the same time and I remember looking forward to heading back to Goodman to put it in the long hours of the internship. It was just really fun to be in tech and see how a professional theatre works and how every aspect ticks.

KI: Sarah Ruhl sat down to have a conversation with me about her career path. She was one of the most gracious and magnanimous professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and was incredibly encouraging. I don’t know if she remembers me or that conversation at all, but it inspired me to pursue a playwriting career. A close second favorite was Polly Noonan’s presentation on the history of theatrical pyrotechnics–she was one of the actors in Passion Play and they all had to do a dramaturgical presentation for the rest of the company. She called me the night before to go over some of the details–and definitely had the most incendiary presentation.

TS: Lavina Jadhwani and I were two of only 3 or 4 people in the office the day after Christmas. She bought lunch for me, and then gave me some great interview advice. I was hired 3 weeks after that conversation, and was happy to give her a good recommendation two years down the line that helped her get a job. We’re still working together regularly today.

DR: As a side project, I took it upon myself to reorganize the script library, which is literally a library: 10 or so healthy sized shelves with published scripts and manuscripts. No one asked me to do it, but it needed to be done. It really needed to be done. The feeling of finishing that epic project might have been the most satisfying moment of my internship. But perhaps my favorite was sitting next to Sarah Ruhl during the premiere production of Passion Play and her asking me my opinion on a scene. Or perhaps it was the intern Secret Santa party, which really just resulted in all of us giving each other physical manifestations of the inside jokes we had been sharing over the last four months. I got a batman apron.

BS: There were a couple of auditions from that summer that were pretty incredible. It was amazing to watch certain performers really let go and have these beautiful, honest discoveries in the audition room. I still remember who those people were…but I probably shouldn’t name names.

JL: Any time Willa would talk about, or take the Education Department out for food. This woman knows where to find the best food in the city. We went to Smoque for our last meal as an intern, Carnivale for the Holidays, and Macarthur’s, when we were out interviewing new schools for the Student Subscription Series. Macarthur’s was very near a religious experience. Go talk to Willa about where to eat. Seriously.

Also, the interns participated in the Artistic Department’s Secret Santa. All the names went in a bowl, and we all had to draw one for a gift under $10. Of course, I got Bob Falls. Of COURSE. I was terrified, but Logan Vaughn (Goodman Casting Associate) gave me some pointers. Bob, apparently, likes Diet Coke as much as I do. Mr. Falls and I bonded over that, for sure.

My co-intern in the Education Department, Jake Cohen, was really a pillar of strength for me. We worked so closely together that we actually (unintentionally) came up with our own language. It was wonderful to have someone who is such a passionate artist as your partner and friend.

 

Would you recommend this internship program to aspiring theatre professionals? Why or why not?

RK: Absolutely.  It’s an incredible institution and that’s because of the extraordinary people it attracts and holds on to.  It would be an amazing place for anyone to get their first taste of a professional theater.

KL:  Yes.  From the very first day, I was always treated like a valued and respected member of the staff.  No question was ever to small and all doors were open to me, should I just want to talk to someone about their job, their experiences, or get advice.

SF: Most definitely.  I have worked with all the sound interns that proceeded me. I have told everyone of them that this is the best internship to have. You are not used as cheap labor. Goodman stocks there crew with paid labor. You are here strictly to learn. You sole purpose is to absorb as much as you can and pick as many brains as you can.

KI: Unreservedly. Tanya Palmer is a brilliant dramaturg, literary manager and mentor! And the Goodman nurtures amazing playwrights. Anyone with a passion for play development–whether as a dramaturg, director or playwright stands to gain an invaluable wealth of information about their craft.

TS: Absolutely. You get amazing connections, and your Goodman internship will become the cornerstone of your resume.

DR: Sure! I learned a ton and it opened a lot of doors, both in Chicago and beyond.

BS: Yes, I absolutely would.  The Goodman has an incredible staff, and you will end up absorbing a lot of worthwhile information.  You might not get out of it what you hoped or expected to (I certainly didn’t. I had hoped to learn how to give a great audition myself, and I still have a lot of learning to do in that department) but what you end up getting out of it might be more valuable.

JL: I would recommend this program. You have to know that it’s a lot of hard work. You will be pushed in ways that you never thought possible. But make sure you try to learn something new every day, even across departments. Learn someone’s name, learn how to send a fax: anything.

 

What advice do you have for future theatre interns in Chicago?

RK: Stay in meaningful contact with the people you work with.  I asked people for informational interviews during my internship and tried to find ways to stay in touch with many Goodman employees after my internship.  I believe that is one of the reasons Executive Director Roche Schulfer even thought of me for the position that opened up in the development office – because I had done my best to try and make sure the Goodman didn’t forget me after my internship!

KL:  Internships are amazing learning experiences – but what you get out of them is up to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, attend every event or meeting that you can, be positive and be team member – work hard but have fun!

SF: Make as many contacts as you can. Chicago theatre is a pretty small community in the grand scheme of things and meeting people and making people know you and your work is the best way to be a success. It may sound cheesy but I love Chicago theatre simply because it has such a community feel. We are all in this together to achieve a common goal and that is what makes Chicago theatre so successful!

KI: I pass along the advice Willa gave us on our first day: read everything you’re asked to copy. That’s especially valuable for the literary intern, who lives at the copy machine some days.

TS: STICK WITH IT! You never know when a job is around the corner or when someone is watching you work hard. Stay positive and stay in touch and good things will happen.

DR: Don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do. You’re smart or you wouldn’t have been accepted, so I’m guessing you can look at the situation and figure out what needs doing. At the same time, be humble and respectful and understand that everyone in that building has something to teach you. Everyone.

BS: Know what you are looking to learn, but try to stay totally present to the experience at hand.  There is a disconnect between theater training and the professional world of the theater that is almost impossible to articulate and teach.  Letting yourself engage in the profession through an internship is one of the best ways I can think of to help bridge that gap.  Oh, and don’t be afraid to clue the staff into what you are hoping to get out of the internship.  The people you are working around have jobs that must get done, of course, but a lot of these people can be really incredible mentors if you help them understand what you are looking for.

JL: Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take initiative. Make sure you get what you want out of the internship.  Everyone in the theatre industry was once an intern somewhere.