The Intern Interviews, Round One!: The Closet

November 5, 2010 in Blog by Willy-Landon

It’s been over two months since the fall 2010 interns started at the Goodman. All have learned volumes in their respective departments, and the time is flying by. In Education and Community Engagement, the interns already have two Student Subscription Series study guides behind them, as well as planning for free community events, our well-established educational and community programs and some brand new projects starting this fall. We’ve had to learn new software as well as improve upon our HTML and AP style skills, and our writing has certainly run the gauntlet as well. Our duties have flipped back and forth between the artistic and the administrative, from updating spreadsheets and scheduling meetings to design and layout. We’ve had the opportunity to spend extra hours in workshops for teachers and people of the medical profession, and are awaiting SSS student matinees.

With much more on the horizon and every day filled with a variety of tasks, it’s rare that we’ve found time to pause and reflect on our successes and challenges.

While we’ve often been stuck inside the operations of our own department, we have had some opportunity to mingle and chat with the other interns from the fourth floor administration offices and the production departments downstairs. In the following blog installments, over the course of a couple weeks, we’ll be shedding some light on the experiences of our fellow Goodman interns. Through this we hope to find some of the commonalities as well as differences in our expectations, achievements and struggles.

In the first installment, we begin with the Intern Office, which we lovingly call the “Intern Closet”. It is an interns-only office which houses the interns for the Literary, Marketing/PR, and Development departments.

Books and Branding: Life in the Intern Closet.

Chris and Liz, the Literary interns, taking a break from combing scripts.

We were able to speak with Liz and Christopher, the two Literary/Dramaturgical interns, as well as Marketing intern Katherine and new  PR/Publicity intern Ellana, who had just started her internship several days prior to the interview. It was just as much a lively group discussion as an interview, and the interviews went as follows:

EACE: So what has been your most memorable experience at the Goodman?

Liz Dengel: I met Karen Aldridge, and I’m a really big fan of hers. We talked about the Bay Area. I tried not to look too star-struck, but I’m really excited for when she comes back here with Trinity River.

Christopher Shea: I saw The Seagull – it had been in rehearsals, and then they finally went up on the stage and did a run of it, and they’d been doing all of this interesting work in rehearsal. To see how it translated the first time was memorable.

Katherine Egan: I think, for me, it was working at opening night for Candide. Having met the actors before opening, and Mary Zimmerman, was amazing in its own right and very much its own experience. Opening night was fun, I got to meet the press, taking pictures of everyone and approaching them and saying “Oh, I’m such a fan! Can I take your picture for publicity purposes?” – which was really interesting, and at first it’s kind of awkward. But then, I got used to it, and very comfortable, and it was just really fun.

Ellana Kelter: This is my… second day as an intern (all laugh) and there have been many memorable moments that I’m looking forward – ah – it’s been kind of overwhelming as far as it being the second day. [Chris interjects: You met me…] My most memorable was this meeting – I was waiting to meet Christopher the first day (laughs).

Liz: I have actually remembered my most memorable moment – it still has to do with Karen Aldridge, is it okay if I change my answer? I got to sit in on the reading at the end of the Trinity River workshop here, and it was just at the long table in the conference room and we’d been in there for meals and such, it’s not – you know, I didn’t think of it as a particularly special space before. But this reading had some of the best acting that I had seen in a very long time. I felt like it was my birthday – like I got to see the preview four months before anybody else in Chicago.

What’s been your greatest challenge as an intern?

Ellana: Working on a PC, because I’m… used to Macs. Again though, it’s my second day so… (laughs). What’s not a challenge, right? I’ve just, literally been trying to take in as much information as quickly as possible.

Liz: I’d say, for me, the greatest challenge is when people come to me with questions about shows that were done before we got here. When someone says, you know, “Who was in Othello… I think it went up in 1964… can you find me the program?” Fortunately everyone here is really helpful, so when there’s a question I don’t know how to answer, there’s always someone who can help me. It’s hard to keep so much history straight when we’ve been here for so little of it.

Chris: I think it’s a tricky combination of cerebral and detail-oriented stuff, because some of what we’re doing is reading scripts, and thinking about them, and judging them. And then some of it is tracking script changes, and it’s kind of hard to get, sometimes, from one mode, where you’re looking for a line or the number of periods on a page, to thinking more broadly. But… fun. [Liz: I think that’s definitely a challenge…] It’s a nice combo, though.

Katherine: I think one of the most challenging things has been learning to adapt quickly. Whether it be learning to adapt to a new work environment or prioritizing projects, across the board I’m learning constantly. This is my first Marketing internship. I’ve had other internships dealing with marketing and promotions and publicity. But, just learning the different ways the Goodman has things done, working with press clips everyday, and learning how to format them in a very specific way I think is really important to know and it makes you a really fast learner. And, being able to multi-task – I’ve always thought of myself as a great multi-tasker, but for this it’s really about taking everything that you have to do and prioritizing it so it’s most effectively done, and I think that’s challenging. [Liz: Because you were essentially two interns at the same time…] Yeah… that was… not fun. I mean, it’s fun, but it was difficult, especially because there are certain things that are out of your control -  different computer programs, or, waiting for things to get done that are out of your hands. I think that goes along with being patient, because that’s an imperative skill.

Katherine and Ellena, the Marketing/PR interns - doing some shameless promotion.

And your greatest achievement?

Liz: For me it’s about little victories. There hasn’t been one moment where it’s like, “Ah! I work at the Goodman!”. Knowing that you’re contributing just a little bit to the organization that turns out such interesting work is a wonderful feeling.

Chris: We had a script development meeting with some new playwrights, and people were bouncing ideas off of each other and I contributed in a way that I think might end up helping the playwright as they go forward with the project. One of them was in the middle of the early stages where he wasn’t really sure if he wanted to go forward with it and I think that the conversation that we all had made him think that he does, so that was pretty cool.

Katherine: I think for me, it’s just, there’s – especially in the marketing and PR/publicity department – there’s a lot of formalities that are very important to know; they’re there for a reason. But, just knowing them to the point where everything becomes second nature and you just do it automatically, I think that, for me, was extremely gratifying. Especially now, that I’m able to train someone – I never thought that would be possible because my first week (To Ellana:) I’m sure, as you’re feeling, it’s so overwhelming, there are so many little things that are important that you need to remember. I’m finally at the point where I know these things, and I know them well, and I’m able to help someone else learn them. [Ellana: She’s been a very good teacher. No, you have been!]

Ellana: In a couple weeks. I have not had a… greatest achievement yet.

Liz: I swear this is the last time I’ll do it, I have a different greatest achievement. I got to be in the meeting when they were talking about New Stages plays, and one of the plays that I really, really liked – I’d thought it was modern, and hip, but wasn’t sure if it would go over well because I kind of felt like it was written with college students in mind, and so I said something like: “Well, I don’t know if this would be a good fit for the Goodman, because I think that I’m really the target audience,” and as soon as I said that I felt like people took the play more seriously – once I was like, yeah, I’m the demographic to whom this play speaks. They suddenly looked excited about it, and now it’s actually one of the ones in the New Stages series.

What is one new skill you’ve learned as an intern that you can add to your professional repertoire?

Chris: Limelight. [Liz: Mmm, Limelight’s really useful.] (To Liz:) Yeah. And, the standard way of tracking script changes is also… a skill.

Liz: Christopher’s been in ‘Seagull rehearsals, and I’ve been up in the office a little bit more since Candide ended its rehearsal process, and I think I’m getting – and I’m still in the process of learning this – but I’m getting to the point where I can read a play and distill it into a paragraph that describes what this play accomplishes, what it sets out to do. And so the distillation, I think, would be the skill that I’m most excited to take away from this.

Katherine: For me, it’s knowing how to better publicize and market a theatre as a brand, and not just specific shows. Obviously we do a lot of work with the specific shows. But I think that the Goodman is really a brand – before, I mean I grew up around here, so I’ve had certain ideas about what the Goodman represents, but marketing-wise, there are many qualities that you always have to think about. In meetings, when we talk about what tools to use to better promote the plays – and Goodman – there are certain ideals and qualities that you want to establish no matter what the play is. I think that’s been really useful, just because it puts into perspective how to market, really, anything – besides plays, or the theatre.

Ellana: Oh, you know… press clips, programs (laughs).

What are some of your short and long term goals for your internship?

Liz: I don’t know where my life is going, so… I won’t give you guys an answer (laughs). I could lie, but that’s no good.

Chris: I think that one of the things I’m really getting and going to get is thinking about how to talk to people, from administrators to playwrights about works in progress. And, I hope and think that will be a part of my long-term career. So, that’s key.

Katherine: Short term goals, I would say… just kind of learning the lay of the land, how marketing, any marketing department, and company – whether it be non-profit or related to theatre or not at all – how they operate. Long term – figuring out what I like about certain aspects of the departments, what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses, what I’m interested in. And, I think this internship is great because you get publicity, PR and marketing, and personally I’ve just noticed different things that I’m good at, different things that I’m not good at, you know, that’s who I am. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this internship.

Ellana: Hmmm. My short term goals are to just become acclimated with a nonprofit theatre. I’ve never really worked in “behind-the-scenes”, this aspect of it. And… my long-term goal… the Goodman, I feel, has been pretty successful, so it’s a good gauge just being in this world of theatre marketing or publicity or in venues where I learn to adhere to whatever job I work next in this same sort of theatre venue – of live entertainment.

What are some pros and cons of living in Chicago?

Liz: I think it’s hard to talk about Chicago life, because your life will feel so different, like the material reality of your life is different depending on what neighborhood you’re in. It’s hard for me to make a sweeping observation about it. My pro is, I live just three “el” stops away from the theatre, so it’s really easy to get here – it’s quick. The con is, if I want to go to the fun places, where all of the cool young people are, I have to go much farther (laughs).

Katherine: I live in the suburbs, so – I’ve grown up around Chicago – so I’ve been familiar with the city my entire life. I’ve lived in other cities before, just going to school in a different city and going abroad to a different city and living different places during the summers, stuff like that. But I think the general vibe of Chicago is completely unique. It’s a very liveable city, it’s very beautiful, the architecture’s very distinct from other cities. I think it’s a very fast-paced city, but it’s easy to get around, it’s not overwhelmingly crowded. There’s so many things to do, so many great places to eat. There is a great artistic community, which is well represented. You know, you can go to improv one night, a drama, a ballet the next. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, here the theatre’s very rich and very diverse and great, but it still feels like a very tightly knit community. It seems like a very small town even though it’s a huge city. I’d say with me, ‘cause I’m from the suburbs, a con is, it’s hard for me to get around to places downtown, but I feel like it’s a very manageable city to get around. You could have a car – it’s not like LA where you need to have a car, it’s not like New York where you have little need for a car – you can have a car or rely completely on public transportation which is great. I take the train every day from the suburbs and I can walk here. It’s very nice – I walk from Ogilvie, it’s like a ten minute walk. I’d say a con is the weather. I’m a warm weather person, so, for me, I just don’t like winters. But I love the summers.

Chris: One thing I really like about it is that, there is a lot of storefront theatre but then even places like the Goodman just aren’t at Broadway prices, and so I think that leads to a community where you go – I went to a show at Steppenwolf with my parents when they visited from Boston, and my mom said something about how you’d never see an audience like this there, because tickets are like eighty bucks and there really is a sense of… there’s a more diverse, in every sense of the word, kind of audience at places from the Goodman on down to other things. If a ticket for balcony seats during, previews of The Seagull is as much as a movie ticket, then that just leads to people living more interesting weekend lives. But it’s also sprawling, and that’s my one big con, is that it takes me awhile to get places.

Dramaturgy Interns!

Dramaturgy Interns, Chris and Liz, examine New Stages.

Liz: Biggest pro ever? Low cost of living. Oh my gosh. I sort of halfway lived in New York last year. It was crazy expensive, especially as a student. I mean I love that New York has art and theatre everywhere, but Christopher’s right. If I wanted to go see a play, even if I stood in line for half priced tickets, I was going to be out… 70 dollars.

Ellana: Pros… I guess, the way it feels, walking around, it’s so busy – there are a lot of people. A lot of working people, but a lot of people enjoying the city. And I don’t have to drive everywhere. I’m coming from Austin, Texas, and I had to drive everywhere, and I was tired of driving. Cons? I don’t know the cons yet because I haven’t lived here long enough.

What is a favorite play you’ve seen since you began living in Chicago or working at the Goodman?

Liz: Oh, I got to see ‘Streetcar at Writer’s Theatre. And it was magnificent. I also don’t understand how the actors do that on two-show days, because there’s so much screaming and Williams requires such a raw portrayal of humanity. As one who formerly had a vocal injury, I was watching them scream at one another and thinking “How are you going to do this again in 45 minutes?” But it was amazing, it was really wonderful.

Chris: Trying to think of what I’ve seen… What have I seen since my internship started… . Candide and The Seagull. And I’ve seen other things. Can I go a little further back to something I’ve seen before I started my internship, ‘cause I’ve been living in Chicago? I saw Theatre Oobleck’s Dr. Faustus, but it wasn’t Dr. Faustus, it was a new monologue by Mickle Maher, or newish. It was called An Apology For The Course and Outcome of Certain Events, Delivered by Dr. Faustus, on This His Final Evening, and it’s this 80 minute monologue delivered to Mephistopheles who just sits there looking up, and it was done in the relatively empty Chopin basement and it was amazing. And I also saw The Man Who Was Thursday which was this sprawling – it was based on a novel written in the early 1900s, farce, and they made the audience move from 3 rows – in a Lincoln Park arts center, or community center, or something like that – back and forth. And that play was actually one that, moments from it kind of come back a year later. It just really stuck with me.

Liz: Isn’t Dr. Faustus the one where he keeps talking about all the tick marks? And how – [Chris: Yeah! Yeah.] Yeah, I actually saw that done at ‘Cherubs’ at Northwestern this past summer, a friend of mine named Michael Fosberg directed it as an ensemble show. He broke it up so fifteen of them took it apart together, and it was really – it’s a wonderful text. [Chris: It’s great, yeah. It’s really great.]

Katherine: I just saw The Seagull last night and I loved it. I love Second City, I’m a huge comedy fan. But, I saw The Seagull last night and thought it was great. A show like that is so iconic, and one hears different things about others’ versions and you read different translations so you always enter a show with that reputation with preconceived notions. I just thought it was very well done – it was very interesting. I love Chekhov, and thought Bob Falls’ view was unique and liberating.

Ellana: I can’t say that I have a favorite, cause I’ve seen – I saw a play at the Artistic Home, which is a small storefront theatre; I saw a Second City show; I saw Billy Elliot, and I’m hopefully going to see Candide. So I can’t say I have a favorite because those are all very different venues and types of shows. But, I like seeing theatre, so… I don’t have a favorite.

In the following posts, we continue our interviews with the interns in Casting, Production, Development, Video Production and more candid responses from Education. Keep checking in!