Grace Callahan ’14, Cornell Fellow in Arts Management
As this is my last week here and it’s tech week for the show, it has really been a great chance for me to reflect on all the things I’ve learned over the course of my internship. By no means was it all fun and games. At times, I felt overwhelmed by the rigor of the workload. In these moments, it was incredibly important for me to remember that I was learning life skills in addition to the specific skills that the job requires. I was learning to persevere. I was learning to innovate. I was learning how to figure out which questions to ask when I don’t understand. Additionally, I’ve made many professional contacts, and even a couple informal job proposals.
As a small theatre, we tend to work collectively. While I have learned quite a bit in arts administration, what I really got was a really close first-hand view of what it is like for the artistic director to oversee the management of all the different elements that have to come together to put a play up. Since my ultimate goal is to start my own theatre–a non-profit that works with under-served youth, teaching them life skills by producing shows–this lesson has been invaluable.
It feels that everything I’ve done while I’ve been here somehow ties into my ultimate goal. Working on my Teach for America application, which was due while I was here, gave me the opportunity to tie my most recent activities into the idea of educating the under-served. Similarly, I had a chance to volunteer with Global Zero a couple times. I got to work with the USA Chapter Coordinator on developing leadership training workshops, which were the exact skills that I got to watch the artistic director utilize every day in his daily interactions.
This past week, I also went to go see Violet at Ford’s Theatre (the one in D.C. where Lincoln was shot.) There were many technically interesting choices. For instance, there was a scrim where characters acted out some of the scenes from the past. However, it wasn’t like that was a location for all the scenes in that place or in that time, so I’m not sure what it added, even though it was interesting. There was also some really interesting set pieces that converted from bus seats to diner booths to train seating. Those were cool. As a playwright, however, I failed to see the necessity of some of the transitional scenes in these places. The story was a heart-warming tale of a white woman in 1964 who falls in love with a black Army sergeant. It definitely made me react. There were many racist moments in the show where I literally gasped at the fact that anyone would say that. My main issue with the love story is that the white woman–who had a huge scar on her face from getting an accident with an axe–sings a duet with the sergeant about what it’s like for someone to look at you and see past the surface of your skin. This playwright is directly comparing having dark skin to a physical disfigurement, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable. I see what the playwright is going for, but this was written in the 21st century. There’s no excuse for that. There are much better ways to get at that.
And here’s a gratuitous photo of me looking at the Capitol. I really was in D.C.