[Currents headergraphic]

July 19, 1999

Theater internships give students a taste of life "on the boards"

By Barbara McKenna

Gary Armanac has what he calls an "opening dictum" for his Shakespeare Santa Cruz acting interns. The dictum? "Don't be late. Once class starts the doors are locked."

It's not, by any means, the most profound lesson these young actors will learn over the summer, but it may be the most essential one.
SSC company member and UCSC graduate Sam Misner got his first taste of professional theater last summer through the Shakespeare Santa Cruz internship program.
Photo: Barbara McKenna

As Armanac explains it, "Discipline and collaboration are among the most invaluable skills a young actor can master. During the course of the season, our interns will study multiple facets of performing Shakespeare--rhetoric, verse, physicality, sound--but none of that will matter unless they learn how to take their work seriously and to perform as part of a team. That knowledge will hold them in good stead when they enter the professional world."

Armanac, a company member who has spent four seasons acting at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) since 1986, is team teaching the SSC acting interns with company actress Amy Thone. Both are Equity actors and professional educators. While they instruct some 15 acting interns, another dozen or so college students are working with company designers, technicians, and directors through internships in design, stage management, and directing.

At SSC, acting interns attend an intensive ten-week course, participate in stage productions, and also engage in some work outside of acting, such as scenic construction or publicity.

Technical interns, who are interested in lighting, sound, set, and costume design, work with festival designers in the capacity of apprentices, according to SSC director of education and outreach Karin Magaldi-Unger, who has run the internship program since 1989. Internships are also given in stage management and directing.

All interns are required to work outside of their chosen focus because, Magaldi-Unger explained, "It gives them a fuller understanding of the breadth of theater, what goes into making a show happen. Theater is a collaborative art, and artists, actors, and technical people need to see the inside of each other's worlds so they can talk to each other."

Such programs, which give talented young actors and technicians a chance to work in the big leagues, are relatively uncommon. Many acting companies support some kind of education program but few offer such extensive training.

"One reason that we can offer such a rich program is because of the connection between the festival and the university," Armanac said.

The relationship between the two institutions is symbiotic--Shakespeare Santa Cruz, a UCSC affiliate, receives funding support from the university and use of performance spaces and other resources and, in turn, many UCSC theater arts majors participate in the internship program to further their academic work.

"We want to see students make that move from school into the professional world," said Magaldi-Unger. "One of the stepping stones is an internship, where they are working with and learning from professionals. Not only do they get their feet wet, they begin to establish a network that will help them as they seek work in professional theater."

The SSC Internship Program has numerous success stories; among them is Sam Misner. Misner graduated from UCSC this past spring with a major in theater arts. The previous summer Misner participated in the internship program, and this year he is a full-fledged company member, playing the roles of Peter in Romeo and Juliet and an outlaw, musician, and understudy for Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

"Just being a part of the festival was remarkable," recalled Misner. "It was great to get that exposure to professional theater right before I was about to go into it. The experience of the internship gave me a work ethic and also a feeling that the world of a working actor isn't so far off from my reality."

To the Currents home page

To UCSC's home page