Passing the Torch

(Part of a series about “Metamorphoses” at Georgia Shakespeare, running through July 21.)

Internships have gotten a bad rap in the for-profit world recently, but in the non-profit sector they still serve a vital purpose.  Spending a summer (or a year, or more) with a professional company can open an actor’s eyes and a producer’s doors, and both parties benefit.  

Our interns are in their final week at Georgia Shakespeare, finishing an exhausting summer of work on their own show, “Mighty Myths and Legends”, as well as a myriad of other tasks.  They live in dorms and spend all their waking hours either in or near the theater.  Their work puts them in contact with professionals on a daily basis.

Joe chatting with GS interns at their weekly lunch gathering

Joe chatting with GS interns at their weekly lunch gathering

As one of those professionals, I love the sense of participating in a centuries-old tradition of training, something akin to the medieval guild or the Renaissance artist’s studio.  Young people come into a company and are given work to do; they work alongside people who’ve been practicing the craft for years or decades; they build their skills, and one day, perhaps, they become masters and train a new generation.

I like to imagine Moliere’s company touring the south of France before they made it big in Paris, or Shakespeare’s company training young boys by giving them the women’s roles when women were barred from the English stage.  We give people a start.  Sometimes the young actors who work here come back to join the company, as Park Krausen, Joe Knezevich, and others have done.  Sometimes they find success elsewhere.  (Our most famous former intern, Jennifer Garner, is doing all right on the west coast.)

My dear friend Susie came to our show tonight, and as we left the theater we stopped to chat with two young actors who’ve recently completed an internship at another Atlanta company, Actor’s Express.  Susie and I were interns at the Alliance Theatre many years ago, and tonight we wound up talking about what happens when the internship ends and your career in professional theater begins.

Susie gave these newly-graduated interns the best advice possible:  stick it out.  Keep auditioning, keep learning, keep putting yourself out there.  People with less persistence will fall by the wayside, and at some point, your career will kick into gear.  It won’t be easy.  You’ll never stop looking for work.  But one day, you’ll become part of a community of people making theater.

When that happens . . . hire interns.

6 thoughts on “Passing the Torch

  1. So agree and SO important to learn under those who DO the work, while mid-process. I did mine at an Equity Rep company in CA from Freshman to Senior year in HS, doing everything from tech and SMing to company and feature roles. Would not have traded that experience and education for anything 🙂

  2. I remember those supremely talented interns at the Alliance Theatre when I was working there! They’ve become our most talented cadre of Atlanta actors. When I attended a recent performance of the splendid (like church when it’s so powerful!) Metamorphoses, a delightful intern named Lilly Romestant engaged me in conversation in the lobby. She was so excited about her experience there, and about the production. Her enthusiasm lifted me and renewed my faith that the live performance (COMMUNION) will endure as something essential to our culture and spirit.

  3. Passing the torch? Maybe lighting their own flame describes it better, at least for those interns fortunate enough to work so close where artistic passions burn so bright.

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