In fall 2020, five theatre arts students held arts administration internships with the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild, a local community theatre organization. While two of these students are pursuing the Arts Administration Certificate, many students in music, theatre and dance decide to pursue internships without working on the certificate just to acquire valuable experiences. The interns held a variety of different positions in education, fundraising, and administration.
The Executive Director of CVTG, Ann Sessions, says that, “The Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild has been lucky enough to have many UWEC Arts Administration interns over the years. Each intern brings a unique perspective and level of experience to us and it's rewarding to see them learn about and experience the arts in a real world setting. We are always grateful for the work that these interns are able to provide over the course of a semester.” Read on to hear these students reflect on their experiences interning with the Guild.
What is your name, majors/minors/certificates, and year in school?
JW: Jimmy Whitcomb, third-year, comprehensive theatre arts major
ES: Emily Szymanski, third-year, comprehensive theatre arts major
WO: Will O’Brien, third year, English education major, theatre arts minor
GK: Grace Kasparek, second-year, theatre arts major, arts administration certificate
RM: Rachel Mueller, third-year, theatre arts major, creative writing minor, arts administration certificate
What was your position at Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild?
JW: Education committee member
ES: Education committee member
WO: Education committee member
GK: General arts administration intern
RM: 40/15 Season Celebration intern
What were the major things you completed this semester during your internship?
JW: We planned educational theatre experiences for community members in the Chippewa Valley, making sure to keep in mind COVID restrictions and guidelines to make sure everything was safe. We wanted to give people opportunities to be involved in theatre in a time where much of theatre is shut down.
ES: I helped brainstorm and develop different educational opportunities for students and community members to participate in, to help give theatre experiences during the pandemic.
WO: This semester was primarily a planning process. I worked with two other university students (Emily and Jimmy) and members of the Eau Claire community to establish activities, classes, and workshops focused on theatre education. All of these programs will be occurring in the spring semester. The idea behind these programs is to create meaningful experiences for students of all ages (adults included) during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all know, theatre work/education has been drastically thin during this time, and the experiences we seek to provide CVTG hope to remedy that. Some of these programs include a Greek Theatre workshop which was Emily's idea and the Audition Dos and Dont's which was Jimmy's. Other programs that are in development include some of my ideas with another community member such as a playwriting workshop or a theatre themed book club.
GK: I did a lot of research for my supervisor about merchandise, quantities, pricing, fundraising opportunities, and matching donations/volunteer hours.
RM: I attended fundraising committee meetings, brainstormed fundraising and event ideas, and researched event opportunities.
What did you learn from your projects this year?
JW: I learned how to plan and execute events in a time where it is significantly more difficult to do so. I also learned a lot about collaborating with people and coming together to make something. I was one of the younger people on the committee, so working with people of all different ages and experience levels was really fun.
ES: The baseline for the start of any project is research. You need to look at lots of different sources to get a starting ground for any project you want to take on.
WO: I suppose I learned the planning and effort it takes behind creating activities for community theatre, and the value these experiences have to so many people, especially during this time. More learning experiences are sure to follow as I'll be assisting Emily in teaching the Greek Theatre class, and hopefully will offer my time in other similar endeavors.
GK: A lot of thought and time goes into developing activities, classes, etc and it takes a lot of people to get everything together. There isn't one person working on one project, it's a few people working on one project, because collaboration is so important in theatre!
RM: I learned so much about how a theatre company functions - the budget, the structure of board committees, the great ideas coming out from leading organizations across the country, and a lot more. I have a greater understanding about how decisions are made and how events go from an idea to being completed.
How will this experience prepare you for your future career?
JW: In my future I want to go into the field of education and educational outreach so this internship really gave me a taste of exactly what I want to be doing. I was able to sort of confirm to myself that this is what I’m passionate about and what I want to be doing.
ES: Once I'm finished with my time with CVTG, I'll have instructed at least one Acting Style class, potentially more, which will help build my leadership, collaborative, and teaching skills for the future. It will also help me overcome the anxiety of getting up in front of a group of people candidly, which is the opposite of what acting is, really. Although I want to be an actress in the future, not everything in life is scripted, so being able to teach a class on something that I've learned only very recently in college will definitely help my confidence in doing so in the future, if necessary.
WO: As an English Education major with a minor in theatre, this will impact my future career greatly. Engaging with students in any way possible will aid in developing essential skills needed to be a successful educator. Not only will I have the skills necessary for success in the classroom, but I will also have a background in being a good community member, something I think is paramount for students to see in their teachers.
GK: It was a good introduction to the world of arts administration. It gave me some great base techniques to use.
RM: I learned that fundraising and event planning are areas that I’d actually want to work in. Also, I’ll be much more prepared for the competitive summer internship season this year now that I have experience and an ideal focus. Completing this internship and taking a grant writing class concurrently helped me realize that a career in nonprofit development is both interesting and within reach.
Anything else fun or interesting to mention about your internship experience?
GK: My favorite part was probably coming up with my own wacky ideas to share. It was a great creative outlet.
ES: I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity, and to be working with them again next semester. They're a really great group of people and there's never a dull moment in our meetings. There's a good mix of people on the committee with different experience levels, so there's always somebody to talk to, confide in, or bounce your ideas off of without any judgement.