The other side of the business.

Since we've been pretty terrible at updating Super Awesome Broadway Ninjas since the summer began, I thought it'd be appropriate to explain my lack of posts. It is summer vacation, after all - sunbathing, sleeping, and having a grand old time doing nothing take priority, right?

Wrong. I'm spending my summer interning in public relations and special events for Pittsburgh CLO, a non-profit professional theater company. It's my first venture into the so-called "real world," and I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I love it.

PCLO is different from many typical theater companies in that it produces its own shows - six per summer season, a few at the CLO Cabaret, and A Musical Christmas Carol every Christmas. In the summer, each show typically runs for a week, with only one week of rehearsal time. Such a hurried process is turned into a respected production by means of the top-notch talent that CLO is able to attract. Regardless, fitting six shows into a period of nine weeks, and putting each show together in such a short amount of time, means a LOT of work.

A typical week, therefore, is hectic. (That may or may not be the understatement of the year.) Opening nights are always on Tuesdays, so intense preparation for an upcoming show begins on Wednesday. My responsibilities are somewhat split with with one other PR/special events intern, but we work on most projects together. The public relations portion of the job includes researching and writing stories for each show's program; compiling press releases of each show's cast, production team, and creative team; contacting various professionals who work for local television/radio/newspapers about our shows; updating social media sites; tallying audience surveys; and preparing welcome baskets, opening night baskets, and gifts for the cast members who travel to Pittsburgh to perform. The special events portion includes promoting the Pittsburgh CLO image at events such as the Children's Festival and the Carnegie Library Reading Extravaganza, as well as purchasing decorations and the cake for each opening night cast party.

Those of you who know me know that I enjoy staying up-to-date with the Broadway scene, and that my tasks at work, described above, are not really work at all for me. To those of you who don't know me, this story should suffice to explain. When Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Next to Normal back in April, I happily informed my mother of the award (she had enjoyed the show when I took her to see it in September) and explained that Hillary and I had spotted Mr. Kitt in the balcony at a preview performance of American Idiot, but hadn't gotten the chance to meet and congratulate him. Her response was something along the lines of shock that I not only knew who wrote and scored the show, but recognized him as well. I don't claim to be a theater-know-it-all by any means - my internship has taught me that I have so much to learn, if anything - but I find the process behind how a show comes to life fascinating. Following the world of theater - what show a certain writer, composer, or actor is working on next, the critics' responses to various productions, or the cross-over of Broadway actors into other entertainment mediums - is surprisingly similar to following a sports team - the evolution of particular players over the years, the hiring of a new coaching staff, or the construction of a new stadium - and requires constant attention to ever-changing developments, which is something that I happen to enjoy immensely.

See what I mean? I couldn't have asked for a better experience this summer. Sometimes it still seems strange to me that I go to work every morning through the stage door of the Benedum, a theater that I've grown up seeing shows in. I also wasn't quite sure what to expect with my first internship, but all the interns have really been made to feel like a valuable part of the company, which is very rewarding, and I feel that everything I do matters for the success of the production and the reputation of PCLO. Some of the press releases I've written have even been posted on the Pittsburgh section of BroadwayWorld!

Our first show of the season was Oliver!, which ran over the first week of June. Since I was assigned to PR for the show, my writing was published in the program. Once I purchase a new Playbill binder, it will be quite a thrill to add a program that I've contributed to! I also had the opportunity to accompany a few of the show's cast members to several interviews. One of my favorites was tagging along with Mark Indelicato (the Artful Dodger), of television's Ugly Betty, to a relaxed lunchtime magazine interview. Although Mr. Indelicato is only 15 years old, he has an incredible grasp on his situation in life, and a way with words that justifies his desire to become a journalist. Performance-wise, Patrick Page as Fagin stole the show for me with his ability to toe the line between pure villain and a gentleman who truly cares about the boys he takes under his wing. Interestingly enough, the news broke during the week of Oliver! that Mr. Page is rumored to be the newest addition to the cast of the ever-mysterious Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, as the Green Goblin. (Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask him about it.)

Currently, we are in the middle of a two-week run of Miss Saigon, which opened last Tuesday and will travel to Toronto for four weeks and Schenectady for one following its run in Pittsburgh. Attending the tech rehearsal on Monday night was a fascinating experience - you will never hear me complain about spending five hours in a theater, watching unbelievably talented actors and hard-working production staff do what they do best. Opening night was fantastic as well. I knew I was going to enjoy the show, although I was not familiar with it beforehand, but I did not expect to fall in love with it. I particularly enjoyed the historical context of the Vietnam War, as well as the operatic style of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, who also wrote Les Miserables. The characters in the show are also some of the more intriguing that I've come across. Several of the actors, including Kevin Gray as the Engineer, Ma-Anne Dionisio as Kim, and Aaron Ramey as Chris, are reprising their roles from previous productions of Miss Saigon, and some of them have even worked together before, which adds even more depth to their characters. Each of the three principles are quite convincing in their respective roles and have beautifully powerful voices to add as well, with the rest of the ensemble filling out a very strong cast. In accordance with my inability to see a show once, I'm taking my parents to the show this weekend, as well as going again next week; watching the progression of the cast as they become more comfortable with each other should be wonderful to see as they prepare to take the show on the road.

Our final four shows are Curtains (with Sally Struthers and Malcolm Gets), The Producers (starring Joey Fatone), Hairspray (with Drew Lachey), and The Student Prince. A new show at the Cabaret, entitled 'S Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical, also opens this week. It's an exciting season to be interning with the CLO, that's for sure!

Although I've been with Pittsburgh CLO for just over a month, my experiences thus far have completely confirmed that I want to pursue a career in the theater business. Earlier this week, I was driving home a little after 12:30am after spending 15 hours at work, and all I could think about was how excited I was to return the next day. For someone who's swung back and forth between various career paths over the past few years, that's a satisfying feeling. The transition from being simply a fan of the theater to someone who works on the inside has been challenging and exhausting, and every day is a learning experience. At first I was afraid that constant immersion in something that I love so much would turn play into work. But after realizing that spending time inside a theater, and preparing the way for other people to spend time inside a theater, is what makes me happier than anything else, I can't imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life.


Lina said...

I am so glad you love theater so much that you're going to pursue a career! We will surely work together in the future! Can't wait to hear more about your internship :)

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