A Pioneer Tale - My Summer Internship Experience!
My major is Business and I work as a Scenic Assistant at the Sarkey’s Performing Arts Center in Shawnee, OK. I wanted to find an internship for this summer, so I started to look up for job offers. I asked a friend from Indiana if he knew about any works around the area, and he put me in touch with the responsible for the Lincoln Amphitheatre. He then told me about the auditions for the play “Abe Lincoln: A Pioneer Tale”. So, I applied for it, and I was hired!
I have worked in many professional and educational productions, but this was my first professional one here in the U.S., as a light and sound assistant. You can imagine how nervous and excited I was, especially when I found out that the production was actually bigger than I thought it would be. I saw videos on YouTube of the last years they did this production, and I was O.O!
Written by Ken Jones, with music by Jamey Strawn and lyrics by Christine Jones, the play is about Lincoln’s childhood in Indiana. The Amphitheatre is located inside the Lincoln State Park, close to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Everyone was very nice and friendly. Most were from Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio, so it was funny to have a Brazilian girl that lives in Oklahoma. (:
My first week was to make sure we had enough light fixtures and gels (colors) for the design the light designer had made for the show. This means we had to walk on the catwalk! The catwalk is the place where most light fixtures are hanging, close to the ceiling. Next time you go to a theatre, look up. Many times you can see the places where light technicians have to walk to focus the lights. There are many types of light fixtures, but one of them called “Columbus” looked like a space ship, because it hanged on the horizontal, and had many colors inside. :P Fun fact about that catwalk: we found a bird nest with two eggs! We never saw them cracking, though. There were also two pigeons living up there, which was funny because there was a sort of safety net between the audience and the catwalk just to make sure nothing would fall on people’s head when walking down there. So at first we were sorry for the pigeons because we thought they were stuck up there. We found out later they would go out every once in a while and then come back – smart pigeons! It was an open theater, so there was a lot of dust and a lot of bugs, birds, butterflies, mice, and every now and then, raccoons.
The technicians would start working in the morning, and the actors would come at 2pm to rehearse until 9pm. To put the lights facing the position and the angle we want, we have to focus when is totally dark. Now, it is summer, so sunset is around 9pm. Furthermore, the rehearsals finished up late so we could only start focusing when they left, around 9:30pm. We had to do it for only three nights and it was beautiful to see the starry sky in the darkness.
As for the sound system, we had to check the speakers and the microphones that worked. We also had to build the microphones – we stayed a whole day cleaning the old ones and another whole day building the new ones! There were many actors and we had to make extras in case any broke during the performances. Those microphones were the wireless ones, so we had to make the support to hold the mics on their heads. Once you build them with wire and tape, you have to paint the tape with make-up, so the audience will not see that easily the microphone.
In all those things, I have learned a lot! I also had the chance to help to build and paint the sets. We painted some furniture, walls and pieces of wood that were going to be used on a part of a set. We also did some cleaning on the tool room (where all the tools are located – paint, screws, drills, power tools, hammers, extensions, etc.), the cry room, and the crew house (where the light booth and the sound system are located, and where part of the crew stays during the shows).
We had to bring up the masking! So… Since it is an open theater, the back of the stage is full of trees. A closed theater usually has a wall or a cyc (a huge white fabric that hangs on the back of the stage) for the actors to be able to go to the other side of the stage without being seen. Since this one was only trees, we had to put a masking to mask the actors walking on the back. That was fun and tricky, but we made it! We had some long sticks, and two types of fabric we had to put up, one with fake leaves hanging. We had to use tie lines and zip ties to tie the fabrics to the sticks, and we had to ask permission for the trees to use them as support as well (They were very nice, and said yes, but only because it was for only two weeks). The thing is, we had some storms, so by the end of it, two of the poles were broken, and it was a mess! It became my personal holy mission to check on them every night and make sure they were still up. ;) Sometimes I felt like an explorer in the woods, walking in the middle of the trees to fix the masking! Haha, that was fun!
It was four weeks of production: the first two were rehearsals and technical production. The other two were show week, so the days we did not perform were off, and I got the chance to walk around the national parks and Jasper – where I was living. It was fun and interesting to see where Lincoln’s house was.
By the time the tech and dress rehearsals started, we were practically done with the technical preparations for the show! And so I started focusing on learning a new skill: operating the follow spot! This was basically a big spotlight with which I had to follow some characters in parts of the performance. That was fuuuuuuuuuun.
Here is a little video I did of the Backstage of the
You can see some of the photos of the production by clicking the link below (:
Official trailer of the play:
It was an amazing experience, and I will never be able to put in words how happy I was and how much I have learned. I will cherish it forever. Every day was a fun day of learning and working, and the whole team was amazing! As James A. Michener says,
"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both".
Thank you for reading!
Hope you enjoyed!