This summer, Bates students took their skills out into the world through work, volunteering and internships. Included in the string of impressive health, government and business internships, Bates students interested in the arts also got a taste of the working world.
Three students shared their experiences over the summer. Kiyona Mizuno ’18, who works as a costume stitcher in the Theater and Dance department, worked this year with the Youth Musical Theater Company in Berkley, California. The company provides training for students in middle school through college in acting, singing and dancing. In addition to costume design, she took on set construction, something that was new to her and naturally had a “steep learning curve.”
Jason Ross ’19, a Chemistry major with a Dance GEC, interned with the Bates Dance Festival as a Technical Production Intern. According to Ross, this was good training for his work stage managing back at Bates.
Nate Stephenson ’18 also worked behind the stage as an apprentice at Williamstown Theater Festival, or WTF (“that’s really their abbreviation,” says Nate). The program was a little different than he expected. “I thought I would have many more performance opportunities that I did,” he says. “I did get a chance to perform, but the program was much more heavily work oriented.”
That being said, Stephenson still felt he benefited creatively from the program. “I feel as though being around so many amazing professional actors really helped charge my creative batteries.” Ross also found a sense of creative expression through lighting design. “Learning how to emphasize certain aspects of physical art was eye-opening,” he says. He specifically mentioned dancer and choreographer Doug Varone, who began his performance at the Bates Dance Festival with just his head illuminated. Mizuno had a slightly different experience. As the assistant to the costume designer, her work was more about the “nitty-gritty logistics” than creative production. She stressed that organizational skills are equally important as creativity.
As for challenges, students had to contend with the immense workload of theater life, in addition to the stress of managing interpersonal work relationships. Stephenson described a grueling schedule; “A typical day might start at 9:30, work you throughout the day with an hour for lunch, ending at seven, but with an overnight shift that would run from midnight to 8 the next morning.”
Ross also experienced the high expectations placed on tech crew. “I don’t want to say you’re like a servant sometimes, but sometimes you are,” he jokes. Ross also learned how to work together with people from different schools, even in a theater where he was most familiar. Mizuno was also challenged working with the other costume design intern, who was less experienced. “She required a lot of hand holding, it was definitely a learning experience,” she says.
Conversely, working with people can also be one of the most enjoyable parts of an internship. “One of the best parts was working with theater people,” Mizuno says. “Everyone is weird in their own way, and really open and accepting.” She also enjoyed working with the kids. “It was nice being a sort of mentor.”
Stephenson also enjoyed working with other actors. “Everyone at WTF is incredibly passionate. I’ve made contacts from across the country and everyone is super willing to talk and give advice from their own experiences.” Ross shared some of the fun had in the little moments, like when he jumped in a tap dancing warm up with Michelle Dorrance. He felt he definitely made valuable contacts as well.
Would they suggest their internships to other students? Ross says, “I would recommend it to students specifically interested in that stuff. You have to be serious and know what you’re doing before you go in, prior experience is required.” Mizuno felt very qualified from her work at Bates and not overwhelmed, but noted that the pre-set program requires tuition. The program provides financial aid and Bates students can also join the Purposeful Work program, which Ross and Mizuno both participated in. “It’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting into with a Williamstown apprenticeship, and so if you’re looking for a place you can spend all summer under the spotlights, it wouldn’t be an appropriate fit,” says Stephenson. “However, if you’re looking to work hard for a truly gratifying cause, get to know artists at the top of their craft, and make lifelong connections with people you’ll be working with for the rest of your life, then Williamstown is the place for you!”