I have always had a love for theatre and the entertainment industry; initially I loved to perform and had the opportunity to perform in many shows, but at around the age of 13 I began to realise that it’s what happens behind the scenes which really interested me. As magical as a performance may look once it is polished and open to the public, there is a whole other world of magic that happens prior to this which many people never get to see. Once I realised this, I embraced the opportunity to get involved with backstage theatre in any way I could. 7 years later, I am now a final year undergraduate student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama studying Stage Management and Technical Theatre.
The theatre and entertainment industry is a very hands-on industry and there is only so much you can learn sat in a classroom or lecture hall. As a result, my university gives us the opportunity to work on 4 full scale shows each year, while also encouraging us to gain external experience working with and learning from industry practitioners in professional environments. This is where InterExchange comes in!
Having been involved with theatre for most of my life, going to university suddenly gave me the opportunity to learn about theatre in other countries, through working with international students and receiving tuition from visiting international lecturers. This made me interested in seeing how similar our industry is to the theatre industry in other countries. I had never been to America, but had always wanted to go, and with New York being home to some of the best theatres and shows in the world, it seemed like the perfect place to learn.
Once I realised that gaining training and work experience in New York was my dream, I began to research the opportunities available to me. As a student, I am constantly learning, but I also wanted the opportunity to put some of the skills I have already been taught into practice. As a result, I realised that an internship with an American theatre would offer me the best opportunity to fulfil my aim. It didn’t take me long to learn of The Public Theater who have been producing shows in Downtown New York since 1967. The Public Theater has an international reputation for producing quality shows and taking in interns each summer within many of their departments.
The Journey to the U.S.
I applied to The Public Theater for their “General Production” internship which would offer me the chance to work with all of their production departments rather than working with only one team. This would give me the best learning opportunities because I would be working with a range of people in order to carry out a range of tasks. To my amazement, I was invited for an interview with the Production Management team and shortly afterwards was offered the internship. It was a dream come true – but there was one problem; I would need a visa! I found InterExchange after carrying out many hours of research into the type of visa I would need and how I could go about getting one. From the moment I applied, I could keep track of my application with their very easy to use online system. This system could also be accessed by my U.S. employers so they could easily fill in any details needed from them and see how my application was going. The process was simple and efficient, and before I knew it, I was heading to New York!
The Beginning of the Internship
On the first day of my internship, I headed down to the theatre for the first time and met the team. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and interested in where I came from, and it was incredibly easy to integrate with the group and develop friendships which I have no doubt will stay with me forever. An added bonus was that my first day happened to coincide with World Refugee Day and the theatre had been booked out for a special naturalisation ceremony which saw state leaders and new American citizens joined together in celebration. I had the opportunity to work on the event and also watch the ceremony, and it was humbling to see how proud and patriotic everyone was. This was a perfect way to start my adventure in America and made me appreciate the culture all around me. Following the naturalisation ceremony, the theatre returned to normal and it was all steam ahead as we began preparations for the next show – one of the 2 shows I got to work on during the internship. This show was Troilus and Cressida and would form part of the New York Shakespeare Festival which would see thousands of people flock to Central Park to see free performances of Shakespeare classics.
Troilus and Cressida
On Troilus and Cressida, I had the opportunity to learn from and work closely with the Production Management department which allowed me to see how much goes into the day to day running of a theatre. I also got to work with all of the technical departments as we made preparations for the show. With Troilus and Cressida taking place at the open air theatre it also gave me a unique opportunity to work in an outdoor venue – something which it is usually too rainy to do back in Wales! I had the opportunity to work on Troilus and Cressida from the first day set build right through to the first preview performance, meaning I got to experience the full production process.
Working on Troilus and Cressida gave me a unique opportunity to develop skills in leadership and planning as I was able to observe the Assistant Production Managers on a daily basis to see how they managed their team and also worked with the other departments on site. With so much to do and so little time, communication is key, and learning in this environment allowed me to become much more confident in working with new people.
Read more about Ryan's experience at the Public Theater in Part 2!