“Hurry up and wait!”: An intern’s year at the Arden
2016/17 Stage Management Intern, Jackie Leibowitz, shared her year-long experience interning at the Arden. We loved having Jackie work with and learn from us and wish her all the best during her masters program at Temple University next year.
How did you hear about the internship?
I’ve been seeing shows at the Arden since I first moved to Philadelphia back in 2012 (shout out to Next to Normal!). When it got close to graduation, the first internship I looked up was the Arden Professional Apprentice (APA) program. Since that program is highly competitive, I kept looking for other programs when I wasn’t accepted. I applied to 52 programs around the country over a period of about 6 months.
A few months passed since my initial search and I saw the posting for the internship when I was searching the “Jobs” page on Theatre Philadelphia…then I immediately sent in my cover letter that night! I interviewed about a month later. I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks and by this point I had already decided I was going to stay in Philadelphia to try and find work. I was rehearsing for a Fringe show in August when I got the email telling me I actually got the internship. It would be an understatement to say that I was dancing around with my fellow Stage Manager throughout the entirety of our 10 minute break after reading the news! Then I started in September and have been here for the last 10 months.
Do you remember what your first day was like? Last day?
My first day was pre-production rehearsal hall cleanup for The Legend of Georgia
McBride. I didn’t even know where to go! I went up to the production offices where I met one of our stage managers, Alec Ferrell, for the first time, and he took me on a tour around the Arden. It was totally different seeing it all from the other side! He then took me over to our rehearsal hall in the HamFam (the Hamilton Family Arts Center) where I started cleaning up from the previous rehearsal setup from Stupid F***ing Bird. As I ripped up old spike tape from the floor (which I actually enjoy doing! It’s very satisfying!), one of our other SMs, Katie Ringwood, came over to talk to Alec and introduce herself. After cleaning up, Alec and I went for a cup of coffee to talk about what I’d be doing this year. I’m the first full-season SM intern the Arden has ever had, so we decided we would all figure it out together.
I kind of consider two different days as my “last day.” My last day with the cast was a rehearsal during Gypsy previews. I did what I always do: I sat in the house on book, I took some pictures for the Arden Instagram, I helped out backstage when we needed extra hands, and I hung out with Andy when he wasn’t busy being a show-dog star! At the end of notes, I told the cast it was my last day and received an overwhelming “awwww!” as I went around and hugged all these beautiful humans.
My actual last day was at the end of our understudy run. Typically, I’m in the house on book during these runs just in case, but this time I had the opportunity to shadow Katie’s backstage Assistant Stage Manager track! I followed along on their run sheet paperwork and saw first-hand what she does during the show. After dinner break, I went upstairs and saw an evening performance of The Light Princess with my roommate to celebrate. It was a great way to come full circle!
What is a typical day for the Stage Management intern?
There’s two type of “typical days”: rehearsal days and tech days. When it’s a rehearsal day, I come in at my scheduled call, make coffee for everyone, and sweep the rehearsal hall to get everything started. I’ll help whoever is the APA on the show set up the room and get everything ready whether that be sharpening pencils or setting up furniture. During rehearsal it’s a mix of being on book, running around the room to make things run as smoothly as possible, making copies, and running errands between our two buildings to keep our ship running so our SM never has to leave the room.
On a tech day, I do mostly the same thing, but in the theater. I set up everything I can when I get there, sweep, put down some safety tape if I need to, and pick a spot in the house where I can be on book. Since I only work on each show through opening, I can’t do any backstage tracks in tech since I won’t be there for performances. So any time someone needs a hand while we’re in a hold…I’m there! I also love these days when I’m doing an Instagram takeover because I can get the best pictures when we’re in-action during rehearsal.
Being SM intern is a lot like being a production assistant, so I know the ropes and how to do the job…but it’s different on every show and always keeps you on your toes!
What was the funniest show to work on this year and why?
I think I’d have to say The Legend of Georgia McBride. That cast was full of goofballs who always had my stomach hurting from laughing so hard at the physical comedy bits they did in the show. From the first read through during our meet-and-greet, I knew I was in for a great time! One of my favorite memories will be the day that we did the scene where Casey gets into drag for the first time. Matteo and Dito were still getting their footing since it was our first week, but when you add in rehearsal undergarments, dresses, and heels, everyone was in tears from laughing so much! The final scene looked like organized chaos, but choreographing it was one of the biggest delights I had the opportunity to watch.
And speaking of choreography, I’m still not over that mega-mix dance party from the end of the show that Melanie Cotton created! I’ll never be able to hear “Lady Marmalade” and “Crazy in Love” without picturing Miss Tracy Mills lip-syncing to it!
What was the most challenging show you worked on this year?
The most challenging is split between two shows for me: John and Gypsy. For John, I was the furthest from my comfort zone since I’m definitely not used to working on as many straight plays. We had a LOT of props to keep track of (go Chris Haig!) and I found myself a little overwhelmed by how much was involved in the show itself. I had a pretty good idea of what my job was at this point, but since I didn’t have any music to hide behind, I had to really dig into the play to keep myself active. I also spent a ton of time taking care of our American Girl doll Samantha! Fun fact: I have about 15 American Girl dolls at home, so I knew how to care for her and keep her looking nice throughout rehearsals and the run…but doing that on top of everything else was the challenge! Luckily, on this show I had the pleasure of watching one of my mentors every day: the incomparable Nancy Boykin! Nancy was not only my adviser during my time at Temple, but she was my very first professor on my first day of college. Getting to come full-circle and work with her on this show made my days so much brighter!
Gypsy was obviously the other challenging show. Musicals are my strong suit, but this show is a monster to put on for anyone! We had a bit of a staggered rehearsal schedule, so I came in even more during this show than I typically did for the rest of the season. The sheer volume of the show, cast, understudies, furniture, and everything else made this show a huge challenge, but it also made it the most satisfying when we got all of it right! It was the biggest show we’d done all season and it felt so great when I got to sit down and watch it for the first time during our final dress rehearsal.
What are three things you learned this year that you find invaluable?
- Theatre is a big game of “hurry up and wait!” especially when you’re waiting on tasks to do for other people.
- Having keys is a luxury. There are a LOT of doors at the Arden and they all use different keys…and when you’re an intern, you don’t have any of them.
- The first step is getting in the room. When you’re lucky enough to be in the room with all of these incredible people, you know you’re doing something right. Once you’re there: sit back, keep your ears and your heart open, and learn from the best.
What is an accomplishment from your year at the Arden that makes you especially proud?
Honestly, I’m proud that I found a home at the Arden. I’ve gotten to know so many incredible people that I’ve idolized over my four years in school…and in one year I actually got to know them as people! I’ve learned how to balance work with play in this crazy little theatre world that I love so much, and that isn’t easy. When you make the jump from seeing shows from the audience perspective to actually working behind the scenes to make them a reality, you have to step back and take a moment to realize how special it all is. I also have to constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be a part of this community that I love so much. I’m so grateful to everyone for allowing me to be a part of their art when I’m still in the process of learning.
What advice do you have for next season’s Stage Management Intern?
Patience is key! This job is packed with long hours sometimes where you wonder, “why did I take this internship in the first place?” The answer is to be in that room and to be a part of something greater than yourself. You get such a diverse group of shows, people, and methods thrown together in one season, but you need to figure out what works best for you and apply it to your own artistry. You’ll find your niche here…just give it time and be open to all the wonderful possibilities that the Arden can give you.
What Arden show are you looking forward to seeing next season?
All of the musicals! I’m such a musical theatre dork at heart and there’s something I love about seeing new productions of classic shows I love and new musicals all together. Next season has more musicals than usual and that makes my little dorky heart jump with joy to see what the Arden does with them! The last show in the season specifically…I can’t wait to see what we do with it!
What are your plans for next year?
In the fall I’ll be returning to my alma mater, Temple University, to pursue my M.A. in Musical Theatre Studies. While I love stage management, I also have dreams of becoming a musical theatre historian one day and this is my first step in that direction. I deferred my enrollment for a year in order to save some money, and now I’m ready for one last year of school!
I won’t be far from the Arden though…next season you can still find me in the box office or working concessions!