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‘An unparalleled summer experience’: CATF interns develop skills throughout summer

By Staff | Aug 9, 2019

A costume department intern works with the costume shop manager to create the costumes for all six of CATF's productions. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — With the ending of the Contemporary American Theater Festival comes the ending of summer internships for a number of college students, who served on the staff in a number of areas.

According to Company Manager Nicole Smith, who is in charge of the company management interns, the interns are either administrative interns or fellows.

Company management interns serve in hospitality for all artists and patrons, providing travel, housing and events information or coordination. Business management interns track budgets, file hiring paperwork, prepare tax forms, keep donor records, help with event set up and work in marketing. Development interns manage CATF board and donor needs. Education interns do programs “for various ages and groups throughout the summer, including our Talk Theater series, Road Scholars, Hostel Youth! and Summer Internship.” Front of house interns work in the CATF Box office and help with patron management. Other internships utilize interns with technical theater skill sets, including carpentry, costuming, electricity, props, scenic art and sound.

For Shenandoah University senior theater major Alissa Cecala, joining CATF’s company was a no-brainer.

“I heard about it through school, because it’s a well-known theater festival. It was spoken highly of,” Cecala, of Houston, Texas, said. “I applied to a bunch of different internships, and this was the best one by far.

A prop department intern finishes a prop for one of CATF's productions. Props interns use standard theatrical prop construction techniques, as they cultivate their ability to use Photoshop, welding, upholstering and soft good construction to create the festival's props. Courtesy photo

“I think we’re given a lot more responsibility than I expected,” Cecala said. “I’ve done internships before that have not let us do very much, but CATF let me do a lot of things beforehand.”

According to Cecala, working as a front of house intern has helped her develop her interpersonal skills.

“My flexibility has grown from working with all sorts of people. I’ve learned to adapt easily and become more open, and have gained some leadership qualities,” Cecala said, mentioning her internship at CATF will be helpful, as she’s looking for a job in theater. “I’m an acting major right now, so I’ve been look at acting jobs. But administration is something I’ve been looking at as well, as something that I can do if I can’t get an acting job, but still want to work in the Arts.”

Fellow front of house intern Lanae Wilks, a senior theater major at Frostburg State University, said she enjoyed her internship so much, she plans on interning again next summer.

“CATF’s a great place to work. I’ve been here for nine weeks, from May 29 through August 1, and next season I plan on coming back for a backstage internship,” Wilks said. “There’s actually someone who’s been here for three years — he comes back and does an internship in a different department every summer.”

Wilks, who lives in Baltimore, Md., said she had intentionally looked for an internship outside of the city.

“I was trying to find an internship anywhere except Baltimore. I’m hoping to move away, because of the crime,” Wilks said. “I experienced something last summer that made me realize I have to move away. You get traumatized, once you see something happen.”

While working at CATF allowed her to escape the city for the summer, it also reminded her that there are more long-term career opportunities outside of Broadway.

“I want a career in regional theater,” Wilks said. “Everyone’s dream is to go to Broadway, but I’m focused on success, rather than fantasy.”