Interning at a World-Class Theatre: A Student’s Perspective

— By Hannah Dorss —

Sometimes the most spontaneous, least-anticipated opportunities are the best ones. Although I had not planned on interning while at JPCatholic, God had other plans. When I randomly found the listing for internships at the world-renown Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, I knew that I was meant to intern there.

Although I knew it was God’s providence that the internship came about, arranging the details was not easy. I had to find transportation and housing in a new city, but no one would rent to me on a month-to-month basis. Because of this, I had almost given up hope of being able to do the internship when a fellow JPCatholic student I had just met, Bonnie, offered to house me for the month.

Once logistics were arranged, I did a bit of research about what to expect during my internship. I found that stage managing can include anything from printing paperwork and making coffee, to being on book—feeding actors lines if they forget–and scheduling rehearsals. As it happened, I did a lot of making coffee, being on-book, counseling the doubtful, and praying for people.

I gained practical skills during the internship, as well as some great experiences. I learned to print and laminate business cards, print fittings documents telling the actors when they needed to meet the costume designer, brew coffee (I didn’t actually know how to before), be on book, print and bind scripts, and prep a rehearsal space for a new play. I also gained a couple of friends from the acting company, and heard about their life experiences. I made connections with a fabulous DJ, director, and the stage management team.

Before the internship, I had gone to World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow. There, the message of mercy had seeped into my very core. I decided to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily on my bus route to The Old Globe for the cast, crew, and future audience members. I prayed that they’d be touched by the art that we were making together. Though I was just beginning to recognize it, my internship on Measure for Measure would not just be a stepping stone for future opportunities, but a truly rich experience of humanity and God’s mercy.

God’s mercy helped me to stay on task and find joy during my internship. Because I was doing very service-oriented tasks that had nothing to do with my major–acting, it was actually a very difficult, humbling process for me. It was hard to set myself aside and make the coffee, put up the daily call sheet on the bulletin board, stand in for an actor here and there, make the fittings calls, and be on book. At times, I felt very discouraged about the fact that I wasn’t acting too, and thought to myself, “If I were a good actor, I’d be acting right now! This is horrible.”

However, God’s mercy came through words of my little sister Jo. She encouraged me to keep going, telling me that there was value in working a show from a different perspective instead of just acting. Putting my ego aside and serving would teach me respect for others, she told me. Later on, I’d be discovered and have the chance to act. A few days later, the discouragement left, and I started to be happy with serving and making friends with the cast. I began to see the wonderful diversity of cast and crew, who brought a wide-running range of ideas and experiences and a solid ensemble spirit. I relished these new viewpoints and experiences, and the people that brought such richness of life to their art.

I also felt God’s mercy when I was frustrated with myself for continuously running late to rehearsals. However, I realized that my frustration was not because I cared about the creative people I was working with, but because I wanted to look good and perhaps get recommended for things in the future by them. Needless to say, I realized that my motives were quite selfish and experienced a fundamental shift in my mindset. At that point there was only one thing to do: develop a more profound respect for my cast and for the play itself. I resolved not be late anymore because of them, not because I wanted to further my own aims.

Mercy would never leave my side as I interned on Measure for Measure. At that time, the Year of Mercy was coming to a close and the presidential elections taking place. Measure for Measure, a play about sexuality, politics, and justice versus mercy, couldn’t have spoken to me more or seemed more providential. Measure was specifically made to perform free of charge for the wider community—at schools, libraries, correctional facilities, nursing homes, Naval bases. Because of this, I was able to close out the Year of Mercy by helping with a work of mercy, which also happened to be art!

All these experiences helped me to become a humbler, more open person, with a heightened empathy for humanity. Interning at The Old Globe also cemented in me my love for theatre and acting and gave me a better idea of how to pursue my dreams. I have since auditioned and been accepted at one of the top theatre schools in the world, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, for my MA in Acting, although I will have to wait a while and save up before I’m able to pursue my graduate studies in acting. I recently auditioned for The Old Globe’s 2017-2018 season, and am going up to Sacramento to audition for another professional theatre’s season. I know that without God giving me the internship I had, I would not be in the same place today. I’m definitely looking forward to the work ahead.