Summer Behind the Scenes

This summer I interned at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, working under stage management on their summer show, Blackberry Daze. I want to be a screenwriter and director when I’m older, and this was my first time doing active work in the industry. It was very intense. Our day off was Monday, but other than that we worked eight-hour days, six days a week. My main job, along with the other intern, Maria, was to be in charge of props and set pieces. So, for the first week or so work was pretty dull. The cast busied themselves with read-throughs and music rehearsals while we mostly watched.

However, a couple of weeks in, my load really picked up. The set was abstract so Maria and I spent hours scribbling diagrams of the set—which mainly employed three benches to set the scene for any particular moment—and then erasing and redrawing when the director changed his mind, which he did a lot. When we moved to the main stage, I had to be ready to move scenery at any moment. Maria and I were also responsible for organizing the props backstage for the actors. I’d say it was about as mentally stimulating as my AP Chemistry class last year. That is, no matter how tired I may have been, I literally could not afford to let my mind wander.

But that isn’t to say that the work wasn’t enjoyable. Working on the show was amazing because I got to be “in the room” for the first time and just let the theatrical genius wash over me. My dad is a musician and he frequently does theater in the city, so I’ve been to several rehearsals in my life, but I’ve never been along for the entire process. I was there for the read-throughs and the first music rehearsals, and I helped the cast learn choreography.

My favorite parts were when I was just sitting watching the cast rehearse, and the director would stop to make notes. I love love love director’s notes. I’m a very analytical person. Even in our school productions (I’ve been in three shows at Groton so far), I like knowing, “OK, this is exactly what I need to work on.” Watching the director, Tom, give notes would give me chills. Sometimes the notes were more technical, but other times he would describe something pivotal to the actor and you could feel a flip switch in the room. One note can completely change the trajectory of a scene. I love that. I was also very lucky to be working with an all-black cast. Going in, I was immediately more comfortable. Plus, as a teenager, being surrounded by such degrees of black brilliance has more of an impact on me than I’d ever admit to my parents, coming home from a long tiring day of work.

I only worked on the show up to opening night, July 14 (which was magical and lovely). That night I had my mom, dad, great aunt, and family friend supporting me in the audience (and making me cringe when I had to come out to change the set pieces at intermission). However, in early August I saw the show from the audience with my sister, who actually also worked on the show unofficially, assisting the music director for two weeks; my grandmother; my cousin, who I grew up with but who has since moved away; and my dad. At the end of the show I felt so happy and proud. That was my cast. Afterward we stayed behind to catch up with everyone and it felt full circle. (Though I will admit that I didn’t mind having my summer back to myself in the weeks following opening!)