Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A summer with The Atlanta Shakespeare Company

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company hires three interns every summer to help out with administrative duties during the summer education programs.  Here are some of their experiences and what they learned.
Katherine Carey

      In true Atlanta Shakespeare Company style, I’d like to begin this reflection with a “Check In/Check Out.” At the beginning of this summer, despite the anxiety-inducing prospect of my first internship and first summer away from home, I felt excited, honored, anxious, and eager. Now, in reflecting on my time at the Tavern, I still feel honored to have had this opportunity, but the overwhelming emotions are gratitude and pride.

      From the first day of summer training, I was impressed and inspired by the professional and positive attitudes shown by the team of teaching artists with whom I would be working this summer, and by the end of training I felt not like an outsider or a newbie, but like part of a team. That feeling of camaraderie, I’m happy to say, continued throughout the summer in each element of my internship, from administration to education.

      My internship began with a month of administrative assistance in the Education Office and teaching at the South Bend summer camp. In the office, I really enjoyed the opportunity to see what happens behind-behind the scenes, and I loved the jobs I was given that mixed the administrative and the artistic, like creating the e-vite for the June Shakespeare Intensive for Teens’ final performance of…the Scottish Play.

      At South Bend, my Tavern training was certainly put to the test with campers who had never before interacted with Shakespeare or, for some, theatre, but I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful team of teachers who handled the challenge beautifully. Moreover, though working with the kids at South Bend was one of the most chaotic experiences and greatest challenges that this summer presented, the moments of “Eureka!” for the kids and breakthrough for the teachers were incredibly gratifying. Without a doubt, however, my most gratifying experience this summer was the opportunity to assist the July session of SIT, SIT’s first production of King Lear.

      Going into the intensive, I really didn’t know what to expect, or what would be expected of me, and felt ready for anything. What I wasn’t ready for was how amazing, talented, and dedicated all thirteen of our students were. I truly couldn’t be prouder of the hard work they put into their production and what they accomplished for themselves as performers and, more importantly, people.  Their dedication, boldness, and heart impressed and inspired me every day even more than the day before, and I consider it a privilege to have gotten to know and to work with them.

      As I told the cast in our final Check In, after commuting through Atlanta traffic every morning and being furious with everyone on the road, it was so refreshing to walk into work and be reminded that there are such good people in this world, and that I get to work with them. (Granted, half of them can’t drive yet, so…I’m kidding!) I know that they each taught me so much about our shared craft and about myself, and I hope they learned half as much from SIT and I as I did from them.

      I am also incredibly grateful to have had such wonderful directors in Mary Ruth Ralston and Chris Rushing. As directing partners, they complemented each other so well and were excellent examples and leaders for the students and for me. As my “lead dogs,” they were the most encouraging and positive people to work with and learn from. I never felt as though I was less important or that my contributions and thoughts were less valuable. I felt like part of the team, and I am truly appreciative of them for that.

      Overall my time at the Tavern was both familiar and challenging, a happy medium that allowed me the time to both consider my work and experience with an eye toward the future, and to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful opportunity that I was offered. I’m a bit sad to be leaving this internship and all the unique and fabulous people I’ve worked with, and I don’t know exactly what will come next, but I do know that I will carry the Tavern and all the relationships I have made with me, wherever I go. “I can no other answer make but thanks, And thanks” (Twelfth Night).
Abigail Fralix

      My time as an education intern at the Shakespeare Tavern has helped to stretch and expand the way that I think of the profession of the teaching artist. I came to the Tavern hoping to get my feet wet and see how an educational theater operates, but what I am leaving with is more than that.

      The opportunity to get to work with a staff so dedicated to bringing Shakespeare’s words to life for a new generation has inspired me to continue to find ways to share my passions with those around me. Watching the kids as they play and hone their craft has challenged me to sharpen my own skill set.

      The lessons I have learned this summer will continue with me, just as I know that they will continue on with every student that comes through the Tavern doors.

Lydia Flock

      “It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught” —“Getting to Know You” (Anna, The King and I)

      Having grown up in a Rogers and Hammerstein loving family, I am no stranger to this line from The King and I. But Anna was never a character I tended to relate to until I became an intern with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. 

      I’ve always had an interest in teaching; all through elementary school I said I wanted to be a teacher, even though I had no idea what that really meant. I just knew I liked my teachers and looked up to them, so of course I wanted to be exactly like them! I’ve always had a feeling I’d be a teacher one way or another. 

      Although I was eager to meet my students for ASC’s Shakespeare Superheroes program, I didn’t have a clue what to expect from these kids. I couldn’t imagine being able to recite (and act  out!) Shakespeare at age seven. I definitely didn’t expect a nine year old to give one of the most passionate “to-morrow” speeches from Macbeth I’ve ever seen. 

      What surprised me most about these children was how easy they were able to grasp the concept of playing “make believe” onstage. So often throughout the developmental stages in life, we can become quickly inhibited, afraid of looking silly or making a mistake. Many of the children at Superheroes were already inhibited, but fortunately still able to access (with lots of encouragement) the freedom that is their imagination. 

      One of the phrases I commonly said to my students was to “fail forward”. These kids really put their heart and soul into our abridged productions of Macbeth and Comedy of Errors, so when someone missed their cue or messed up a step in the dance, I loved how quickly (and how comedically) they were able to pick themselves back up with a huge grin on their face and keep going. The mantra “fail forward” is something I say to myself on a daily basis, but seeing it manifest itself in these child actors took my positive affirmation to a new level. 

      I did not expect to be in awe of how intelligent, creative, and passionate students ages 7-15 could be. I have such an appreciation for the kind of experiential education the Atlanta Shakespeare Company has created. It was a heart-warming experience.

I now identify with Anna. By my superheroes, I was taught.

Submitted by Amanda Lindsey McDonald in Education