Externship Student Reflection

8 February 2019

Jez Bigornia ’20 shares highlights from his Winter Break Externship experience.

Why did you apply to this specific externship?

I applied to be a theater management extern for The Acting Company (also known as the Group I Acting Company) so I’d have the opportunity to experience theater outside of academia in a professional setting — no better place to experience and learn than in New York City! Also, prior to this externship, I had only been exposed to acting and directing; this particular experience would expose me to other theater-related career paths, expanding my awareness of occupations in theater.

Describe the type of activities that you observed/participated in throughout your externship.

During my time as an extern, I accompanied the Associate Artistic Director where I observed auditions for their upcoming school tour of Othello — the cast was condensed to five actors touring approximately 15 middle and high schools across four of the five boroughs. From this experience, I deepened my understanding regarding audition preparation from a director’s perspective and how to read and discern strong acting resumes. Though I only observed four auditions, I was grateful that the Associate Artistic Director and I shared similar views and opinions.

I also observed board meetings, namely financial and executive. While I found the experience to be challenging at times due to my unfamiliarity with the issues being discussed, I was able to experience the process of a nonprofit organization, specifically, working with a board of directors on issues pertaining to budgets and fundraising plans.

On one particular day, I traveled to Westport, CT, to observe operations of a different theater company. While The Acting Company is an Off-Broadway theater company that focuses on touring, Westport Playhouse is a larger regional theater company with a bigger budget. It was interesting to note the similarities and differences of operations and meetings between the two companies.

I assisted with various projects here and there during my time with the Company, too. For example, I wrote a curriculum guide for Othello — essentially educating the teachers how to instruct students about Shakespeare plays. Referencing a previous Julius Caesar guide provided a blueprint for detailing in-depth themes and history of Othello.

The most memorable project I did, however, was research. A few years back, the Company produced X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation with great success and outreach among the lower income and nonwhite communities in New York City. This upcoming season, they will be producing an adaptation of Native Son. My job was to research any and all summer events such as Harlem Week, Shakespeare in the Park, and African American Day parades. The information that I gathered would be used to promote Native Son where large groups of people would be gathering.

How will this experience impact your time at Carleton/career exploration moving forward? (Helpful advice received, surprises, other takeaways, etc.)

Prior to this externship, I was solely focused on acting and directing. I had not considered any other jobs in theater to be of interest to me. After this experience, I really want to learn more about theater management and administration. I am in the process of applying for summer opportunities in these two areas. I am excited to develop additional professional skills that will pave the way for success in the theater world– not in the ‘star power’ sense, rather in making art possible and the shows produced accessible for everyone.

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