Theater Students Bring Passion to Summer Productions


Author: Larissa Saco

As the 2010-2011 school year ended and the summer kicked off, Danielle Schwartz (sophomore) and Rebecca Patch (sophomore) utilized their vacation time by exploring their passion for the dramatic arts. Through internships and managerial positions at premier theater companies in addition to personal initiative, Schwartz and Patch delved into the world of theater, not only by learning about the performance and business aspects of the field but also by discovering how drama will fit into their lives in the future.

Schwartz, a psychology major and theater minor, worked in San Diego as a public relations intern at La Jolla Playhouse, a Tony Award-winning professional non-profit theatre, and as an intern for Lyric Opera San Diego, a theater company that puts on both opera and musical theater productions. Rogue Music Theater, a theater company producing outdoor, under-the-stars musicals in Grants Pass, Oregon, hired Patch as the stage manager for their production of “Singing In The Rain.” The cognitive science major and theater minor started working the day after she returned home from Occidental and worked with almost 50 actors and actresses while managing the stage crew.

In addition to completing typical internship duties like archiving, attending meetings and running errands at La Jolla Playhouse, Schwartz was also in charge of putting together press kits and distributing them at shows to representatives from media publications including the San Diego Reader, San Diego Union Tribune and La Jolla Light. “It was awesome attending opening shows for free and meeting such prestigious people involved with the media,” Schwartz said. She walked away from the internship making important contacts and connections with people in the theater and media community.

At Lyric Opera San Diego, Schwartz had the opportunity to help organize the show night of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” by coordinating the parent volunteers and working the reception. Children between the ages of 11 and 17 performed in the production as part of the company’s four-week intensive training program called the Academy.

“They all said that they couldn’t have done the show without me. It was really nice to hear because I knew I was really needed in that moment,” Schwartz said.

In addition to walking away with new friendships and connections, she also left for Occidental with a better understanding of her ideal work environment.

“I would be willing to work more in an artistic element of theater instead of public relations. I like being on stage more than working behind the scenes,” said Schwartz. She hopes that participating in more acting in the future will maintain her passion for the arts while working at a job after graduation, potentially in the field of psychology.

“I prefer to be involved with actually making a show happen than completing administrative tasks,” Schwartz said.

Through her job at Rogue Music Theater, Patch worked with the costume designer, who is also the director of a non-profit theater group Southern Oregon Foundation for the Appreciation of Theater (SOFAT). He asked Patch to stage-manage their production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” One of Patch’s most memorable moments from this summer was during the closing show of “Singing In The Rain.” Rain started to pour on to the outdoor audience and stage in less than two minutes before the show opened, causing people and equipment to get soaking wet.

“Never in 30 years did it rain in July on a show night for the company, so we were not prepared and hurriedly attempting to tarp everything, including sound equipment and the orchestra pit,” Patch said.

Despite the hectic setback, the audience stayed throughout the two and a half hour performance and gave a standing ovation to the lead actor as he finished performing the production’s main song “Singing In The Rain.”

“We pushed through it and there was so much joy despite the miserable weather. We wanted to make an amazing closing show,” Patch said.

At the end of her stage managing work for “Signing In The Rain,” she and the production team got together to debrief. They were all unhappy with the way the company had treated them in regards to internal issues including money management. From that discussion, Patch and five other members of the group came up with the idea of creating their own theater company called Raise The Bar Theater.

“The company is a non-profit, semi-professional theater production group dedicated to utilizing regional talent in southern Oregon and donating some of the money we make to a local charity,” Patch said.

The company will also be open repertory, which entails drawing from the actors in their exclusive membership to perform in their productions. One of the founding members is both artistically and legally inclined and so he was in charge of managing the paperwork and handling logistical matters for getting the company up and running.

As a member of the founding board for Raise The Bar, Patch participates in board meetings through video-chat from Occidental to discuss venues, show selections, fundraising opportunities and other matters.

“We are trying to have a theater that is a lot more tied to the community,” Patch said. The team plans on hiring musicians from local high schools through auditions and hiring set constructors and designers near the area.

Through their internships and work, Schwartz and Patch learned the ins and outs of theater as a business while gaining invaluable experience for their future careers. Both Schwartz and Patch plan on continuing to pursue their theater minors and support the drama department through auditioning for and attending  shows. They both also plan on keeping theater in their lives after their college journey has ended. Schwartz intends to act in community theater as a side project, and Patch plans on working on her non-profit business venture.

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