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Group-bonding, book-binding, and building: The 32nd Virginia Shakespeare Festival, and the interns who make it great

  • Interning with Shakespeare
    Interning with Shakespeare  David Moody '10, properties assistant, works on sketches for the sets of "As You Like It" and "A Man for All Seasons."  Photo by Hayley Rice
  • Interning with Shakespeare
    Interning with Shakespeare  Christy Sexton '10, serves as the Company Manager.  Courtesy photo
  • Interning with Shakespeare
    Interning with Shakespeare  Miden Wood '12, acting intern, helps put the finishing touches on the set for "As You Like It."  Photo by Hayley Rice
  • Interning with Shakespeare
    Interning with Shakespeare  Kristin Viola, scenic artist from Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, La.), works on the set of "As You Like It."  Photo by Hayley Rice
  • Interning with Shakespeare
    Interning with Shakespeare  Katie "Dot" Cottingham, a student from University of Illinois Carbondale, helped build the scenery as scenic carpentry intern.  Photo by Hayley Rice
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For the past 31 summers, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival (VSF) has produced two or three of Shakespeare’s most notable plays. On opening night, the actors are ready, costumes and makeup complete, the set is perfect, and the curtain goes up. But how much work does it take to get to that point? 

The interns of the 32nd VSF know exactly how much -- and that it couldn’t be done without them.

The interns, whose jobs range from sound technicians to scenic artists to actors, start at the beginning of the summer, six days a week, eight hours a day (sometimes longer), to prepare for the month-long festival in July.  Such intense hours in such a short amount of time teach these students new techniques in both acting and producing a show, and the importance of having an internship early on in your career.

“It’s that first bridge into how any profession works,” said Christopher Owens, a William & Mary theatre professor who has been directing a production in the VSF for the past six years. “It’s a stepping stone.” (Owens will be acting in “A Man for All Seasons” this year, his first on-stage appearance in six years.)

During a recent work session, with Kiss’s “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” blasting in the workshop at Phi Beta Kappa Hall, the sawdust and paint-covered scene and properties interns worked diligently, putting the final touches on the set for the opening of “As You Like It” on July 7.

David Moody ‘10, properties assistant and former master electrician (VSF 2008), knows all about the hard work and sweat that goes into making a set look flawless.  As a properties assistant, he works on “basically anything that is not scenery or a costume, like books and furniture.”  Moody has picked up many skills as a self-proclaimed “pseudo-intern” for the VSF, including book-binding. He’s not sure how that skill will serve him in the future, but he knows it makes him more of a pro and could open some doors.

“This internship is about learning and making connections,” he said. “In theater it’s about who you know and who knows you.”

Despite the long hours and tedious work, the interns know working for the VSF is a valuable experience. 

“It exposes you to the pace and structure (of a larger production) for when you get out in the real world,” said Miden Wood ’12, acting, scenery, and costume intern.

But the Festival isn’t all work. Each week the interns have an outing, organized by Christy Sexton ’10, the company manager. Besides taking the group bowling, or on a visit to Busch Gardens or arranging games of ultimate Frisbee, Sexton helps the interns move into their housing, does a grocery store run twice a week, and helps when other problems arise.

This is Sexton’s second internship with the VSF. Her first summer, she worked as a costume intern, spending many late nights doing the laundry for the next day’s shows.

“For me, it’s about enjoying what I do while I do it,” said Sexton, who has been involved with W&M’s theater productions since her freshman year. “I knew I liked the festival and it was a good way to end my time here.”

The hard work this year will pay off starting July 7 when VSF opens at 8 p.m. in Phi Beta Kappa Hall with “As You Like It.” The show runs through July 18, followed by “A Man For All Seasons,” July 22-August 1.