Hello! We are Kelsey Celek, Maddie Mardesen, and Shannon Rzucidlo – three of the Teaching Artist Fellows at the Omaha Theater Company. The three of us have had varied experience in the internship/fellowship realm, so we sat down to have a little chat about what that search is like.
What are the top things you look for in an internship?
Shannon: Mission or reputation of the theater – is the theater well-known and respected? Do the goals of this theater reflect my own values?
Maddie: I do have to look at benefits – like stipend, free housing…
Kelsey: It does make a huge difference that our housing is free. So our time can be focused on our work and not making the rent, you know? What else?
Shannon: Mentorship. Is the staff interested in my learning journey? I want them to talk to me about my strengths and weaknesses, and help me realize my goals.
Kelsey: I wanted to work with people I really thought I could gain from. (And the teaching artists here have all proven to be valuable resources.) I also took a close look at the specific responsibilities of the job. Observing can be useful, but I was at a point in my career path where I knew I wanted to take a more hands-on approach.
Maddie: I want to see indications that I will be actively involved and not just on the sidelines or an assistant. Lots of teaching expectations with less administrative expectations.
Kelsey: Which I think is what we’re all doing now. And that’s exciting, right?
The job title “intern” sometimes has the stigma of being underpaid gophers. Did your experiences live up to or break that expectation?
Maddie: Since all of my “intern” experience has been at the Omaha Theater Company, they have always broken that expectation and been something so much more! Occasionally, I still did/do typical intern jobs, but that’s rare.
Kelsey: Ha, well technically we’re “fellows” now, which for some reason feels way more prestigious.
Shannon: My experiences broke that expectation. Most projects I have worked on have been valuable practical experience. Most of the time I can answer yes to the question, “Am I learning something right now?” I have rarely had to make copies or fetch someone coffee.
Kelsey: There is that stigma attached, but really, it’s what you make of it. For the right person at the right time, doing odd job/errand stuff might be a valuable experience just to be part of the process. It’s more about finding what work is appropriate for you. I knew I wanted to be teaching, to experience different types of classroom scenarios, and get really specific about developing my voice as an educator. And that’s what I found. So it doesn’t really matter what connotations go with the title – as long as I’m accomplishing those goals.
Maddie: It still is totally different as far as gopher jobs in ratio to actual experience in the field – compared to some of my classmates who also had internships. This fellowship definitely does not feel like an internship.
What kinds of projects did you get to work on as interns?
Maddie: We co-teach/lead classes, workshops –
Shannon: And we’re developing the curriculum.
Kelsey: Yay lesson planning!
Shannon: We direct Teens ‘N’ Theater productions, and are responsible for blocking and developing all technical elements.
Maddie: We perform in mainstage shows and Metro Tours – theater-in-education shows that go to local elementary schools.
Kelsey: I love that performing is still a big component of what we do. I think it’s important to still be honing my skills as an actor if that’s part of what I teach.
Maddie: So we’re very involved in many, many aspects of TYA work.
What did you gain from your internships?
Maddie: A greater confidence in my abilities as an artist and educator. Experience in many facets of the theater education. I can do a variety of things now because of what I have learned and accomplished.
Shannon: I gained direction for my future. My internships affirmed that the teaching artist path is the correct career decision for me. By dabbling with several companies, I was able to gather both positive and negative models of administering an education department and of teaching. It helped me decipher what kinds of programs give me satisfaction, and which do not. With many examples to pick and choose from, I found my own teaching voice and style.
Kelsey: I agree. It’s an affirmation. With each project, I feel growth, confidence, connection to my work – and I feel positive that this is what I want to be doing. I get really excited about going to work. I don’t know how many internships/fellowships give people that kind of feeling. But we definitely lucked out.
Maddie: I’m sure TYA is where I want to be.
Click here for more information about the summer theater education internship at the Omaha Theater Company (priority given to applicants who apply by Feb 1) or the school year teaching artist fellowship (priority given to applicants who apply by Feb 15)