My internship has a strict tank top-and-sweatpants-only dress code, so I stick out among the businesspeople in blazers and slacks. I use 10-ride Metra passes and can walk as purposefully as any of them, with iPod and travel mug (of tea, not coffee) and everything, but it is still obvious I'm not going to an office building.
I am an intern at Free Street Theater. Before the middle and high school students got there, the college-aged interns wrote a play. It is now being performed for younger kids in parks around Chicago. If you meet a character who is a lot like Martha Stewart except that she eats children, that's the character I wrote.
Now that the student-artists are there, a typical day begins with an hour and a half of yoga, some contact improv lessons, and writing exercises. After lunch, we do workshops in anything from the meanings of symbols to poetry writing to organic movement. (I am increasingly confused about the definition of "organic." My cereal is organic, and so is this piece of concept art I watched, and so are things with carbon.)
It's all solid acting and writing tools, and yoga is hard work, but the whole thing is couched in vaguely New Age rhetoric. We talk a lot about being free from the self. We also talk about accessing the self and exploring the self and tapping into the self and connecting the deep well of the self with the big mind of the universe. I do not know what most of that stuff means, but it's getting good work out of these kids, most of whom are from poorer school districts that don't have much in the way of arts programs. Still, the whole Self talk is confusing. I tend to ignore it.
The most impressive thing is how the directors treat the kids. The kids learn how to eat well, how to exercise, how to sit still and pay attention, how to give and receive, how to interpret symbols and metaphors, but none of it is condescending. The directors treat the kids like artists, and the kids act like artists.
Right now, the students are working on their solo silent performances, which they'll take to the streets next week. Part of my job as an intern will be to help make sure the kids don't get kidnapped or anything.
The rest of my job is to be part of projects that include fitting as many people of different sizes and races as possible into the smallest car possible, driving five miles, and eating vegan food.
There is no Free Street on Fridays, but I go into the city anyway for my Writing for the Stage class at iO. I didn't make the Harold team, but this elective comes with experimental performances, so I'll still get some stage time. Classes without stage time seem kind of pointless to me right now. How else are you to find out if what you are learning works unless you try it in front of an audience?
Someone somewhere asked me, "Is there anything in particular I can help you with?" All I ever wanted help with was you.