Karoline and Amelia in New York

Signature Theatre Company in New York (Summer 2007). Karoline will be company management intern and Amelia will be artistic intern.

An update from Karoline

Hi all!

Well, I’ve taken a bite out of the Big Apple. And that’s a great analogy for my time so far – Apples..they’re big and shiny and sweet, but they can have their worms, or taste like dust if they start to get old. So the best thing to do is take a little bite every day to keep the doctor away, and when you find one that’s a little hard and not quite ripe, slice it a new way and cook that sucker into a pie. If you follow – New York is sweet. It’s exciting. But aspiring actors be warned – it’s a challenge!

Sometimes the bus fumes and the pavement really get to you. Sometimes all those tourists milling through Times Square or the pushy vendors on the street can start to drive you nuts. And it sometimes feels like you’re tired – all the time! But if you know where to look, New York has its really special places that are a great escape. I take refuge in Central Park every weekend! It’s so refreshing to see the families, the picnickers, the sunbathers, and just savor an ice cream or a hot dog and coke by the baseball fields. It’s wonderful too to head out to the beach – just a subway ride away. I spent last week with Amelia and our friend Emily at the beach, and it was a sun filled, sandy, breath of fresh/salty air!

Auditions and rehearsals
Signature amazes me every day. It’s incredible to be able to sit at my desk and listen in on a marketing meeting for the theatre company – to take phone calls from major donors and philanthropists in New York – to attend my first Equity EPA from the other side of the table, able to watch hundreds of auditions and have the mystery and the fears of auditioning slip away. Our company started rehearsals for our first production of the season, Iphigenia 2.0. This has been the best part!

Amelia and I got to go to first rehearsal with the whole company – we all ate bagels together and met the actors, then got to hear totally exciting and inspiring talks from Jim Houghton, the Artistic Director of the theatre, and Tina Landau, the director of the play. Then the cast read the play – their first read-through. It was amazing to see how much they bring to the table at first rehearsal. And lately we’ve been able to sit in on rehearsals and watch the actors work. I can’t tell you how exciting and refreshing this has been. It totally makes me thankful for my SMU training. Seems that all the valuable skills and qualities I see in the actors here – their openness, their language, their humility – those are all traits I learned from working at SMU.

SMU reunion
We had a great visit last night from Jim Crawford; he’s an acting professor at SMU. He was visiting New York and met students for a bite and a chat. It was amazing to sit at the table and look around and see alumni like Emily Loeb, Virginia Kull, Virginia Fry, and Wrenn Schmidt – and think literally – I can’t get over the talent and beauty at this table. SMU has given New York some phenomenally beautiful, intelligent, and talented actors. I am so proud to be at this table. Amazing!

Seeing theatre here and there – Spring Awakening is wonderful. So was the R&J Shakespeare in the Park. Next on the list are In the Heights and Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl.

Take care, SMU, see you soon … just a month left!

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An update from Amelia

Arriving in New York City ended up being a little scarier than I had anticipated. I had set up a living arrangement with a girl on Craigslist. The plan was for me to come to the city, sleep on my friends’ couch for a week, and then move into the Craigslist apartment. Just minutes after I arrived in the city, however, I received an email from the Craigslist girl saying she’d given the apartment to someone else. I cried for a while as I figured out how to get a bus ticket and a Metro Card and lug my suitcase across town. ( I know now that taking a cab to and from the airport is not as much a luxury as it is a necessity.) Eventually, I made it to my friends’ apartment and crashed. I am so thankful for Harrison and Jen, my friends from SMU, who let me stay on their couch an additional week while I searched for apartments. It was interesting to realize that the only things keeping me from being homeless in New York were my friends. It was a bit humbling to realize that being homelessness is not always a result of irresponsibility, but, more often, a result of lacking friends and family who can and will provide when needed. If I never want to be homeless in this world, I’d better be good to my friends and family.

Searching for apartments is not an easy task, especially in New York City. I started work at Signature Theatre Company the day after I arrived in the city, so I only had evenings and weekends to pound the pavement. I went all the way down to some uglier parts of Brooklyn and all the way up to the Bronx. I looked at an apartment almost every day. Nothing was working out. I was often the only white person in a neighborhood. This is something I thought wouldn’t bother me at all. I thought, “It???s a bunch of families, why should it make a difference? Any fear that I have is just my prejudice and judgment.” But then, when I felt all of the stares, I realized that even though I was with mostly good people, with families and grandmas and kids, I was an easy target for the small group of people who did want to do harm. Young, rich girl. Alone. Looks like she’s 12. Easy, easy target. I decided that I would feel much better living in a place where I was not the only one of that description. So that I wouldn’t stand out so much. It made me feel sick, though, to realize that I couldn’t live in a neighborhood where I was the only white person. Racism just became a lot bigger.

Eventually I got in touch with a very kind, young girl who needed a subletter right away. The apartment and neighborhood sounded like such a good deal that I said yes right away. As it turns out, God himself picked this place out for us. It is in a beautiful neighborhood, with lots of families, of several different races, and a large Jewish population (since there is a Jewish school nearby). There is a park one block down from the apartment that has beautiful gardens and running trails. In the middle of the park is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum called the Cloisters. We are right on the Hudson River, which makes for beautiful sunsets! It is quiet here, with two small grocery stores, a bakery, a couple of cute restaurants, a pharmacy, a vet, and a laundromat. Our apartment is large, for a NY apartment, and we got a good rate, right in our price range. I am so thankful and relieved to be here. Karoline and I keep talking about how God must have had this place saved for us because it is such a perfect fit.

My work at Signature
Work at Signature Theatre Company has been challenging and exciting. I am the literary intern, which means I do research on the plays Signature is producing. Most of my work goes into creating a large binder with contextual and historical information about the play and its characters. I am essentially an assistant dramaturg. The main reason I haven’t written about my Signature experiences until now is because everything I was working on was top secret! Until a week and a half ago we were all preparing for Signature’s giant press conference where we announced the next four seasons (four years). Signature Theatre Company is unique in that they choose to devote each season to the work of one living American playwright. The playwrights they select each year serve as the “playwright in residence” for an entire year.

The next four seasons will include Charles Mee (this season), Tony Kushner, Susan Lori Parks, and the Negro Ensemble Company. Even though the Negro Ensemble Company is not one playwright, Signature felt that the body of work that came out of the NEC needs to be celebrated and recognized in the same way that Signature celebrates and recognizes the work of each playwright in residence. Another “exception to the rule” is that Signature will be producing Edward Albee’s Occupant at the end of this season. Edward Albee was Signature’s playwright in residence several years ago, but his Occupant never opened because the lead actress got pneumonia just before opening, and, since the part was for a 75-year-old woman, they had no understudy. Signature has decided that this spring is a good time to revive the play.

In addition to announcing the next four seasons, Signature also announced that ticket prices will only cost $20 for the next four years. This is amazing because it is nearly impossible to find theater that inexpensive in New York City, especially at such a well-respected company. The tickets actually cost $65, but Signature has found sponsors who are paying to subsidize the tickets. This allows Signature to offer cheap tickets without cheapening the quality of the work. This is one of the reasons I love Signature.

Meeting the stars
The press conference itself was a thrill because I got to meet Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Edward Norton, Bill Irwin, Charles Mee, several of the actors from the first production of this season, and three of the directors from this season (Tina Landau, Daniel Fish, and David McCallum). After the press conference, Bill Irwin (who has been dubbed “the prince of Broadway”) needed a script from the office, so I got to walk with him 5 or so blocks from the theater to the office to get the script for him. I was delighted to take him! He was so kind and humble and interested in who I am and what I love and what I want to do in theater. I asked him where he did his movement training, and he said, “Oh a little here and there.” I later found out that “a little here and there” meant Barnum and Bailey circus school, and some of the most prestigious circus and modern dance companies all over the world. He told me some about his family and what he is doing right now. He treated me like a young friend. Then he came to the office, got a script, did a little work on my computer, and headed off to a rehearsal. I think I have a bit of a crush.

Karoline currently has a cast on her arm (she broke her forearm in a tubing accident on the lake) so she asked Ed Norton to sign it. I think both Karoline and Ed were slightly embarrassed, but Karoline and I both agreed it was well worth it. When she went to the doctor to get her cast changed to a shorter one, she told the doctor to cut right through the signature so she wouldn’t foolishly keep it on her mantle till she was thirty. The doctor couldn’t believe that The Incredible Hulk had signed Karoline’s cast and he took the remnants to show all the nurses.

Friends in the City
Karoline has been a wonderful friend to me. Our friend at work said we are like “a little married couple” and we joke about that all the time. We are sharing a bed, and every night before we go to bed we talk about our day or boys or God. We fight every now and then, we bring each other presents, and we share almost everything. I couldn’t ask for a better friend and roommate – which is good because Karoline and I will be living together, with our friend Christin, for the next year!

The past few weeks in the city have been full of strolls through Midtown, visiting with friends from SMU, lazy days in the park, Broadway and Off-Broadway shows (Talk Radio, Company, Horizon) Lincoln Center performances (The New York Philharmonic with Deborah Voight, American Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet), the OBIES (the Off-Broadway Awards), adventures in Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and strange encounters that can only happen in New York.

I love this city more than I thought I would. Mostly, because I never realized how beautiful the parks can be! And I never thought New York could feel like a home. But it does. A home that moves and shakes and yells and laughs and brings new people to one’s doorstep daily.

I am learning a lot about what I am going to need when I graduate. I can see how a little business training goes a long way when looking for work here. I know that every person I meet could be someone who changes my life someday. I know that I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life here, but that I could definitely spend a part of my life here. I am becoming even more sure of the belief that life is about relationships more than it is about careers or locations or experiences. Relationships remind us that we are never done. And the really good relationships remind us why we are here.

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The first two weeks at Signature Theatre

We’re all settled in and the first two weeks have flown by!

Karoline started at Signature the same week of their huge press conference, the first in 10 years (since the one announcing the opening of the theatre!
View of Ganesh

View of GaneshEveryone and everything at Signature was in high gear for the event. We would be announcing our next four years of programming and hosting artist involved, such as Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Edward Norton!! Must say the best part was keeping the big announcements hush hush :). The day of, I almost wet myself at least three times..once when I saw Mr. Kushner walk in, again when I saw Edward Albee walk past, and then while Edward Norton signed my cast “Break a Leg!”

So that’s life at Signature. One second you’re filing papers, and the next you’re writing Edward Albee’s contract for the upcoming season, or answering the phone and it’s Susan-Lori Parks on the other end. I love it. I love the young, upbeat staff, working for Jim Houghton – a brilliant artistic director – and love life in the city.

Art, parks and SMU friends

Amelia and I spend our downtime taking in as much art as possible… so far we’ve seen 10 million miles, a new musical that has a lot to do with the South, Company, and, thanks to a friend interning at Lincoln Center, Balanchine at the New York City Ballet and Debra Voight with the New York Philharmonic. Our weekends are filled with the parks! We love to sit in Central Park and take in the sights and have a chance to relax. Couples kissing, sun bathers, little kids, softball games, joggers – it’s a breath of fresh air to take in so much life when you spend most of your time in a subway or the office :).

We’re blessed to have a ton of friends in the city this summer – SMU theater alums make up our family in the city – like Harrison Ford, Haley Henderson, and Emily Loeb – we take in shows, go to Coney Island, and play in the park together. It’s amazing to have friends like that in the busy city. There are also a lot of interns in the city this summer, like Lee Helms at Lincoln Center, and Durrell Cooper at the Negro Ensemble Company (he surprised us today when he came in to pick up a package from Signature since they are part of our upcoming seasons!)

Well have to get back to the grindstone 🙂

With love from NYC,

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Introduction (from Karoline)

I am a senior at Meadows School of the Arts, from Flowery Branch, Georgia. I study theatre, with an emphasis in directing, and also am pursuing a minor in business. Since day one at Meadows I knew I wanted to explore my interests in business and theatre, and I’ve been blessed with advisors, professors, and friends at Meadows who have helped me learn how.

The first step was a passion for Meadows and leadership — I am the president of MAPS, the Meadows Ambassadors for Prospective Students, a group founded “to welcome prospective Meadows students to our community and aid in their college decision making process by giving prospective students a real view of what life as a Meadows student at SMU is really like.” Tours, phonecalls, tickets, workshops, overnight guests — we’re on it!

Leading MAPS prepared me to think bigger and bolder and helped me bolster the nerve to apply for a position with one of the best theatre companies in New York, Signature Theatre Company. Signature was started by James Houghton, an SMU alum from the Bates days (Kathy Bates), and it’s grown to be one of the most interesting, passionate, and important companies in the world.

And I got it! This summer I’ll be interning with Signature as a company management intern. It’s the perfect opportunity to begin to integrate my passion for business and theatre. It’s insanely sweet.

Best yet, I’ll have a friend along for the ride, Amelia, a fellow senior director and artistic intern! We’ll be sharing an apartment in Manhattan and working together. I will arrive in New York Saturday, June 9. Amelia is already working for Signature and has awesome stories to tell!

So far college has taken me from a town in north Georgia with one stop light, to the Big D, to London for a semester abroad at the British American Drama Academy, and now to the Big Apple and I can’t wait to see where to next!

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