Premiere Stages brings range of opportunities for theater majors

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Premiere Stages’ 2014 Summer Intern Company

By Adilene Rodriguez

In such competitive fields like theater, finding a bounty of career-starting opportunities could be difficult in this day and age, but Premiere Stages tries to make it easier for theater students.

Premiere Stages, a professional Equity Theatre company in residence at Kean, works with the Theater Department to give theater majors and anyone interested in theater production a kick-start to their professional career.

During the semester, Kean students are able to understudy with the production company and gain one point towards their union card through the Equity Membership Candidate Program from the Actors’ Equity Association, a U.S. labor union that represents more than 50,000 theater actors and professionals, via a special partnership they have with Kean.

John Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages, says Kean is one of the few universities in the country to offer such an opportunity to their theater students.

“All of the students who are affiliated with Kean University that work on a production, have the opportunity to gain one point towards their union card for each week that they work with Premiere Stages,“ said Wooten in a phone interview.

“There could be theaters affiliated with universities, but I don’t know if there’s any university, that are programs of the university, that offers this benefit,” said Wooten.

Other schools who have such an oppurtunity are St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, University of Southern Indiana in Evansville,Ind., and Columbia University in New York, N.Y.

Students can also gain one point their union card if they understudy a play, perform in a play, work along side with professionals at Premiere Stages or as an intern of the Premiere Intern Program.

The Premiere Intern Program consists of two summer sessions, the first of which is June 8 through Aug.1; the second session is from Aug.11 through Sept. 20, for about seven to nine interns.

Applicants for the internship can apply starting in September, with interviewing and selecting happening at the end of March. The interns receive an option of $175 per week stipend or college credit and free housing in the dorms.

Interns gain hands-on experience in production part of theater. Premiere Stages strives to make the interns time with the company as productive and beneficial as possible for their future careers by trying to break from a traditional internship experience, according to Wooten.

“What makes our intern program unique is there’s a lot of intern programs in the country where they bring in students to [do] disgruntle labor, just kind of do all the very medial task, but because we’re a university we’re very conscious of the fact that it’s very important that students learn what we’re doing in an internship,” says Wooten.

“So in addition to working on the job we have weekly seminars for our interns. Once a week they take a different seminar.”

The weekly seminars are about various topics that include stage management, design, theater as a business, etc.

According to Wooten, the internship is one of the most competitive theater internships in the country and for this summer alone, Premiere Stages received roughly 300 applicants, with an estimated 20 of those being Kean students.

Even though there is a lack of Kean students applying for the internship, Wooten says Premiere Stages does prioritize the Kean applicants.

When asked about the few Kean applicants, Wooten cited various possibilities.

“Sometimes Kean students are here during the fall and spring so they want to get away for the summer,” says Wooten.

He also mentioned the stipend as a factor.

“A lot of people who go to Kean support their own education, during the summer they need to work jobs where they make more money that that, ” said Wooten.

“[Students] might not apply for the internship because they’re also auditioning for the summer. Kean students who are understudying and acting are separate from those who are interning.”

Wooten also mentioned how Kean students have all year round compared to the summer interns at an opportunity to participate and gain professional experience.

“The ways they can participate are not just as an intern, that’s just kind of one aspect of how you can get engaged with Premiere Stages,” said Wooten.


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