For the second consecutive year the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts has provided its interns the opportunity to explore the arts in New York City. All year the interns have been learning about what arts administration looks like within the walls of the Hop. This trip allows them to see the makeup and scale of other organizations and to discover that the people who work in the arts come from various backgrounds. Thanks to the Hop staff reaching out to their networks, we were able to meet with professionals from a variety of established arts organizations (the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance and Manhattan Theatre Club) to newer ones (The Atrium at Lincoln Center and the Harlem Arts Festival). Of course, you shouldn’t visit New York without seeing a Broadway show or two. The following gives you an insider’s look into our capstone trip March 31–April 2.
Brandea Turner, Hop Senior Events Manager, Hop Interns Program Manager
Preserving and Sharing an Ephemeral Medium
In the rain, with empty stomachs and bags over shoulders, we trudged through a grey New York City after a long Dartmouth Coach ride to our first destination. I would like to say that we, the Hop Interns, are a pretty lively and positive group of people. I would also have to say that we were not at our peak positivity getting off the bus. But with a few minutes of walking, a few subway stops, and a few more minutes of walking, we had finally arrived. We dropped our bags in our (incredible) studio-home for the weekend. We immediately walked down the hall, down the stairs, up the stairs, knocked on a few doors and asked for help. We got a little lost, which was bound to happen the first moment we didn’t have Brandea to guide us.
This trouble turned out to be worthwhile, however, because Oliver Tobin, the Director of Martha Graham Resources, a division of the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, was the greatest welcome to New York. He unraveled the world of Martha Graham for us with energy and many animated anecdotes. While we were sitting in black folding chairs, in a room of grey, the vibrant history lay in stratigraphic columns organized by every category on every shelf. Dances, costumes, reels, photos and instructions for performances are archived in a single room. Of course, there are also warehouses of sets, and more spaces filled with even more information, but this was the headquarters of it all. Oliver walked us through the process of licensing and reproducing a Martha Graham work. He showed us the massive binders that are given as handbooks to guide students learning dances. We learned about his time as a dancer, learning the technique, performing and teaching, and how he got to where he is today. His energy and enthusiasm for both the technique and his work for the company made me want to reconsider my career path. Then I remembered that I do not dance. It was a nice day dream, at least.
One of the projects Oliver has taken on centers on Google Arts and Culture, a newer branch of Google set to highlight different partners, projects, movements and more, of different art mediums. The Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance is a partner, and Oliver has created virtual “exhibits” where you can click on photos of dances, read stories and watch videos of the technique. Oliver discussed the differences between public knowledge and copyrighted material of Martha Graham works, and his desire for a proliferation of knowledge about the dance company and dance in general. He hopes that these exhibits can be a resource for those wishing to follow their curiosities.
After a long journey into New York followed by the enthusiasm and welcoming atmosphere from Martha Graham Resources and Oliver Tobin himself, I definitely felt rejuvenated and back to peak positivity.
~Dani Moragne ’17
Free Art at Lincoln Center
Next on our itinerary was the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where we heard from two women involved in different aspects of that institution. We met Viviana Benitez in her place of work, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. As the Associate Producer at the Atrium, Viviana gave insight into the programming at the Atrium and its specific purpose and goals. As a Privately Owned Public Space (POPS), the Atrium was created when a private company wanted to buy the space but the City of New York required it to be a space with public programming. The Lincoln Center was called, and the rest is history.
The most important thing I noticed was that the Atrium is a free public space. The walls lined with foliage and water features are a sweet solace in the concrete landscape of New York. We sat at a table alongside dozens of people coming in from the pouring rain. Since there was no programming happening at the time, the space was instead a hubbub of talking; from parents and children to large tourist groups, everyone knew that the space was theirs.
Weekly events at the David Rubenstein Atrium are free to all members of the public. I was reminded of our HopStop events where hundreds of families come to the Hop for free shows from visiting artists. I find myself constantly at war with the idea that any area of culture should come with a cost, from museums to music to film. As an artist, I want to make a living off my labor, yet I know that the people who need access to it are those who often cannot afford to. I know that without free events I wouldn’t have seen anything as a child. Viviana described the many ways that the Atrium puts children at the focus of its programs. They also have programmed events for differing abilities, such as smaller performances for children with autism to explore the arts in an environment catering to their needs. The beauty of free public performances is that people often take more risks in what they are willing to see. Not tied down to an exchange of money, audiences come out to see an artist they have never heard of, maybe in a language they don’t know, or a cultural piece they would never otherwise take the time to understand. This also allows the venue to take more risks, as Viviana told us, by presenting up-and-coming artists who may not be presented at Lincoln Center yet.
Our conversation with Viviana led onto a conversation with Sita Frederick, the Director of Family and Community Programs at Lincoln Center. While Viviana’s role focuses on free accessible programming, Site specializes in bringing the right programming to the different communities of New York. This means ongoing conversations with communities in the five boroughs of New York about the type of programming that will suit them, bringing such programming to their communities and giving them agency in directing the programming of their own arts. Sita’s work makes sure that programming and funding is redistributed to focus on each community’s own needs, ensuring that lower income communities and communities of color are not neglected. Like Viviana’s, Sita’s job is not just to bring art to people but bring the right art to the right people. I find it endlessly exciting when I experience a piece of work—be it a book, a painting, a song—that speaks to me culturally. It is imperative everywhere, but especially in the melting pot of New York, to ensure that people are given the space to explore and expand their own culture. As the arts continue to create and connect us, it is necessary to ensure that they connect all of us, without exceptions or limitations.
Jennie Evans ’17
Family, Greed and Peerless Acting
It had been a long day by the time we arrived at the Friedman Theatre of the Manhattan Theatre Club for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. It had been raining all day, but I was excited to see our first show of the trip. Once we got inside, it became immediately clear that it was going to be a good one. The theater was small, which gave it an intimate feel, and the set was a living room with a large sweeping staircase right down the middle. When the curtain rose, I felt like I was a part of the story, privy to family drama and secrets.
I went in with very little knowledge of the plot, and I was immediately taken in by this tale of family and greed, following three siblings investing in a deal they know will make them very rich. As the story progresses, alliances form and loyalties shift, so that each sibling is serving his own self-interest. The children and the ailing father are caught in the crossfire. The acting was superb and, as the show went on, it became clear that the lead actresses were beyond talented. As a person with some experience in acting, I was blown away by the versatility of Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, who trade off roles about every two performances. The characters they play, Birdie and Regina, are complete opposites. Birdie is quiet, kind and beaten down while Regina is selfish, ambitious and in control. After the final scene I immediately wanted to see it again, just to see the actress in opposite rolls. It was a dynamic start to an amazing weekend!
Catherine Hastings ’17
A passion for their work
Anyone who has been to New York knows that, wherever you look, the city resounds with energy. Each street seems a major thoroughfare, the array of shops sell everything under the sun, and on every sidewalk, in every car, in every direction, you’ll find people, people, people. But on our trip to explore the veins of the Big Apple’s grandiose art world we discovered another kind of energy in the people with whom we met. Take Neal Ludevig, for example. Currently the Executive Director of the Harlem Arts Festival, Ludevig volunteered for nearly two years to build the Festival into the enormously popular and culturally spectacular organization that it is now. He did it because he believed in the idea of the Festival and its power to unify communities, and he was willing to sacrifice a paycheck to make it happen. Vivian Benitez (see above) discussed the often-scary relationship between politics and funding for programs at the Atrium at Lincoln Center. School programs, free events, outreach opportunities, all rest heavily on the generosity of public and private donors. And yet Benitez remains committed to her work because she believes in the educational value of accessible music and cultural events. I realize that budget constraints are a reality in most institutions. But for me, seeing the enthusiasm that Ludevig, Benitez and others bring to their work because they wholeheartedly believe in its importance offered a poignant reminder that passion and employment need not be mutually exclusive. As we ’17s enter the workforce, this is something I hope we can all remember.
Daniel Jackson ’17
Makeup, Feminism and Snarky One-Liners
Although the purpose of our trip was to introduce us to the wonderful world of arts management, when in New York, one must do as the New Yorkers do—so a Broadway show was a must. Or two. Or more. As a matter of fact, we had the incredible opportunity to see no fewer than three shows in 24 hours. A self-proclaimed musical nut, I could happily get used to this lifestyle, flitting from matinee to evening performances, humming snatches of show tunes on the subway, and pretending that classwork doesn’t exist. (Being constantly immersed in shows tends to tinker with one’s sense of reality.)
One of the productions that we saw was particularly special because it was a new musical, fresh out of previews and making its Broadway debut: War Paint, at the Nederlander Theatre. Set during the 1930s-1960s, it’s a show about the parallel lives of early makeup moguls Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein, the challenges they faced as women in the business world, and the legacies they left. It’s a fun production: while it deals with serious content, including the anti-Semitism that Rubenstein faced, Arden’s broken marriage, and the bitter, often cutthroat rivalry between the two women, no one delivers a snarky one-liner like Patti LuPone, who plays the delightfully feisty Rubenstein. There are also plenty of historical jokes for audience members in the know, such as when the founder of Revlon comes knocking on Arden’s infamous Red Door with his first line of nail polish and she dismisses him as faddish.
Without giving too much of the plot away, I’ll say that I enjoyed War Paint as a production (excellent set and wardrobe? check and check) and as a show. While the performance had a few moments that I wish the writers had chosen to develop further, especially when it came to the relationship between the two women, War Paint sparked lots of good discussion among us, the interns, about feminism and gender roles, and kept us talking about it long after leaving the theater.
Emily Neely ’17
Like Grade-Schoolers, but with Self-control
After War Paint, we picked up our feet slowly, moving with intention in single file behind Andy Elman, the show’s Head Carpenter, as he led us into the depths of backstage. Our heads swiveled in increments as we took in the overlapping scenes, trying to imagine the seamless transitions of the show occurring in these cramped halls. A giant bed hovered, suspended over a varnished desk complete with neat stacks of paper and sleek pens. A coffee table, with a three-tiered silver tray of half eaten lemon squares, was hooked up to the deck automation. We were kids in a candy shop, but with great awareness and self control. Andy had discussed budget and disasters that had occurred in his previous shows. We were very determined not to be the cause of a prop plummeting to the stage and shattering, or have the wall of glass cosmetic jars create an avalanche right before the next show. Our fears, of course, did not outweigh our enthusiasm. We leaned in as Andy discussed the technical details of how props roll effortlessly on stage to their exact point, where props go when they are retired from the first act, and the recycling process of the set after the show is over.
Having worked his entire career in theater, Andy knew the ins and outs, all the queues and time sensitive details that make a show a true experience. For the Hop Interns, the opportunity to speak with him was an experience in and of itself. We discussed the turnaround time of a set from design to production, audio and microphones, costumes, obstacles and everything in between. Regardless of background, the Hop Interns had so many questions to ask after seeing the show, and Andy answered all of them.
As the Hop’s START (Students Teaching in the Arts) program intern, I work mainly with elementary-aged school children, the basics of art mediums and now the more administrative details of a volunteer organization for arts integration. The advanced performances one might find on stage in New York are not necessarily inherent to my work (unless you call a second grader’s improvisation of a shape’s feelings true art, of course). So, hearing the facets of the theater community, the connections and dynamics on-stage and off-stage Broadway were simply a joy. I have always loved seeing musicals, but speaking to the well of knowledge that is Andy Elman has elevated my experience and opened even further my view of the arts world.
Dani Moragne ’17
Two out of three ain’t bad
That evening our group split up and saw three different Broadway shows. I was with the subset that saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre, thanks to Brandea, who earlier that day at the Time Square TKTS booth had miraculously snagged tickets to the show. As someone who had never before experienced theater on a scale quite as large as that of Broadway, I was slightly surprised at the other interns’ excitement about seeing Phantom. I mean, many of us have seen the movie or performances elsewhere, so I could not imagine the hype was about. It was only upon arriving at the Majestic, sprinting from our dinner reservation with mere minutes before curtain time, that I realized the sheer size of what I was about to witness.
Earlier that day, we had seen War Paint, which we all greatly enjoyed, and on our backstage tour learned about the massive operating budgets of these city shows. It also was mentioned that that theater was considered small to medium in size—a detail I had brushed aside until I saw the Majestic. It was enormous. The set extended a clear three stories not only upward, but over the audience’s seating, with the famous chandelier easily taking up a quarter of the scale. Now I began to understand my fellow interns’ anticipation.
As we took our seats and the show began, I quickly realized the reason a show running so many years could continue to sell out show after show. The performance was immersive. The costuming, set and singing were as intricate as can be, and by the end of the show all of us interns were floored by the experience—it was exhausting. The entire show demanded your undivided attention, captivating you and holding you from the first act until the last. It was a good feeling, as if I had been an active part of the energy and emotion in the performance.
Looking back, I’m glad this was one of the final experiences of the trip. Over these past two terms, all of us Hop Interns have learned so much about what makes events like this possible. We have spoken with the minds behind bringing artists and performances to venues; learned about the effort and planning that goes into making the sets; met with those who operate show’s lighting and special effects; and even worked with Audience Engagement, which, in the form of the TKTS service, enabled us to see this particular show. It was an embodiment of much of what we learned, and seeing the gears of a final product mesh in such a way demanded appreciation. It was icing on top of the cake of an unforgettable trip.
Adam Couitt ’18
Seeing Anastasia on a stage has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I always pictured it on a stage. From the dancing in Rumor in St. Petersburg, to the exploration of Paris in Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart, the movie reads like a musical. And it finally is one. Thanks to the Hopkins Center, I was able to experience Anastasia live onstage in New York City (at the Broadhurst Theatre).
The musical takes the story out of the magical world of animation, and adds insight and plot from the historical elements of communist Russia. I was surprised to see that they completely erased all traces of magic in favor of adding realism. This meant discarding the mystical villain from the film, Rasputin. By removing magic from the story, the musical delves into the political conflicts surrounding the Romanov family and gives the audience a better sense of the danger Ana, Dimitri and Vlad truly faced by attempting to leave Russia and make their way to Paris. In my mind, it not only humanizes them but redeems them. In the film, they are just con artists looking for a chance to get rich. In the musical, they are more sympathetic, attempting to escape an oppressive regime. It makes Ana a more interesting character: while she still retains the memory of meeting her grandmama in Paris, she has more motivation to leave Russia, and thus more motivation to agree to Dimitri and Vlad’s plot.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, who wrote the original music for the movie, Anastasia is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to watch. Along with the old songs, the musical includes new selections that add flavor and character to the plot. The costumes in the piece were exquisite, and the set design helped bring the magical qualities of animation alive on the Broadway stage.
In short, this production exceeded my already high expectations. Through the lens of my Operations Internship this year and my four years in the Theater Department, I am able to appreciate this production in so many different ways. From the creative team putting the story pieces together, to the production team building the set and bringing the story to life on the stage, to all of the people behind the marketing, events management and maintenance of the theater, shows like Anastasia are not easy to put together. And that’s what makes them so magical. Whether you’re a parent looking for a good musical to take your kids to, or just a kid at heart like me, I highly recommend going to see the musical.
Naomi Lazar ’17
Last year I was privileged to see Phillipa Soo in Hamilton, so when I heard she was starring in the new musical Amélie, I was eager to see her take on a different role. Fortunately, I was able to get a cheap seat to make the comparison. The signs outside of the theater declared, “It’s impossible not to be charmed,” which was true. The set was magical, incorporating animation from drawings on chalkboard walls to the illusion of boats sailing on waves. The amazing design brought me from New York into France. I laughed from start to finish, but something was missing. I haven’t see the movie that inspired this musical, and I felt part of the storyline just didn’t make sense. For example, Amélie’s mother dies shortly after taking her to a church to pray for a son. They show her die on stage when a fat man appears with an “I Love Jarvis” shirt on and a dummy version of him falls down the steps and smashes her. Was that the son she prayed for? Did she die from childbirth while delivering the son? I honestly don’t know. While Phillipa Soo has a beautiful voice, unlike after Hamilton, I can’t remember one song she sang in Amélie—which was a huge disappointment because, for me, when I leave a good musical, I can’t get the songs out of my head. I walked out thinking Amélie was funny and charming, but stupid. I was glad I paid less than $50 for my ticket in the last row of the balcony.