The 2017/2018 Hop interns were in New York City May 10–13 to explore the arts as the capstone of their internship experience. This year we not only spent time in Manhattan at the Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Martha Graham Dance Company, but also made our way to Brooklyn to visit Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) and BRIC. For the first time since the Hop Internship Program began, all of the interns are women so it was especially meaningful to meet with so many women who hold senior leadership positions within these iconic arts organization. In keeping with tradition, we also saw live shows.
Brandea Turner, Senior Events Manager, Hopkins Center for the Arts, and manager of the Hop Interns Program
The first person we met with during our trip to NYC was Hanako Yamaguchi, the programming director of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She spoke with us about all of the programming that she does, including the famous Mostly Mozart festival, as well as other, newer programs, such as the White Light Festival in the fall. We learned about the structure of the Lincoln Center. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t one big performing arts center, but rather 11 unique organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, that are all presenting performing arts in New York. We asked about everything from the nitty-gritty, like who gets priority in booking spaces in the Lincoln Center complex and who gets to set their program first, to big-picture questions, like how to you decide if a piece gives you that inspirational, spiritual feeling to warrant it a place in the White Light Festival. We had a lengthy conversation about what has changed in her tenure at the Lincoln Center, particularly with audiences. The advent of cell phones and the information age has changed everything from marketing, to when people buy tickets, to when they show up for a concert. Finally, Hanako shared with us some information about ISPA, the International Society for Performing Arts, which Hop Director Mary Lou Aleskie chairs. This industry conference brings together presenters from all around the world to encourage the presentation of international performing arts.
Hanako enabled three of us to get tickets to see the New York Philharmonic on Saturday night. We heard Elgar’s Cello Concerto, performed by Chinese soloist Jian Wang. After his beautiful performance, he told the audience a story about his upbringing, and played an encore to celebrate the woman who hosted him when he was able to come to the United States and who had recently passed away. The second half of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony, one of his lesser known works, and a real treat to experience at David Geffen Hall. The performance was conducted by Nikolaj Znaider, who brought a great energy to the show.
After spending the morning in Manhattan we ventured into Brooklyn. Our first stop was Mark Morris Dance Group. Shortly after we arrived we were warmly greeted by Elizabeth Fox, chief finance officer. We dropped our bags in a conference room and she gave us a tour of the Dance Center. Having been one of the first MMDG full-time staff members she shared the history and proudly disclosed they are a financially sound organization (I believe debt free also, which is rare in the arts, especially dance companies). During the tour we got to see rehearsal and performance studios and the wellness center. The Dance Center is used not just for the MMDG but by the community. This is important because it’s located in the Brooklyn Cultural District and they wanted to not only meet the personal needs of the dance group, but be a resource to the community. After the tour Elizabeth invited the MMDG staff to join us in the conference room for lunch. It was super-exciting for me and the Hop interns to get to interact with so staff members across various departments at one time, and it was a first for the NYC Intern trip. What’s even cooler is that the MMDG staff have brown bag lunch conversations on a regular basis. During lunch the staff introduced themselves and shared valuable career advice ranging from reaching out to people you admire, to staying true to yourself, to remembering to thank the people who help you along the way, and being open to a path you might not have previously considered. We wrapped up our time by taking a group photo and getting to see Mark Morris’ green office, which includes a bath tub.
We were able to tour BRIC and discuss the programming with Emily Harney, the deputy director and manager of programming initiatives at BRIC. BRIC (Brooklyn Information and Culture) provides free cultural programming within Brooklyn through various media. Harney shed some light on the programs in digital media, which both provide cultural entertainment as well as a resource for expression within the community. Community members are able to train to be community directors who are licensed to use the equipment and aid others in their projects as a part of maintaining their license. Additionally, Harney talked about the different ways the space is used as a public resource, including supporting artists by displaying their works and creating access to different materials, providing free WIFI and welcoming students to hang out, featuring a gallery of student work from their programs, and projecting free shows onto the walls. While BRIC has long run many different programs, having its own building allowed the organization to gather its programs iunder one roof and make the community more aware of the range of programming. As this tour immediately followed our discussion with the MMDG, who had worked hard to create a center for the dancers to have a consistent workspace that led to a larger organization, it emphasized how physical space plays an important role in artistic communities. Buildings offer consistent places for storage, rehearsals and events and also can increase an organization’s presence and profile in the community.
On Friday afternoon, we went to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, which is the home of the Manhattan Theatre Club. We met with Jim Joseph, the theater manager of the Friedman. He welcomed us and gave us a tour of the building. The most fascinating part of our tour was learning the theater’s rich history . The Friedman for many years was in horrible shape yet was such a beautiful building at its core. The renovations preserved the Friedman’s historical details while making the space more comfortable for its audience. We were allowed to go on stage and backstage; I learned about the tradition in which all of the Broadway theaters send a letter with their best wishes to a show on their opening night. We then met with Barry Grove, who is a Dartmouth ‘73 and executive producer of the Manhattan Theatre Club. Mr. Grove serves on the board of the Hop, and this was a great example of the passion and care of Dartmouth alumni and how they want to share their time with current students. His time at Dartmouth was very different from ours – he was able to take many terms off to work on various shows yet still managed to get his credits in and graduate. Similar to us, however, Mr. Grove’s time at Dartmouth centered around the Hop. It was great to hear how he forged his own path at Dartmouth and created a career and life for himself doing what he loves.
St. Joan featured Condola Rashad as Joan in an otherwise all-male cast, and the general plot focused on the history of Joan of Arc that led to her sainthood. The primary scenery of the stage consisted of huge cardboard cylinders painted gold that we had be given the chance to see up-close earlier. They were arranged in size and shape to resemble a gigantic organ, and the lighting throughout the show created beautiful effects that blended with the pipes, from intimidating golden halls to starry nights to blue lighting with a sunrise of pink fading into the gold of the pipes.
The show mixed comedy with commentary, and while the juxtaposition of the comedy might seem jarring at times given the serious contexts, it also pointed out the absurd nature of why Joan was upsetting to the men in power within the play. The character of Joan was loud and had strong beliefs about which she would not always compromise, and she refused to tone back her personality for the comfort of others; she dressed how she dressed not for reasons based on gender (either to deny nor focus on it) but because her mission was to be a soldier. While not always the most relatable character in her specific interests, religion and war, questioning personal perceptions of the character as well as the interactions with other characters creates a conversation around the message of how we limit or allow people to take up space and pursue their passions.
On a side note, those familiar with Coupling or Pirates of the Caribbean could appreciate the Broadway debut of Jack Davenport. His sarcastic drawl gave life and comedy to his character, Warwick, the Englishman in favor of burning Joan. Davenport was my personal favorite part of the performance, for both reasons of nostalgia in hearing the familiar voice used in a new character and what I perceive as the perfect match between his acting and character assignment.
One of we interns’ numerous memorable interactions was with Faye Rosenbaum, general manager of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Faye graciously gave us a look into her diverse professional and academic background. Faye, who originally majored in political science and dance as an undergrad, pursued a masters in theater production after a six-year interlude working as a paralegal. Her willingness to answer our many questions with a frankness and humor comforted me, who as a double major studying political science and studio art identified with her career path. Faye wears many hats as the company’s general manager, and she offered examples of her daily role. Faye can be called to consult on anything from licensing of choreography to onsite technical problems, which results in a demanding but stimulating and diverse job description. All of us were inspired by her passion for her work. Later in our lunch with her, she spoke to the growing importance of intellectual property law in the performing arts and gave us insight to the typical schedule for a touring company. As a senior with interests in an arts career after graduation, I definitely will be influenced in how I pursue future career opportunities by Faye’s personal narrative and practical knowledge of the industry.
On Saturday after brunch, we headed into the theater district to catch a matinee performance of the musical Waitress. The musical garnered a lot of buzz when it premiered in 2016 – it was even nominated for the Tony for Best Musical. Katherine McPhee has taken over the lead after stints by Jesse Mueller, who originated the role, and Sara Bairelles, who wrote the music for the show. Walking into the show, we were greeted with the faint but unmistakable scent of freshly baking pies.
The musical deals with domestic abuse, but included lighthearted moments and romantic side-plots to keep the audience engaged and enjoying the experience. Many of the songs were catchy, and the lyrically heavy show conveyed the main character’s emotions in detail – important when the movie got to rely on internal narration to dramatize her thoughts. The set was realistic, but flexible and convertible, with motors allowing significant changes in setting to happen in seconds. This also is likely a nod to the movie, which featured quick location changes would have been hard to sacrifice to achieve a similar plot. The diner, Jenna’s home, and the OBGYN’s examination room all felt realized, and probably needed to be.
At intermission, pies were sold by cheerful attendants decked out in colorful diner-inspired uniforms. The audience was a mix across age ranges and ethnicities, but predominately female. A talk with the house manager after revealed that is typically the case for this show.
I already knew I liked the story and the music, thanks to the release of several songs on Spotify. Overall, I think the group found the story to be engaging, the bits of humor effective, and the performances to be top notch (even if musicals in general weren’t everyone’s taste).
After Waitress, we got to stay and tour backstage with Andy Elman who is the head carpenter for the show. This show had a lot of moving parts so it was great to get to ask the questions we were curious about during the show. I learned that the operator of all of the animations that goes on onstage actually works below the stage on multiple computers, which make it look seamless. The space backstage and below the stage is all very small yet they smartly pack everything they need into the space they have. I am glad that unlike the tour of the Friedman, we went backstage after Waitress as opposed to before. I think seeing the show first then learning about it preserved some of the magic that otherwise I would’ve known too much about to fully buy into. In contrast, seeing backstage and learning about the MTC before seeing Saint Joan was a great introduction to the show and made me more intrigued to see it.
While in New York the interns also got to select a performance to attend. After waiting in the Tkts booth for a discount ticket I chose Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which proved to be an amazing selection. The show tells the story of lyricist and vocalist Carole King. The performance begins with a concert-like introduction that pays homage to Carole’s own childhood in the Bronx. Carole, her husband, Gerry Goffin, and closest friends defined music for a generation before she ever sang her own music or won a Grammy. The entire show seamlessly integrates this music into the narrative of her life, and the entire audience remained enraptured from start to finish. Carole King’s lifelong fans and those unfamiliar with her work can enjoy the vocal talent and choreography that defines the show.
A single weekend in New York does not afford anyone enough time to fully experience all the possible art and culture, but the behind the scenes and coordinated conversations with arts professionals offered myself an the other interns fresh insight before we pilgrimage off into our own creative futures.
Continuing the day’s trend of seeing movies-turned-musicals, that evening I saw a performance of Anastasia. The musical departed greatly from the animated children’s film, more firmly characterizing the inhabitants of St. Petersburg and the political pressures of the time of the story. The musical shed Rasputin and his magical spells and instead relied on an officer faithful to the revolution to create its major conflict.
The musical kept the most recognizable, moving, and fun songs from the original version. New songs slotted in kept me feeling like this was a new experience, and not simply a live-action re-enactment. The set was simple, with majestic white columns, but that does not mean the visual environment was bare. The projection work on this musical was very impressive, and allowed for stunning snowscapes, dancing ghosts, and simple photographic backdrops that denoted settings explicitly – like the Eiffel tower.
This is a musical geared towards families, and looking around at the other members of the audience that was clearly reflected. But that did not inhibit my enjoyment. Rather, I think it enhanced it. I actually found myself smiling more at children’s reactions than I would have naturally, amused by their amusement.
The musical met my expectations – again I knew what story, roughly, to expect and had some prior knowledge of the songs featured. I really enjoyed seeing it, and would recommend – especially to a family with middle-age children.