“When did it hit you?” someone asked me the other day. I knew exactly what they meant. They meant when did it hit me that I was no longer on my tiny Kalamazoo campus but instead living in New York City. I think the moment it hit me was when I was walking though Times Square on my way to work, trying my hardest to act like the New Yorker I wanted to be, pretending the fabulous twinkling display of capitalism was nothing important. I’d grown up seeing so many images of Times Square on TV that the land I was walking in felt mythical, like I had just discovered Atlantis.
This is my first week of the New York Arts Program, a study away program that sends students to New York to study the arts by using their connections to land their participants reputable internships. For my winter quarter I’ll be working as a full time intern at Ensemble Studio Theater, attending some seminar meetings and working towards a final creative project. In my free time I’m attending mostly affordable shows and events, exploring the city and bonding with the other thirty-something students from other schools.
My first week has been a bit surreal. As I’ve mentioned, it’s all been hitting me. There was the hit walking though Times Square, then there was the hit going across the Brooklyn Bridge and a huge hit every time I speak to someone in theater and they talk about who’s being the most innovative. I’ve been told all my life that theatre is not realistic industry to expect to work in, but here I’m surrounded by people who are working in it successfully and doing projects that fill me with an excitement about the arts I haven’t felt in a while. In the first week I’ve met countless playwrights, including Dael Orlandersmith, I’ve seen a plethora of talented actors both onstage and off and I even briefly met the man who does lighting design for Kanye West concerts. The only thing I remember him telling me was, “Kanye just wants to be backlit.”
Where do I exist among this blinding stardom? I am the intern. When I was in high school I had a job that required me to sit in a dark room for two days while I stained planks of wood darker and darker while the fumes made me dizzier and dizzier and somehow my position at EST makes me feel even less important. Not that everyday I’m fetching coffee, but when I’m reading incoming scripts, it reminds me all the more how much I can’t wait to maybe be writing these someday.