With the semester more than halfway over, HECUA students in our full-time programs have settled into their internship placements, digging into their assigned projects and tasks with gusto. All HECUA internships are based on project-specific proposals submitted by community partners at the beginning of each year. Students flip through pages of these project submissions during their internship selection process, guided by HECUA’s Manager of Internships and Community Partnerships, Emily Seru. We caught up with Art for Social Change student Rosa Simone Raarup and her supervisor at Open Eye Figure Theater, Liz Schachterle, on a sunny day in March for more information about the selection process, and insight into what a HECUA internship can offer students interested in the arts.
The Open Eye Figure Theatre is a tiny jewel box, tucked into a restored red brick warehouse in South Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood. Best known for producing inventive and boundary-pushing works of puppet theater, Open Eye is also a home for workshops, visiting artists, and the home base of the Driveway Tour theater program. When HECUA Art for Social Change Student Rosa saw Open Eye listed as an internship placement option for the Spring 2015 semester, she was thrilled. “I’d seen three shows there, and they were all amazing,” she said. Rosa had never worked at a theater before, although she’d been involved with smaller scale performance. The internship project description included puppet-making, another first, but she was excited to expand her technical knowledge.
During a brief tour of the space, the fruits of her labor are evident, from the familiar way she operates the puppets hanging from the walls to the beginnings of what she calls the “Squash Man.”
Rosa with a few of the refurbished Driveway Tour puppets.
Squash Man is an unexpected addition to the internship, the product of Rosa’s participation in a Czech Marionette construction workshop taught by Michael Sommers, a co-founder of the theater and a University of MN professor.
Rosa’s supervisor at Open Eye is a HECUA alumna, Liz Schachterle. About 75 per cent of HECUA alums tell us that their time in off-campus study helps them find a job post graduation, and that’s certainly true of Liz. A 2005 Art for Social Change alumna, her placement at Youth Farm and Market became a full time job soon after she graduated. “What HECUA did for me was got me off campus and connected to the broader community,” Liz says, “It expanded my networks.”
Liz is now the director of Open Eye’s Driveway Tour series, a suitcase-sized show that travels to backyards and driveways across the Twin Cities. Since its first performances in 2003, the Driveway Tour has reached over 50,000 people, and more than 620 sites.
The Driveway Tour is a big deal, and the project proposal Liz submitted to HECUA’s Manager of Internships Emily Seru involved assisting with its coordination in almost every facet. “Getting the puppets ready, building past relationship information into the host profiles, helping with booking, stage managing.” Liz ticks off a long list of responsibilities that Rosa has taken on in the past few months. “I always try to offer Rosa an open invitation to office meetings and conversation as well, because that’s something that I remember as being really helpful.”
Rosa agrees, citing conversations around diversity in casting for the Driveway series as being a rich point of overlap between her class time and the internship placement. They’ve been doing a lot of work around representation and identity construction in class, spending time with Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and Krystyn Moon’s Yellowface. Rosa says, “being here and hearing those conversations has been really important.” It’s deepened her participation in class conversations, and her engagement with the readings.
Liz nods in agreement, and adds, “I feel like during HECUA we looked critically at a lot of art, as well as issues of race and privilege. My experience with HECUA pushed me, and prepared me for the experience of working on/casting Tucker’s Robot [a relatively new show in the Driveway tour rotation]. It taught me that it’s ok to be wrong, in particular, that making the steps to investigate is better than being paralyzed.”
The interplay between class time, internship placement work, and peer conversation is a theme that runs through the conversation. Liz offers these parting words, “HECUA is about who our classmates are and who they become.” We couldn’t agree more.