For my first couple of weeks at CST the final preparations and rehearsals for Seussical, a family-orientated musical based on the stories of Dr. Seuss, were taking place. Now the run has started, the theatre is busy and bustling with people coming to see the show nearly every day. Although the theatre is firmly grounded in an appreciation of Shakespeare, I quickly discovered that CST’s reach extends much further. The summer family musical engages young audiences and, in addition to this, CST plays host to a number of productions from around the world. Their upcoming 14/15 season includes a South African production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute from the Isango Ensemble and CST’s own musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. These productions sit alongside full-length productions of King Lear and Pericles, with an abridged performance of Macbeth being staged for students.
The first external meeting I was involved with was with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We discussed plans to collaborate during celebrations to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. This included discussing the possibility of sharing educational resources for relevant productions and provided an interesting insight into the scope of institutions working in Chicago to further arts education through a number of forms.
One of the primary roles I’ve been playing has been liaising between CST and the Chicago Children’s Museum. In partnership with CCM, the theatre has been running craft activity tables on Wednesdays and Thursdays so patrons can create “wearable books” to take home with them. In the coming weeks, we’ll be continuing to work together to organise a family night at the museum which will include a short performance from two of the main characters of Seussical.
Last weekend, CST held their first ever family gala. Much of the money raised will contribute towards CST’s educational outreach programmes which rely significantly on the generosity of individuals and organisations. It was a great event to be involved with, with Seuss themed food and activities, face-painting and a silent auction. It also demonstrated the enthusiasm that everyone connected to the theatre embodies – from patrons, to full-time staff and the many interns as well.
Some of the work I have been doing has involved researching other theatres and educational institutions, mostly in America, the UK and Canada, and compiling evidence of their educational resources which can be used as a reference point for CST when creating their own. I’ve also been researching currently available resources for Mozart’s The Magic Flute in preparation for the South African Isango Ensemble production coming to CST in September. Lots of the currently available resources were intended to supplement classical productions of the opera, and so I’ve been trying to critically evaluate their applicability and potential for adaptation to the Isango Ensemble interpretation.
One of the benefits of working at CST that I hadn’t anticipated before arriving is the number of interns they take on. Being a relatively large not-for-profit organisation, they take on around 20 interns at a time in a wide range of areas over administration and production. CST is extremely supportive of its interns, and has been running weekly intern seminars where members of the organisation talk to us about their roles within the theatre and how they obtained them. These seminars have provided a fascinating insight into the huge variety of occupational roles within an arts institution and the number of pathways which can be taken to reach them.