When the 37th annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival opened on July 11, the University of Nevada, Reno theater department was able to take personal pride in the production. As part of a partnership that has been growing since last year, the University offered the use of its costume shops, scene shops and rehearsal space to the Festival for the summer. In return, University theater students were offered internships for the Festival's summer season.
Speech Communication and Theater Chair Rob Gander said the relationship is ideal, especially when both organizations are dealing with budget concerns.
"It's a partnership that benefits both while costing almost nothing," he said. "And, we're finding more and more ways to help each other out."
For example, Festival carpenters will work for the University when there is downtime during rehearsals at the production's location at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, and the University will have access to Festival sets in return for storing them on campus. One of the most exciting benefits, however, is the internship program. To date, nearly 10 percent of University theater majors have completed internships, and that number will increase in the next few years.
"It's very rare for University students to get professional experience like this," said Gander. "I would guess maybe a quarter of universities have affiliations with professional companies, but very few of those companies are on campus, building shows in university shops, as the Festival is with us."
Michael Livernash, a fine arts major with a minor in theater, was excited to learn he was accepted as a scenery intern. "I had a sense of accomplishment, but I also knew that it was going to be a lot of hard work," he said.
He was right. He and intern Benn Dyer, another fine arts major working on set design, have been putting in 13- to15-hour days as they rush to have everything ready before opening night. Dyer said that the experience he is gaining makes the stress worth it.
"Throughout the build, I've been working closely with the professional crew," he said. "I know each of them by name, and they me, and I'm readily eating up everything thing I can get from them."
Livernash agreed. "I've been learning very valuable skills in building scenery for future art installations, which I would like to keep working with," he said. "Some of the work we've been doing I've never seen before, like working with Styrofoam to make a realistic Gothic arch."
According to Gander, that sort of experience is what makes the partnership so unique and valuable.
"It's very hands-on, and very intimate," he said.
The Festival runs from July 11 to Aug. 23, with alternating performances Tuesday-Sunday of "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Measure for Measure" at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $27 to $77, and student discounts are available.
"The best part of this work is seeing everything come together and meeting everyone from all over the country," said Dyer. "I'm excited to see the final product."