Olney Theatre Center believes that arts education plays an essential role in our nation’s cultural health. That’s why in addition to our arts integration program, we offer apprenticeships. The apprenticeship program is a yearlong experience intended to offer emerging theater artists a bridge between university and the profession. For one year, 16 apprentices live and work on OTC’s campus in every facet of the organization. Meet our 2019-2020 Production Management Apprentice, Vern Reske!
What is the path that brought you to OTC?
I was looking for some kind of theater management internship after I completed my undergraduate; I didn't feel as if I had enough experience under my belt to immediately jump to a management position, I wanted to get some more footing in the field as an intern before making such a large leap. I wanted to stay in the Midwestern region, but after much research into the field of production management (as well as Midwestern theatre), I came to the conclusion that I had to start looking to the coasts to be able to learn what I wanted to know. Production Management is a relatively new field in theater, and as such, the smaller theaters in the Midwest typically don't have the resources to have an assistant or internship in any area of theater management (whereas, for example, a lighting design internship or a carpentry internship would be easier to find). To be plain, I started applying to any theater on the east coast that had a theater management internship or a production management internship. I heard back from a few theaters (including OTC), and OTC was simply the best fit for me, and luckily they wanted me as well; so here I am!
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I'm working on various aspects of two seasons of theater here at Olney. We're two weeks away from opening Tiger Style!, the last show of the 2018-2019 season; and three weeks away from the 1st rehearsal of Cabaret, the first show of our 2019-2020 season. A lot of what I've been working on for the past two months have been planning ahead for the 19-20 season, while at the same time planning out and helping finish the 18-19 season. What that means is I've been scheduling meetings to talk about initial ideas, finalizing ideas, and how to move forward with producing ideas (in other words, I've been working with people from the beginning to middle of the process for the first 3 shows of the 19-20 season; while at the same time working from the middle to end of the process for the last three shows of the 18-19 season). The tangible things that I've been cranking out for the past two months are meeting schedulings, consolidating calendars that detail the beginning to end process for production staff of the shows for the next season, creating calendars to hand out to actors for the next season, reconciling and closing out budgets as we open and close each show of our current season, and various other needs as they pop up within production departments (i.e. driving to Baltimore to pick up steel, picking up a designer for rehearsal, placing orders for the different shops so they can continue producing work, etc.). To summarize, a lot of what I'm currently working on is any and all paperwork to get everyone on the same page on the technical theatre side of the company.
What is something you are looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to Singin' in the Rain! It's one of the few shows that my mom and I made an effort to watch together, and after sitting in design concept meeting I am super excited to see what all the brilliant people working on the show produce. I think it's going to be beautiful.
What are you doing (or thinking about) for your Capstone?
All I know is that near the end of my contract here, I will be the acting Production Manager for a show; which means I will be the person overseeing all aspects of the production side of the show. I'll be the one problem solving (should any problems pop up), enforcing deadlines, creating the budget for each shop, etc.
What's special about Olney Theatre Center?
Everyone is so encouraging about learning new things. In addition to that, everyone encourages the learning environment, and supports you as you explore your chosen field. It's so, so great to work at a company that gives you the space to learn and explore something new to you, that allows you to make mistakes. I've worked at companies before that say they want you to learn, but reprimand you for any detail you get wrong - let alone anything bigger than a few details. Thankfully Olney is not one of those companies!
Why the production management apprenticeship?
I've always liked paperwork, and I like doing a little bit of everything technical theater. This apprenticeship allows me to have a little hand in all the departments here, and I have the opportunity to step in and work should I need to. For example, I ran the audio for a graduation that took place in our Historic Theater here a few weeks ago. And because the Production Manager is the overseer of all the different shops in a theater, there is so much opportunity to create new paperwork and new systems of organization, I don't think I'll ever be bored!