When Four Seasons Theatre opens Evita this weekend, another, shadow production will occur backstage: 16 students are working as interns with the professional production staff.
Ralph Russo, director of the Union Theater, counts himself as a fan whenever Four Seasons produces there. But besides what happens on stage, he says, "It's the experiential learning piece of what Four Seasons does that we value so much."
This is a 30th-anniversary production of Evita, the story of Argentine icon Eva Perón. The musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice features a cast of 30 including Chad Grote, L. Joe Dahl and, in the title role, Amanda Poulson.
Interns taking part in Four Seasons' Backstage Arts Internship Program are almost all high schoolers. They work as assistant director and assistant choreographer, and in lighting, scenic and sound design, as well as other areas. The Union Theater supports the program with an educational fund created by its late technical director, Jean C. Hodgin. It's so successful that the interns often later come work for Russo.
Putting on a play, even a non-musical, is immensely difficult. Why bother training high schoolers at the same time?
"One of the missions of the company is to not just produce shows, but to better the theater community," says Sarah Marty, Four Seasons managing director.
"That is unique," notes Russo. "It would be a lot easier just to hire people."