Liam collaborates with colleagues. Photo courtesy of Huntington Theatre Company.
One of the core tenants of the educational alliance that was recently formed between Northeastern University and the Huntington Theatre Company is new experiential learning opportunities. For College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) student Liam Hofmeister, who is pursuing a Theatre major and a Journalism minor, this presented the chance to serve as the Huntington Theatre Company’s first-ever co-op, which he recently wrapped up in December after a productive and valuable five months. Being a brand new position, the role and responsibilities certainly evolved during his time there, but one aspect that remained constant was the incredible value of interacting directly with nationally-acclaimed theatre professionals and being completely immersed in the industry.
The co-op position itself was intended from the beginning to be multidimensional and allow Liam to work both on the marketing and production side of the Huntington Theatre Company’s operations. The Northeastern faculty members in Theatre recommended him for the co-op position, especially with it being the first one, because he had experience and skill on both the administrative and artistic side of the industry.
“This particular co-op position was very specific to me because I am interested in working on both the administration and the directing/production side of theatre,” explained Liam. “I am a strong communicator, and this is important for all aspects of theatre. Being able to adapt others’ voices and strengthen and improve the organization’s own voice have been incredibly important skills for this co-op.”
Liam started his co-op over the summer in the Huntington Theatre Company’s marketing department, where he managed the social media channels, helped with branding initiatives, and digitized the organization’s photo archives, which ended up serving as a beautiful and meaningful retrospective of the Huntington Theatre Company’s productions over the years. He also wrote press releases and articles, one of which is being published in the Huntington Theatre Company’s upcoming magazine, which they release twice a year. His piece takes a dramaturgical approach (broadly defined as an exploration of all the research that goes into a theatre production) to Top Girls, a show the Huntington Theatre Company is putting on next spring. In the production, a career-woman who just received a promotion hosts a fancy dinner with a group of famous and adventurous historical women, so Liam researched all of these people in great depth, which will be useful in how audience members interpret how these characters function in the play.
After learning the ins and outs of marketing, Liam then shifted gears to Assistant Directing, spending much of the Fall in the rehearsal room for A Guide for the Homesick. He worked closely with the Director, Colman Domingo, who is an Olivier and Tony Award nominated actor (had parts in recognizable works like Lincoln, Selma, and Fear the Walking Dead) as well as GLAAD and Lucille Lortel Award winning playwright. Luckily for Liam, serving as the Assistant Director for Shakespeare on the Common over the summer, which was intense and fast-paced, helped him feel prepared for his work assisting a Director at the Huntington Theatre Company, a role that he eased into and over time, earned more and more responsibility – as well as an invitation from Colman Doningo to come back to work together again on future projects!
“At first, I spent a lot of time observing during rehearsals, and I would jot down questions and thoughts to share with the Director at the end of the day, which was welcomed in this particular case because the play I was working on was a developing script,” said Liam. “Once I had become more familiar and experienced with the show’s actors and overall landscape, I felt comfortable contributing my ideas to the conversations at rehearsals. It has been truly amazing to be able to see some of my ideas, like how a scene should be ordered to best communicate with the audience, materialize in the real-life production.”
Rehearsal for A Guide for the Homesick. Photo by Nile Scott Shots.
Having the chance to see an idea come to life, and impact others in a positive way, can often be one of the most rewarding aspects of a co-op, and Liam feels truly grateful that the Huntington Theatre Company trusted him to not only contribute his ideas but also nurture them to fruition. When Liam started his co-op, his goal was simply to explore and understand how a theatre company operates, but as he reflects on the past few months at the Huntington, he has not only met this goal but also has formed new knowledge and takeaways, which he can apply to both this position and others in the future.
“Being on co-op allows for perspective changes. I learned that every part of a theatre company’s machine needs to be working with love and dedication in order to succeed,” Liam explained. “So by the end of my co-op at the Huntington, I was focused on how administration can support the artistic side, and also how I can support the Marketing Department to be the best it can be, or how marketing can support the Development Department, or how I strived to serve every single person in the room while Assistant Directing, whether they were the company manager, the stage manager, an actor, the playwright. That nexus of symbiotic support is key. It’s a generosity and willingness to support others, wherever they may be in this theatrical family.”
While Liam’s position at the Huntington has come to an end, he plans to keep busy while back on campus next semester, as he works with a team to research and put together a theatre production from scratch. An interdisciplinary and collaborative endeavor, supported through grant money, the team is a mix of Theatre and Engineering students at Northeastern who are working together to make a truly unprecedented interactive set design. The show is slated to be performed on campus sometime in the spring. In the meantime, we look forward to following along with their progress and hearing about the experiences of the two new CAMD co-ops starting at the Huntington Theatre Company in January.