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Theatre Student Rebecca Morris Books Shows, Creates Programs, and Helps with Expansion Project While on Co-op at The Kennedy Center

Rebecca Morris, Photo courtesy of Margaret Wroblewski Photography

Rebecca Morris is a CAMD Theatre student with a concentration in Performance. For her co-op this semester, she accepted a position in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center, where she serves as their Programming Intern in the Performing Arts for Everyone (PAFE) and Millennium Stage Department. During her time there so far, she has had the opportunity to network and collaborate with department heads and senior employees; establishing these great connections helped her land a scholarship to attend the 2019 Kennedy Center New Play Dramaturgy Intensive this summer. After Rebecca finishes her co-op, she plans on interning at the Porchlight Music Theater in Chicago, and then returning to D.C. to participate in the Intensive at the Kennedy Center. She has a lot going on, and we recently had the opportunity to chat with Rebecca to learn more about it all! Read more about her experiences in the Q&A below.

What does a typical day working in the Kennedy Center look like? What are your responsibilities?

Like most people at the Kennedy Center, I don’t really have a typical day, but my responsibilities remain relatively unchanged. I begin my days by catching up on emails, grabbing information that artists sent me about their upcoming performances, and making programs for Millennium Stage shows in the coming two weeks. I spend most of my time doing work related to Millennium Stage, which is a pair of stages at each end of the Kennedy Center’s Grand Foyer where we host and livestream free performances every day. These performances can be anything from music, dance and theatre, to comedy or opera. Once the programs for Millennium Stage have been made, I send them to the artists for approval, then to press for edits, and begin preparing the space for the evening show. I help the artist get situated, meet the crew, soundcheck, and, of course, perform! During the performance, I stay by the stage, managing the show until it’s over, and then restore the space to its original state. I run two of these shows per week.  After each one, I send a house report to the Center’s staff, informing them of how everything went.

My responsibilities with Millennium Stage don’t stop there; I also review press releases for sets of upcoming shows and create signage to post around the Center promoting Millennium Stage. I discuss and contribute to Millennium Stage’s social media strategy, including interviewing performing artists and posting their stories on the Instagram account. I also have weekly check-in meetings with my supervisor and those in the Stage’s department to field recommendations for future shows and artists and prepare for upcoming weeks.

In my downtime, I work on any projects of which I am a part, try to attend presentations from senior Kennedy Center staff about how their departments work, and have one-on-one meetings with staff around the Center whose work I find interesting. I also evaluate and take notes on how Millennium Stage’s social media is performing, do research on the DC performing arts scene to generate to ideas to broaden and enhance Millennium Stage’s offerings, and I sometimes get to go see performances during the day at the Center!

Additionally, the Kennedy Center offers something called KC Class, a class that covers various areas of arts management, in which I participate and attend weekly. At the culmination of my term, I am to give a presentation to senior staff detailing a gap in what the Center provides and a proposal to fill this gap.

The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

You’re currently assisting with a project to prepare the Center for its first expansion. What does this project involve?

Yes! The Kennedy Center is adding a series of buildings to its campus called The REACH and it’s opening this September! The expansion is really different from the main building; it’s irregularly shaped, has much smaller performance spaces, and filled with sunlight. There will be passages connecting the new buildings to both each other and to the main building. The purpose of the REACH is to provide a dedicated community space with facilities that the Kennedy Center doesn’t currently have, such as forums for lectures, educational studios, and an outdoor video wall to simulcast events that are happening in the main building. The spaces are open and intimate, encouraging people to connect and break down barriers between artists and audience members. It’s also a place where members of the community can come to see art in development stages and to create their own. The REACH officially opens on September 7, but it will have a soft opening the weekend before, when its spaces will be used for part of the Page to Stage New Play Festival.

My main role in regard to the REACH is in connection to Page to Stage, which is primarily under the purview of my department. Page to Stage previews shows that theatres through the DC area are planning to run in the coming year, offering a great opportunity for people to witness how plays come to be. I’ve helped develop the timeline to help curate the moving pieces that need to be in place for Page to Stage (and because it’s taking place in new spaces this year, it’s a more involved process than usual), I’m helping craft a social media campaign for the festival, and I’ll be reviewing the play submissions from the theatres that apply to participate. I’m especially excited about this last point because in previous years, nobody read through the scripts before the festival. However, this year, since we’re putting on the first slate of programming in an exciting new space, we’re adopting a stronger curatorial role. Beyond Page to Stage, the plan for implementation of the REACH is ever-evolving, so I’ve been involved in discussions about what role my department will play in the expansion in the short and long terms, how to best showcase the many potential uses of the REACH through its opening programming, and which organizations the Kennedy Center should partner with in developing the REACH’s own culture during its first few years.

The REACH expansion at the Kennedy Center

How has it been working in the theatre scene in DC?

It’s been really great and extremely eye-opening. I work pretty close to Georgetown, so I often walk there by way of the waterfront, eat lunch out, and grab dessert from one of Georgetown’s many excellent bakeries. Working at the Kennedy Center specifically has been awesome because it’s somewhere I spent much of my childhood, seeing shows, so it’s fascinating to see things from the other side. I can’t believe I get to traipse around this gorgeous, iconic complex, look at their internal financial figures, and even help select future shows. I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to the performing arts outside of theatre because the Kennedy Center houses all kinds of art, but I’ve also learned so much about the DC theatre world. So many of people at the Center have worked all over town, and I’ve been finding time to meet with all the theatre people in the building to chat about their careers and their impressions of DC’s theatre scene. This position definitely confirmed for me that DC is a fantastic place to pursue theatre. The one downside is there’s way more theatre around than I could ever possibly have time to see, and it’s no fun to miss a great production.

You will be participating in the Kennedy Center New Play Dramaturgy Intensive, an eight day program in which 16 participants meet daily to work on new plays that are in development stages. What are you most excited about for this experience?

I’m really excited to get some real formal experience in dramaturgy and learn about how to read a play from the perspective of a dramaturg. I’m looking forward to learning through mentorship from leading professional dramaturgs.

Lastly, tell us a bit about your upcoming internship in Chicago at the Porchlight Music Theater; what will your role there be?

I’m going to be an Arts Administration Intern. As of now, I do not have a completely clear sense of what specifically I’ll be doing because I haven’t started yet. However, I know my responsibilities will be very dependent on my interests!  I’ll be helping with special events, cultivating subscribers, and promoting the theatre, but I think my role will be quite fluid. I’m going to have opportunities to work on a number of projects and contribute to most of the departments at Porchlight. I’m looking forward to finding out more about what I’ll be doing and getting involved in Chicago’s theatre community.