By Andy Teye, Contributor
As I departed from my freshman dorm, dragged my luggage into my friend’s car and silently cried tears of joy at the start of summer, my phone vibrated. A new email popped into my inbox, saying: “Our Marketing Team is pleased to offer you the position of Public Relations intern at ACT Theatre.” I yelled to the hot afternoon sun, enthusiastic for what would become the finest summer experience in my life in one of Seattle’s top theatres. The timing was perfect.
Working at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in downtown Seattle enabled me to truly understand “what the grownups do,” especially in regards to communications and the theatre arts. One tends to perceive Theatre simply as a place to act and put on an awesome show, but it is a professional business. As with all businesses, the notion of maximum profit guides all artistic activities. The ACT marketing team received considerable pressure since most of the theatre’s profit depended on our ability to convince people to buy tickets to our shows. But members of the marketing team were artists too. We used creativity to reach out to the Seattle community and entice potential audiences. We created trip-tiks, banners, bus posters,videos, magazines and social media posts. We were also able to interact with professional directors, actors, technicians, and stage designers — this artistic exchange in order to enhance our own commercial art was truly satisfying.
As a Public Relations intern I was given the opportunity to audit read-throughs with seasoned actors. I also had access behind-the-scenes content. I could contact expert artists and meet with them. Moreover, I attended formal gatherings with co-workers, walked on a red carpet and watched grown-ups celebrate with champagne while I smiled with a glass of water in my hand. Never before had I felt so professional. The best part, however, was that I could have my cake and eat it too.
ACT Theatre is unique to other Seattle theatres because it strives to criticize the current human condition. In doing so, the theatre features original and well-known plays that accentuate critical societal issues. I joined ACT’s marketing team when the theatre was working on its world premiere of Daisy, an original play by Canadian playwright Steve Devine. Daisy is about the ad team behind the most controversial commercial in US history: the Daisy attack ad of 1964. The play acts as a commentary on contemporary political affairs where character defamation and private exposure are the go-to weapons during presidential campaigning. The timing for the play was perfect since the summer was filled with political ads deprecating the 2016 presidential candidates. Aware of my personal experience with theatre, the ACT marketing director put me in charge of planning the dramaturgical display for Daisy. The display helped audiences familiarize themselves with the historical and symbolic contexts of the play before watching the performance. I managed to manifest my own creativeness through a display that was both historically honest and futuristically relevant to the play’s message. The patrons enjoyed it and my coworkers acknowledged my artistic merit. Because of my work on Daisy, I was assigned to plan the display for the next play, “The Royale.” I began to see what grown-up me was capable of — and I liked it.
This summer was especially amazing because of Seattle itself, a beautiful city surrounded by water, forests, ice-capped mountain ranges and a majestic volcano. The city headquarters big companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks; it is therefore a place of high innovation and cultural agency. For me, however, it was the amazing marketing team and ACT staff that truly immersed me into the professional world. The theatre was friendly, the marketing team helpful and the grown-ups saw merit in an inexperienced African boy uncertain of his future. Just like most freshmen at a liberal arts college, I knew of my talents but was unsure of my career path. This internship truly solidified my passions for both communications and theatre. Because of this experience, I declared these majors on FDOC without any hesitation or apprehension. I trusted the art within me and can now testify to its potential. My summer in Seattle was perfect.