Curtain Call

J. Michael DeAngelis, Senior Digital Resources Manager

Penn alum Harold Prince (COL ’48) passed away today at age 91. Prince was a legendary theater producer and director, responsible for such classics as West Side Story, Cabaret, Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Parade and many many others.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Harold Prince about ten years ago right here on campus. He had come, as he did on more than one occasion, to speak to the Penn community about his career and take questions from students. I had the additional luck of attending a reception after and I recall the twinkle in his eye as he reunited with some of his fellow classmates, by then all in their mid-80s, but giggling in the way that only friends from undergrad do.

During his Q&A session, I asked him what made a good book to a musical, since he had previously said it was the most important ingredient. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just know that if you don’t have a good one, you’re dead.” Back at the reception, I introduced myself as the person who asked about books, explaining that I had just been published as playwright for the first time by Samuel French, Inc. His eyes lit up and he suddenly seemed ten years younger, throwing his arm around me: “ME TOO! I wrote one play and it’s with Sam French! Keep it up. Don’t stop!”

I could have lived in that moment forever. Here was a living legend, tossing his arm around me as if we were absolute peers. I’ve carried that gratitude with me since then and I hope that I’ve been able to pass that on. I’m no Hal Prince, but I’ve been lucky in my career and I feel I owe it to those striking out on a similar path to make them feel welcome and encourage them, as Mr. Prince did for me, to not stop.

No matter what your career path, I ask today that you follow in the steps of Harold Prince. Be bold in your ventures, be kind in their execution and be supportive of those who want to follow in your footsteps.

An Upright Citizen

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Aleah Welsh, COL ’16

WelshI’m running up 8th avenue. There’s a cool breeze but I’m hot and my legs are starting to cramp as my body rejects this sudden burst of physical activity it’s not accustomed to. It’s 4:53pm on a Friday and I’m going to be late to my interview with the Upright Citizens Brigade. I race into the lobby and slip on my “formal shoes” – suede booties with a small heel. I take the elevator to the twelfth floor trying to press the creases out of my shirt and letting the air conditioning cool my face and dry my sweat, the Declaration of Independence hidden safely in the lining of my briefcase. It’s 5:01. My breathing is still a little heavy as I meet my interviewer and look around at the other jeans-and-sneaker clad people in the office. I’m over dressed. I look down at the resume in my hand and realize it’s written entirely in comic sans. Dammit. I can’t believe I’ve screwed this up.

That day, as I walked aimlessly away from 520 8th avenue eating the street hot dog I had promised myself earlier, I convinced myself that this would be a funny memory if I got the job and not a painful tale of a horribly botched opportunity. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when, a month later, I got the news that I would, in fact, be spending my summer in New York City as a social media intern for one of the top comedy theaters in the world.

I’m one of four social media interns working with UCB this summer. My duties have ranged from drafting tweets to promote the various shows, to creating a photo scavenger hunt around Manhattan to promote the Del Close Marathon, an annual 56-hour-long improv festival. My boss handles all of the analytics for UCB’s social media presence, however, I have the freedom to craft posts for the company’s Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. When I’m not organizing press mentions on an excel sheet or drafting tweets (I draft a lot of tweets), I’m familiarizing myself with UCB’s content and tone so my posts will remain consistent with the UCB voice. It has forced me to consider, from a branding perspective, the challenge of crafting a singular tone in the digital world that comes from multiple people.

The most exciting time of my internship was definitely working the Del Close Marathon. The festival brings together top improvisers from around the world including many famous comedians. During the marathon it was my job to keep UCB’s twitter account up to date on the size of the crowd at each of the seven venues so people could more easily decide which shows to attend. Walking from venue to venue all day gave me the chance to meet and talk to many different audience members, performers and creators. When I wasn’t working the festival I was able to attend some of the many shows and after parties. I got to know my fellow interns and really got a sense of what it feels like to be a part of this larger UCB community. I can confidently say that that weekend was one of the best experiences of the summer. The sense of excitement and community from participating in a celebration of something I love so much, something that everyone around me cares so much about, was joyfully overwhelming.

The end of the summer is near as is my time at UCB, but lately it feels like I eat, sleep and breathe comedy. I’m constantly engaged during my time in the UCB office but it doesn’t end there. As an intern I’m granted free admission to most UCB shows which I frequently go to with friends, other interns or sometimes alone. Some of the most memorable moments have been seeing performances by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Chris Gethard, Paul Adsit, Zack Woods and Amy Poehler (twice). Furthermore, being in this creative and supportive environment has inspired me to work on some of my own material; I’ve even tried my hand at stand up a few times.

This summer I’ve experienced what it means to like your job— not just your coworkers or the office environment— but what it’s like to be truly invested in the mission of the company and everything it stands for. Regardless of where I end up after graduation this is something I hope to find again, in any career.

By the Book: GOLD Performing Arts Database

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Specialist

Toy Theater

In this month’s “By the Book” installment, I’d actually like to draw your attention not to the impressive collection of printed materials we have on hand at the Career Services library, but to our newly expanded online database offerings.

The online databases are members-only websites that usually require paid memberships.  Students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania have free access to these sites thanks to special arrangements made by Career Services.  A complete list of our database subscriptions, along with entry links can be found on our Electronic Subscriptions pagePlease note: A PennKey is required to access this page.  Alumni of the University who are in need of, or have forgotten, their PennKey should visit this site first.

One of the newest additions to our database collection is the Greyhouse Performing Arts Directory.  Something like this has been in much demand from our student body and we are pleased to be able to offer it at last.  The database collects contact information and vital statistics for performing arts venues across the country – from theater companies to opera houses and from dance venues to concert halls.  There are also listings for related fields such as Artist Management and Festival Organizers.

The database is searchable by location and organization type.  Search results (where applicable) will yield contact information, as well as the names of important people in the organization, a mission statement, a description of the venue and the audiences it reaches.  Unlike print directories that offer similar information, the online database is updated on a regular basis, so the information you retrieve is current.

This is a great resource for students and alumni interested in working in the arts in any capacity.  It’s a wonderful way to find contacts at arts organizations in your area – large or small!

Navigating the database can be tricky for a first time user.  Be sure to consult this User’s Guide for assistance.

By the Book: Performing Arts

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Career Services Librarian and Information Resources Specialist

Today we’re launching a new feature on Penn & Beyond that will highlight many of the print resources that we have on hand in the Career Services library.  Stop in and browse through these titles and the hundreds of others we have in our catalog.  When classes are in session, library hours are M-W 9am-6pm and TR-F, 9am-5pm.  After classes end, our hours are M-F 9am-5pm. We begin this series with a look at books for students interested in the performing arts.

There’s no set way to enter into a career in the performing arts.  Some people struggle for years to be able to make a living in the field, while others seem to have overnight success or “lucky breaks.” Entering into the performing arts – whether you be an actor, a director, a dancer, a writer, a designer or even an aspiring casting agent – requires a lot of dedication and perseverance.  Luckily, we have several resources in our library that can help you make a game plan.

The Actor Takes a Meeting by Stephen Book (Silman-James Press, 2006).  Book, an acting teacher who felt that many of his students needed training in the art of the interview, developed this fascinating book directly from his workshop’s curriculum.  The book details many different interview scenerios an actor may face including meeting with producers, casting directors, agents and managers.

Included are bits of background information on how meetings like these come about and examples of successful meetings (often laid out in actor-friendly script format).  This is a very unique book that takes a look at a side of the acting business that is sometimes over looked.

Hit the Ground Running: The First Years of Your Acting Career by Carolyne Barry (Carolyne Barry Creative Enterprises, 2010).  Ms. Barry presents herself as a jack-of-all-trades in the performing arts: actor, teacher, casting director, director and producer.  In Hit the Ground Running, Barry lays out some useful advice on planning your expenses, setting timelines, seeking day jobs, joining unions and more.  Along with the standard audition tips and “insider” information on auditioning and branding yourself, this book gives you a good day-to-day glimpse at what it takes to be a working actor.

How to be a Working Actor by Lynne Rogers and Mari Lyn Henry, forward by Joe Mantegna (Back Stage Books, 2008).  The title really says it all.  This is another good book for those specifically looking into going into acting.  It focuses a little more on the craft – auditioning, going to workshops, getting into a union, getting the right headshots, etc, but it also has some specific tips for those who want to work in the theater, where Hit the Ground Running focuses more on film and television careers.   Plus, how can you not love a book with a forward by Fat Tony himself?

We have two directories in the library that will be helpful to those seeking any sort of theater job – from acting to stage management to directing and designing: The Regional Theatre Directory (Theater Directories, 2007) and the Summer Theater Directory (Theater Directories, 2005).  These guides are superb listings of regional theaters that provide contact information for job hunters.  Both directories detail the kind of shows that the theaters put (big, splashy musicals; small scale dramas; children’s theater; etc.) on and supply typical job postings for the season.  Sadly, these directories are a few years old and new editions are not available.  However, these are great starting off points, especially for those seeking summer employment in a theater.  Browse the books and then double check the contact information online.

Finally, a book that examines what you can do with your theater major: Great Jobs for Theater Majors by Jan Goldberg (McGraw-Hill, 2005).  Some of the choices are obvious – actor, acting teacher – but there’s still good advice in here about moving into fields such as casting, theater management and publicity.  The book includes decent resume and cover letter samples as well as profiles of those working in the business, such as respected lighting designer Dennis Parichy.

These are just a few of the books on performing arts careers available in the Career Services library.  Drop by and take a look at these selections and others!  Readers interested in this column may also find an other post of mine useful – “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” – about the importance of finding a job where you are flexible to pursue your dreams and your skills as a theater artist can be put to use.

We’ll be highlighting another career field in a future By The Book column soon!