By: Chaviva Freedman  | 

From Fantastic to The Fantasticks

From the time I was a senior in high school, I envisioned myself working in the world of theater. Although I didn’t know the steps I needed to take in order to achieve this dream, I knew that at some point in my life I was going to get lucky and land an awesome job to truly experience what it’s like to be working behind the scenes of a show. Even with my experience in the drama societies here at Yeshiva University, I still kept looking for something more. This summer, I got that chance – with an internship at The Theater Center.

Located right in the heart of Times Square (on the corner of 50th Street and Broadway), The Theater Center is home to the longest running Off-Broadway musical, The Fantasticks, and the longest Off-Broadway play, Perfect Crime. Playing since 1960 and with over 21,000 performances, The Fantasticks is a modern telling of the classic Romeo and Juliet story that continues to touch people’s hearts today. With just over 12,000 performances, Perfect Crime has been playing Off-Broadway since 1987 and, with the show being a Guinness-Award winner, it is a great choice for people looking for a live experience of their favorite crime television show.

Something really cool about The Theater Center is the fact that the Broadway shows School of Rock and Hamilton both have rehearsal space in the building. When I found out that they rehearse there, I did what I feel like every person who finds out this information does – I went to see if the cast of Hamilton was in the building. I loved that The Theater Center went as far as naming Hamilton’s rehearsal space “King’s College” in honor of the school Alexander Hamilton attended in his youth. Although I was never around when that Broadway show rehearsed, nor was I allowed to be in “the room where it happens,” I always got to see the adorable kids from School of Rock running around and I got to talk to them while they were on break. I even got to witness auditions happening and I’m pretty sure that the majority of the kids walking in to audition were more musically talented than I ever could be. There were even times that famed Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (famous for shows like The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and School of Rock) was in the building, but alas, I never got to see him. That would have made for a cool picture, though.

During my time at The Theater Center, I learned the different ways that the company reaches out to audience members to see the shows. From learning how to tip the press with new and exciting information to quizzing random tourists in the middle of Times Square (specifically on the TKTS steps – let’s be honest, we all have been there at some point or another in our lives), I saw that some ways were more efficient than others and that sometimes the idea that you think won’t work is actually the one that people respond to the best. I had to learn to be creative in ways that I never imagined, like starring in a YouTube video to promote The Theater Center – and for anyone who knows me well, I have horrible stage fright, which is the reason why I love working backstage instead of onstage.

Although I helped with the marketing, my primary focus was working behind the scenes of The Fantasticks. To be working on a college production is one thing. To be working behind the scenes of the longest-running musical in the world is a completely different ball game. I had the chance to shadow the stage manager and, although I had the position of Assistant Stage Manager in the plays here at YU, I really saw that the role of Stage Manager is a lot more than telling the actors where to go and what to do. It requires a lot of paper filing, running around, and many more things that make stage managing for a college production seem like a breeze (and if anyone has been a stage manager, you know how difficult the job is).

I found that during my time working in theater, the camaraderie that people build becomes the glue for shows and their successes. With The Fantasticks, each actor had a welcoming smile for the interns and made me feel like I had been a part of the gang for a long time, even if I was there for only two months. It really felt like the actors appreciated all the time and effort the interns put into making the show better and more engaging to a broader audience. It showed me that this show doesn’t just care for the people onstage – they care about the ones backstage as well.

So what did I learn from all of this? I learned that this field is something that I absolutely love doing. It was never hard for me to get up in the morning and put myself on the train to work. My mom always tells me that “you need to find a job that will never feel like work to you,” and after this summer, I think I finally found it.