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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Sunflower Spotlight: Theatre student talks internship with Music Theatre Wichita 

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Garima Thapa
Blake Grimsley, a former intern with the Music Theatre Wichita in Century II in downtown Wichita speaks on The Sunflower’s podcast.

This week in the Elliott School Studio, we sat down with Blake Grimsley, a Wichita State junior design and technical theatre major, to discuss their experience as an intern with Music Theatre Wichita. Music Theatre Wichita is a regional theatre located in Century II.  

Below is a Q&A between The Sunflower and Grimsley. This episode of the podcast can be listened to here.

The Sunflower: Tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit more about your majors. 

Grimsley: I am a design and technical theater major focusing on stage management, but I kind of do a little bit of everything. I do a lot of lighting design, sound design, running the boards for each show, stuff like that. I have a lot of experience in all the departments in theatre. I’m kind of from a couple of different places, but most recently from Houston; I spent about 15-ish years there.  

SF: How did you get into theatre, more specifically, the design and technical portion of the art? 

G: I wish I could say something like, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this.’ That’s not true. I took my first design and tech theatre class (in) my sophomore year of high school because I had to. 

In Texas, you’re required to take a fine arts credit in order to graduate. So I was like, you know what? I’ll take technical theatre because it’s not going to be a lot of work. It’s going be easy. I can just sit there and do nothing. Yeah, that’s not the case. 

I got (dragged) into doing their fall musical in Texas. The theatres get a lot of funding from the state, especially for high school level. And we were doing “The Little Mermaid.” And this is a large stage, probably about 60 feet wide. And so for that show, I did a lot of the carpentry, but also, for the run of the performances, I was running one of the spotlights. There were two spotlight operators. 

But yeah, that’s kind of how I got into it. And then I kind of just got stuck, and now I’m pursuing it as a career. 

SF: That’s an awesome story, though. How did you find out about the internship with Music Theater Wichita?  

G: So when I moved here to go to school, I kind of heard from many different people about Music Theatre Wichita, but really didn’t hear anything about it in detail until talking with Melissa Penkava Koza; she’s the costume shop manager at Wichita State. She is also the costume shop supervisor for Music Theatre Wichita. So kind of just talking with her, hearing about the company, what they do. And then she connected me with Michael Cole, who is the director of production. 

SF: So as an intern with Music Theatre Wichita, what did you do?

G: I kind of was the catch-all person. I did a lot of everything … I focused in stage management, so working in the rehearsal hall while rehearsals are going on, running the management aspect of the shows. 

So, for each show, it was a little bit different. I was there for four of the five shows. “Cats,” I wasn’t able to do because it had too much overlap with the fall semester. I did “Rock of Ages,” “Red, White, and Broadway,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Ragtime,” which are very strong shows on their own …

So for each show, I did something a little bit different. For two of the shows, I ran one of the props tables and that’s more communicating with the first assistant stage manager who’s in charge of props. That person would create all of the run sheets, create the list of all of the props for the show, what’s in what scene. And then I would take that, and then I would be doing prop; I’ll be handing off props to performers, catching props from performers. Sometimes they have to drop a prop and literally run to the other side of the stage to re-enter. So it’s very stressful, but it’s always a fun time. I keep doing it because I enjoy this work. 

But yeah, and then for “Beauty and the Beast,” I was in charge of the kids and teens. We had about 30 kids and teens, and then we had the role of Chip, that was double casted.  So, on a given day, I’m working with 32 kids and teens, ensuring parents are dropping them off on time, picking them up on time, they’re going on our lunch break, all of that. And then, at the end of the day, communicating with the parents or the guardians on when they’re called next, stuff like that. I didn’t realize there were kids and teens involved with that.

SF: That’s so cool. So what did you learn from the internship overall? And is there any advice you’d like to give to anyone interested?

G: I learned a lot. This is the first time I’ve worked with a company this large. The main thing that I learned and that I’m going to take with me is all of the equity rules. So Actors Equity Association is … a union that works with these theatres to make sure that performers and stage management get treated equally and that everyone gets fair rates, fair wages, all of that, and that we’re not being overworked. 

And that is something that I eventually want to do. I want to move on to being an equity stage manager, and working with this union. And so just being able to get in and learn what the rules are, all of that stuff is outstanding, especially right after my sophomore year of college. 

To learn more about Music Theatre Wichita and to apply for the internship, go to mtwichita.org. 

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About the Contributor
Garima Thapa, Photographer
Garima Thapa is a second-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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