My name is Matt Clyne and I am a rising Senior, majoring in both Theater and English. This summer I had the joy of working as a Fellow at The Bushwick Starr. The Bushwick Starr is an Obie-Award-winning independent theater that operates in Brooklyn, New York. The theater is a non-profit, so its only goals are to put on engaging theater, supporting the artists it collaborates with, and helping the community in which it is based. The Starr is committed to groundbreaking, equal-access art for all, and as an institution believes that live theater is essential to helping this generation and the generations after us connect and engage with each other. The Bushwick Starr is truly an amazing institution that Skidmore is lucky to have a relationship with thanks to the founders, Sue Kessler and Noel Allain.
I had my eye on the Bushwick Starr from the very beginning because of its relationship with Skidmore. I met with Sue Kessler, who is a Professor of Theater at Skidmore, multiple times to discuss what an internship at the Starr would entail. There were a variety of internships available at the Starr, but none fulfilled the hour minimum that the Summer Experience Fund requires. So she and I worked together to develop a role that would be an amalgamation of multiple duties, that would also fulfill the requirement. The only problem is, I did not have the money necessary to live in Brooklyn for the summer. But I received the SEF funding, and was able to move to Brooklyn for a summer, living my dream of working at a theater in New York City and living in the city.
I had a number of responsibilities at the Starr, not the least of which was helping artists. The Bushwick Starr has a “residency” program during summers, which means that artists use the theater space to develop new work. I had the opportunity to help the playwright Julia May-Jonas in her process of developing her new play, Problems Between Sisters. This included being in the room during table reads of her new work, and collaborating with the director and actors on possible ways the script could improve. I also helped Wooster Group associated member and Vice President of the Brooklyn Poets Board of Directors Modesto “Flako” Jimenez with his upcoming show Taxilandia. Being in these rooms and in these rehearsals were some of the most thrilling and artistically fulfilling experiences of my life.
Since this was an experience I received through my affiliation with the Skidmore Theater Department, it is only natural that it was interdisciplinary. I learned so much about every aspect of the Off-Off-Broadway theatermaking process. On any given day, I would go from striking the set of a play and filling a truck to going to a meeting to talk about the role of fundraising as a nonprofit theater. One of the benefits of interning at a smaller theater is you get to learn about everything. If I was an intern at a larger theater, I might be confined to an office or just set-building, but at the Starr, I got to do everything. It was wonderful. I built a bench and painted it! I also attended and took the minutes for the staff meetings, which were wonderfully educational in terms of the day-to-day logistics of running a theater and the communication that is necessary therein. The fellowship was wonderful and so very educational.
In all seriousness, every summer previous to this one, I have had to work to put myself through school and, since there are not a lot of paying theater jobs, my jobs usually tend to be for the money as opposed to getting experience in my major. Thanks to Skidmore, I was able to get real-world experience in the field of my studies while living and working in New York City. It was an incredible experience, and one I won’t soon forget. The Summer Experience Fund was truly life-altering, and has changed the way I view myself and the world around me. I will never forget this summer. Thank you so much.