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Monday, April 10, 2006


I have loved theatre since I saw my first shows as a little girl -- from Annie at the Shubert Theatre to some musical revue I apparently loved, called Mixed Vegetables. Though I yearned for the excitement and experience of working at a real theatre while growing up (playing in the pit "orchestra" of West Side Story in high school doesn't count), I never fulfilled that desire until the summer of my sophomore year in college.

Following my freshman year at U.C.S.B., my dad got a job transfer up to the Central Coast of California and my parents relocated to Salinas a.k.a. Steinbeck Country. Part of the allure of moving to Salinas for my mom, was that this was the town she spent many-a-summers visiting her grandparents while growing up, because Salinas was Mamo's hometown. In an attempt to help me find people to meet and something to do during my summer break, my parents enlisted the help of our neighbors who turned them onto an internship they heard about at a little theatre company called, The Western Stage (TWS). Initially, I hemmed & hawed...after all, though I loved theatre, did I really want to spend my time getting somebody's coffee and making copies when I could be working at Disneyland (making real money) as I did the summer before? I came to realize that I didn't really have a choice (though Mamo, bless her heart, offered to let me stay with her during the summer) and I would check this Western Stage place out.

TWS is the Salinas Valley's Public Theatre serving the greater Monterey Bay area of Caifornia in residence at Hartnell College. What started out as merely an internship turned into one of the single most valuable working experiences of my life. Hartnell College I believe is where Mamo went for a few years following high school -- I found some sentimental value in an internship at a place that held some kind of historical significance for my family. What was a stroke of luck or a big coincidence, is that the woman I would be reporting to, Melissa Chin (now Parker), was the sister of my second-cousin's best friend! Yes, Salinas is somewhat of a small town and it seemed every Asian person pretty much knew every other Asian person in town.

Working with Melissa was a fantastic experience. From my first day at TWS, she informed me that I would be helping her design the season's new tzotchkes and within a few days after that, I found out that one of my other duties would be house managing the smaller stage space, the Studio Theatre. Let's back up one my mind I was wondering why she had such faith in me to conduct a job with so much responsibility. Didn't she know I was a mere intern who was only getting college credit and without any prior experience in front-of-house management and did she ever see any of my art work? I couldn't draw or design to save my life! What on earth was this woman thinking?! Leave it to me to embrace a challenge (and to give me something to do with what I thought would be the longest summer EVER). Everyday for two weeks I worked along side Melissa, trying to absorb this environment of actors, directors, producers and backstage crew doubting my own abilities while trying to prove everyone right for giving me such responsibilities. I grew into my role as House Manager and found the power of managing volunteers and interacting with patrons a great deal of fun. Everything I did at that theatre, I did with love and gusto from greeting patrons & selling concessions to picking up trash following a performance and my confidence grew enormously!

One day, Melissa informed me that the person she had been wanting me to work with since I got there finally had time to meet with me. That day, Melissa introduced me to Ron Cacas (pictured, left), the manager of marketing for TWS and also the lead in Yankee Dawg You Die which was just days away from opening night. Ron was an older gentleman who had years of experience in marketing in the real world and immediately took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the business world. From day one, Ron gave me very detailed information about everything he was doing and explained his rationale for each of his decisions. I knew working with Ron was unlike any internship I could ever possibly have because working with him wasn't about making copies or getting coffee, but about real experience and gaining first-hand knowledge.

Through my experience at TWS (two summers in a row) I was able to really put my "passion" for theatre into full throttle and do for the first time, what I always wanted to and knew I loved. I credit Ron & Melissa for what truly was a life-changing experience and for nurturing my enthusiasm, desire to succeed and my passion for the performing arts.


scmusicals said...

What do you mean West Side Story didn't count? Didn't you enjoy playing from the choir room, surrounded by black curtain? ;)

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