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Theater internship develops strengths and explores new ones

It’s not every day children are given permission to scream in the library. It’s also not normal for college students dressed in crazy costumes to make Diet Coke explode in the library, but that’s exactly what happened Wednesday at Rowan Public Library’s headquarters in Salisbury.
Throughout the summer, the Rowan Public Library brought in professional performers for the children’s summer reading program.
The stars of this week’s show were Verity Pryor-Harden, Morgan Summers, Emily Olszewski and Matt Ensley — four Catawba College students who are participating in a unique summer internship with Lee Street Theater.
The internship program is designed for Catawba College theater arts majors and allows them to be involved in the operations of a running theater, said Justin Dionne, managing artistic director of Lee Street Theater.
“We allow them to develop their strengths while exploring new strengths,” he said.
The interns are in the midst of a two-week tour, where they’re taking their show to libraries in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, as well as Lexington.
They wrote, directed and acted in the play and built the sets and props.
“They gave us the theme and we went from there,” Pryor-Harden said.
The library’s summer reading program focused on science, so the group created a show with flashy experiments, a focus on reading and a whole lot of laughs.
“They did it all on no budget,” Dionne said.
Dionne told the interns to “be resourceful” and to use whatever they could find around the theater.
They used table clothes, cardboard boxes, a vase and even a cut up beach ball to create their props and set.
In addition to touring their library show, the interns worked backstage, were stage managers and designed the sound and lighting for different productions; designed marketing materials; worked in customer relations and helped lead a camp over the course of the summer.
“At Catawba, they really stress getting work outside of school,” Summers said, adding that the program is a great resumé builder.
While each of them takes lead positions in different areas, “we all pretty much do anything,” Summers said.
The interns also helped Center for Faith and the Arts’ summer arts academy, “Wake up Leonardo.”
The interns helped the students “realize how they can incorporate art into their everyday lives,” Pryor-Harden said. “We just formed bonds with them.”
Dionne said the internship is also an opportunity for the students to meet new people and form connections with them, as well as to bridge the gap between downtown Salisbury and Catawba College.
“This is the first year Lee Street Theater has had an internship,” Dionne said.
In the past, the Center for Faith and the Arts has used Catawba students throughout the summer during its camp and to help produce plays.
Dionne took over the internship program to give it more structure.
“I had some ideas to grow it,” he said.
The interns, in turn, are shared with the Center for Faith and the Arts.
Dionne received grants from the Salisbury Community Foundation, the Woodson Foundation and the Kathleen McGill Family Trust to fund the internship program. In addition, the interns receive payment for the library performances.
Although the internship is unpaid, the interns are given a $150 weekly living expense stipend. Housing, if needed, is provided.

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