A Young Artist Finds A Temporary Home

Viva Wittman is a Junior at Bennington College in Vermont.  She spent her Field Work Term at The Wallis for January and February, 2017.

Here’s an average day for an Intern (me) at GRoW @ The Wallis – the Education Department at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. I arrive in the early afternoon, just in time to sit in on one of the Department’s teacher workshops, or performance project rehearsals held in the Department’s classrooms, and carry out a few tasks set by my supervisor. In the evening, I settle into my role as Assistant Director (AD) for the Wallis Youth Theater Company’s production of Word of Mouth, a piece on the power of words, and a civil struggle to make sense of current social and political events. Being AD entails everything from rushing out the door to pick up or return costumes, to brewing herbal tea for the entire cast when they all happen to fall ill as we close in on tech week; but my favorite task as AD is to sit next to Madeleine Dahm, the Director, and watch the rehearsals.

As an actor myself, I have never had the opportunity to be in this sort of position. I have always been the one taking the direction, and so it feels good to sit back and take in the process with a new set of eyes. And Madeleine doesn’t leave it at that. She makes sure to ask my opinion throughout rehearsal, and is always receptive to my feedback. The form of theater Madeline pursues is called Devised Composition, meaning the script was co-created by the actors and director as rehearsals progress.  Throughout my time with the Youth Theater Company, the script was adjusted several times. The show finally goes up in the Lovelace Studio Theater and just like that, it is over. After three weeks (and in the company’s case, four months) of intense work, The Wallis’ Lovelace is being struck, but after an immensely strong run! After the show in the lobby, I talk with audience members who share the moments during which they were moved to tears by the performance. On closing night, I am presented with a bouquet alongside Madeleine, and my heart is flooded with gratitude.

So what does an average day at The Wallis look like for an Education Intern after her main project is through? For me, it has been attending the CRE Outreach program’s rehearsals which, as it happens, are for another Devised Composition. This one, however, is centered around the lives of African American veterans who want to tell their stories. I also get to sit in on classes and rehearsals for The Miracle Project, a program dedicated to supporting and empowering young people with autism and other disabilities through the arts. Currently they are rehearsing an original musical entitled Work in Progress. And that’s not all: I get to meet the entire cast and creative team from Kneehigh when they arrive for their show 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, which is a big part of February’s program. On Mondays I get to watch Madeleine’s choreography class rehearse their original site-specific dance pieces. To tie it all together for me, an excerpt of Word of Mouth was performed by the Youth Theater Company at the Artists Rise Up Los Angeles benefit performance, and the Company is now talking about taking the show on the road. I only wish I could be there too. This is my last week.

Anyone who knows me at all will tell you that throughout my time with The Wallis, I have been glowing. I have been surrounded–inundated, even–with outstandingly generous people, with incredible artists, with a bubbling, gushing, motherly space that has come to feel like home.