The Senior Internship program at Ridgefield High School offers students the opportunity to spend the last weeks of their senior year, after AP exams, working for a local business in their field of interest. When it was their turn, Carr and Huff immediately thought of Thrown Stone. Huff, slated to be a 2020 intern before the COVID shutdown, recalled his 2020 interview process: “From my first interview with [Thrown Stone Company Development Manager] Gina Pulice , it seemed like Thrown Stone was really interested in giving a genuine hands-on experience in a really unique new theatre that you don’t necessarily find everywhere.” This year, when he contacted Jonathan Winn, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, and Walton, they were eager to have him back. Carr, another 2020 intern, reached out again this year and was welcomed back. She cited her interest in Thrown Stone as being rooted in their focus on “mentorship” and interest in helping emerging artists, such as herself, to grow and learn. “They want this to be our home base,” she commented.
Carr also highlighted Thrown Stone’s new focus on social justice, adding that this is “something that needs to happen for Fairfield County.” Walton described this reimagined Thrown Stone as “A New Concepts Theatre.” She underscored how Thrown Stone is diversifying through all levels of the company, working to bring in new voices and new stories with an emphasis on social justice.
This year’s theme in Ridgefield was “compassion,” so Walton, Carr, and Huff worked collaboratively to design an internship that would speak to this theme and its particular meaning in Ridgefield, allow them the space to develop new skills, and enable them to hone their abilities in the theatre arts and beyond. They came up with the following: Every day they met in person or through an online video conferencing platform. Certain days, they worked on developing Thrown Stone’s inventory base, cataloguing and digitizing the company’s props, costumes, etc. Some days they engaged in conversations with Thrown Stone leaders and guest artists. Other days, they met to discuss new plays they had read.
It was the interns’ responsibility to read one new play each day, some from Thrown Stone’s list of plays under consideration and some discovered on their own at the National New Play Network’s New Play Exchange. After reading, they evaluated each play using Thrown Stone’s newly-developed play evaluation framework, which asked them to both qualify and quantify their thoughts on form, content, feasibility, and alignment with the Thrown Stone mission.
They quickly discovered what kinds of plays they enjoy and their individual, personal “line” in what content should or should not be depicted onstage. Carr found her meetings with Huff and Walton to be especially fruitful after reading particularly heavy plays, as she could parse through her feelings and questions with these other thoughtful artists.
Carr found her meetings with Huff and Walton to be particularly fruitful after reading such heavy plays, as she could parse through her feelings and questions with these other thoughtful artists. She began to look for plays that center healing. Huff, through his reader experience, learned that he has a strong inclination towards comedic material: “Sharing laughter is such a genuine connective human experience, and when you’re sharing laughter with people, and, in a sense, with the playwright, the message of the play is going to resonate, at least for me, on a lot deeper of a level, because you’re in that state of mind and you’re having that experience through humor.”
When designing this internship, it was important to Walton that these interns develop a “rounded sense of what goes into producing a show, why all those things matter, and how they should be treated when they work in this kind of capacity.” She wanted them to walk away having tried on many hats and with an expanded view of how a small theatre company operates. This goal was her inspiration for the interns’ final project: a prompt book. The interns were tasked with choosing one of the over twenty plays they read throughout the duration of their internship, and creating a booklet detailing how they would design and produce the play on Thrown Stone’s stage. This included a full analysis of the script, lighting/sound/projection/set design, and annotation of the script with every cue needed for production. Walton expressed how this process can be empowering and enlightening for young artists: “It’s very exciting to finally be the person who’s in charge of that, making those executive decisions.” For Carr’s prompt book, she explored Tony Meneses’ Guadalupe in the Guest Room. Meanwhile, Huff delved into Alien Nation by Skylar Fox and Simon Henriques.
To future Thrown Stone interns, Huff offered the following advice: “be open to exploration. It truly is a super unique learning experience, and it asks you to look at theatre in a different way than you have before. Thrown Stone uses theatre as so much more than entertainment. They use it as a way to elevate diverse voices and challenge and provoke new ideas. I think it’s important to be passionate about theatre, but even if you’re passionate about other things, this is a really exciting and cool experience — it will give you a new view of the world.” Carr added, “be prepared for some difficult conversations — they’re going to ask you to think, they’re going to ask you to ask questions of them and of yourself.”
Walton was thrilled to work with such insightful and thoughtful interns: “I’m very proud of our first class. I think after a year of so little theatre and so little creation, they have both leaned into an unconventional internship with so much enthusiasm and so much desire to do more.” Both Carr and Huff were particularly struck by their conversations with Thrown Stone leaders and artists throughout the summer. They were deeply inspired by their passion, creativity, and each artist’s range of talents and areas of expertise across the theatre arts.
Carr will be attending Harvard University in Fall 2021. She is considering concentrating in English or Psychology and is also interested in exploring business. She plans to partake in as much extracurricular theatre as possible during college and pursue theatre professionally after graduation. Huff will be majoring in Theatre and Communications Studies at Northeastern University. He also hopes to delve into environmental science and film performance, while exploring as many roles as possible in the theatre arts.
Huff, in reflecting on the people he has met through this internship and their eagerness to mentor young artists like himself, mused, “Thrown Stone has such a cool focus on building genuine relationships between people with unique visions and common passions. Building relationships with these people is a really great experience as an artist to expand your horizons and sort of lay a foundation for artistic confidence. It’s a very strong community. And, I feel like that alone is something you can learn a lot from.”