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Fellowship Q&A

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Want an inside look into the day-to-day work and overarching trajectory of a Fellow's year at Playwrights? Hear from two of our 2019/20 season Fellows — Timothy Koh (Stage Management) and Sara Christopher (Marketing) — below!

Timothy Koh, Stage Management Fellow 2019/20

What drew you to Playwrights Horizons?
Since it is one of New York's most prominent companies, and because of its theater school downtown, I have always been aware of Playwrights' special place in the industry since I set foot in New York four-and-a-half years ago. I love that Playwrights is a writer's theater that has given many of its artists their first major introduction to the community; the company's commitment to nurturing new voices is vital to the future of American theater. I think this philosophy trickles down through to all aspects of the company's ethos through its fellowship. I deeply appreciate the huge break it has given me as a young theater-maker and the high level of artmaking I am thereby allowed to partake in this season.

Why is this fellowship the next best step in your career? How will it help you achieve your goals?
I think this fellowship has effectively paved my way out of college and into the professional realm. It is nothing short of life-changing to jump straight into three major New York productions with one company right out of college, and I understand the immense amount of trust Playwrights puts in their Fellows. In particular, as a stage manager, I am at every rehearsal, preview, and performance. To be an active, core part of the team (one of only ten people in the rehearsal room during Wives!) from the beginning of the process through its end is a blessing. It has helped me realize that my goal of a continuous career in the American theater is very much possible.

In your experience, what makes a great stage manager?
Communication, communication, communication! Being able to communicate effectively is the most important part of the job, I feel, since it touches all aspects of your work: from working with actors and directors in the room, rehearsal reports, to even calling a show. Everything boils down to how you communicate with your collaborators!

Tell us about working on Jaclyn Backhaus’ play, Wives. What surprised you about the experience?
Working on Jaclyn's play was an immense delight. It was a rigorous and rewarding process. The deck track was wild. It was almost non-stop movement the entire play. The ASM, former Fellow Lissette Velez-Cross, was saying someone should have put go-pros on our heads during the run of the show, since a whole second show was happening backstage just to make the onstage magic happen! What surprised me the most was how closely I worked with Jaclyn throughout her time with us: as the SM Fellow, I was in charge of keeping the most updated copy of the script; every morning would basically begin with me preparing new changes from Jaclyn and distributing them to everyone on the team. I take great pride in this work since it was a crucial means by which the production evolved, especially with a brand new play like Wives. This also let me be a second-eye to ensure that her vision was executed properly on the page before we brought it out to the stage.

What are you most excited about this season?
With Wives now behind me, each of the next two shows seem equally special and exciting. However, I would say the chance to work with Jeremy O. Harris on A Boy’s Company Presents… is something I am looking forward to. I've seen Slave Play twice, once last year and a second time in its Broadway outing. I think that gregarious, larger-than-life play is changing the way we think and talk about race in America. I am excited to work with him as I worked with Jaclyn on Wives, and to see what he has in store to push the cultural conversation forward with his new play.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in applying to a professional development program like this one?
Do your research! Know exactly what is expected of you both in applying and in the course of the fellowship, and be sure to meet and exceed expectations.

Sara Christopher, Marketing Fellow 2019/20

What drew you to Playwrights Horizons?
I was drawn to Playwrights Horizons because I have always been told really great things about the company and every show I’ve seen here has been incredible. It’s the only theater where I would feel real disappointment if I missed a show in a given season. All of my friends and colleagues have so much respect for Playwrights, and I knew it would be a great place to work. Additionally, I was really impressed by the Fellowship Program. I liked how involved I would be in the daily operations of the theater. I wanted real-world training to build on my education and previous experiences, and I knew Playwrights would be able to do that for me. 

Why is this fellowship the next best step in your career? How will it help you achieve your goals?
Playwrights was the next best step for my career because after college I felt as though I needed more experience before I could get a full time job. There was a lot I didn’t know and the only way to learn would be in the field. In college, we were taught a lot of theory but had very little opportunity to put it into practice. With a fellowship, I would be able to grow as a professional, and would be able to walk into a future interview with confidence and a more impressive resume and portfolio. 

In your experience, what factors contribute to being a successful member of the Marketing team?
I have found that to be a successful member of the marketing team it is important to have good communication, creative problem solving and good judgment. It also helps to be in the Off-Broadway theater loop. Staying up-to-date on the goings-on of other theaters and trends in the community is very helpful. 

Tell us about an interesting project you have worked on.
The most interesting projects for me to work on came about while coming up with marketing strategies for The Thin Place. I love a good challenge, and we had to find creative ways to build interest in the show without showing too much, and that was really fun. I enjoy bouncing ideas off of the other members of the marketing team and finding creative solutions. It’s nice working somewhere where they take you seriously and don’t look at you as just a student. I feel my ideas are appreciated and encouraged.

What are you most excited about this season?
I’m excited for that moment at the end of my time at Playwrights when I can look back at the person I was and the skills I had at the beginning of the season and to see how much I’ve grown in one year. Every day I’m learning something new. I love being able to work on six different shows; they are all challenging in different ways, which keeps the work interesting.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in applying to a professional development program like this one?
I would recommend looking at what your goals are and seeing what experiences and lessons you need to learn to get there. For some people, taking classes is the best way to take steps towards their dream job. Everyone learns differently. I know that I learn better through hands-on experience. I think being around some of the top people in your field and working on projects that become part of the artistic culture in America are very exciting and important ways to propel your career in the right direction. If you are the type of person who wants to dive right in and get professional training and responsibilities, then I think this program is right for you.