Kristijonas Paltanavicius ’12 – This past semester has been one of the most intensive learning experiences in my life. I, as a theatre major, had done some work at the Vanity Theater, the Theater Department and professional theatres in Lithuania. All of that led me to do an internship with the New York Arts Program. The program gave me an opportunity to intern at The New Group Theatre located in the heart of New York City.
The internship at The New Group gives me a better understanding of how a professional theatre in New York functions. When I first came to the city I had a chance to intern for the production called “Blood from a Stone.” Theatre and film stars such as Ethan Hawke, Natasha Lyonne and Daphne Rubin-Vega starred in the show. It was amazing to watch them prepare for every performance, assist with pre-setting the show and do scene change work during the performance. Working as a production assistant gave me an understanding how different parts of the professional crew worked to make each show a success.
From the very first day at The New Group, I was struck by the friendliness of the New York theatre people. I felt like ‘a part of the family’ from the very first day which made the learning experience even richer. Towards the end of the series of “Blood from a Stone” performances we started rehearsing a new show “Marie and Bruce.”
“Marie and Bruce” officially opened on Monday and already got a great review in the New York Times. Wallace Shawn—the author of the play—is always at the theatre discussing different aspects of the staging of his masterpiece with the actors. It is very inspiring for me to be around the humble Mr. Shawn—an artist I admire so much—everyday and observing his work with actors and the director. Scott Elliott—the Tony-Award-winning director of “Marie and Bruce”—is extremely encouraging to me, as an aspiring theatre director. It means a lot to me to be able to see him work because I am very fond of his genius directorial choices.
Originally “Marie and Bruce” was a film in which Marie’s role was developed by Julianne Moore. In The New Group’s version of Wallace Shawn’s play, Marie’s part flourishes in the Academy-Award-winning Marisa Tomei’s hands. She is an extraordinary actress, and I feel extremely lucky to have an opportunity to observe her develop her character. The fact that all of these accomplished artists are very friendly with me makes it all even more special. Seeing so many acclaimed theatres professionals collaborate on “Marie and Bruce” gave me an immeasurable amount of knowledge in production and other aspects of the theatre business.
Honestly, this whole experience of being in New York feels a bit like a movie. The more time I spend here, the more I realize that it is the best place for a young artist to evolve, stay constantly inspired and achieve whatever goals he/she has. I feel like I belong in this city and have already forgotten that I am not from here originally. I am working very hard to develop professional and social networks and am involved in a number of projects.
The most important part of my semester in NYC is the lessons that I learnt about myself. I have had a chance to test my own abilities and find out about the facets of me that I was not aware of before. Most importantly, I am surrounded by people whom I look up to, and it is crucial when you are young and are trying to define the career path you want to follow. So far, I feel like I fit right into the city and am trying to make the best out of every day I spend in the ‘capital of everything’!