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Behind the Scenes with summer interns Cris Rabines and Peyton Surprenant

Lisa Condit spoke with summer interns Peyton Suprenant and Cris Rabines about their responsibilities as interns, the Behind the Scenes magazine, The Nutcracker and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Lisa: Thank you for listening to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. This is Lisa Condit, VP of Communications, here with our two amazing interns, Cris and Peyton. Welcome!

Peyton: Thank you for having us.

Cris: Thank you.

Lisa: Absolutely. Some of you may have heard from Cris before because she has helped with some of our Behind the Scenes programming. Peyton, I’d love it if you could introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your journey here to The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory.

Peyton: I am an incoming senior at Syracuse University. I am a dual major in Communications and Rhetorical studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. I’ve really loved my time being there and everything that I’ve been studying. When I was looking to apply for an internship, which was something that was really important that I do, I thought that it would be a really great idea to find an internship where I was able to combine my passions with performing arts and dance in particular, and with marketing, social media and communications, which is what I focus in on in my studies. I immediately thought of The Hanover Theatre because I am from Central Massachusetts, but also I was a part of The Hanover Theatre’s Nutcracker for about seven years because I was a part of Ballet Arts Worcester and I worked with Jennifer Agbay, who is amazing.

Lisa: Yes!

Peyton: I thought to apply for an internship here and it just kind of fell into my lap. I’m very grateful for that, because applying for internships is really stressful as a college student, and I think that Cris can understand that, too. I applied and I did an interview with Lisa, Monica and Diane. I felt pretty comfortable in the interview, and they kept validating the things that I was voicing which felt really great. Very quickly, I heard back from them and they told me that they would like me to work here. I was just very, very proud of myself, but also very surprised that this happened so quickly.

I’m very grateful to be working here and to be working with Cris. It’s been a really incredible experience and I’ve learned a lot.

Peyton Surpernant

Lisa: Well, we’ll get back to some of the things that impressed me about you and your interview. But first, we’ll hear from Cris. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got here.

Cris: I am also an incoming senior, I attend Ithaca College and I’m a Theatre Arts Management major with a minor in Live Event Design and Management. I’ve been going to The Hanover Theatre for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen a bunch of the shows here because I’m really big into musical theatre. I remember I saw Cabaret here on New Year’s Eve one night, I saw The Lightning Thief instead of watching the Super Bowl one year. It’s just been a really great place for me to discover all of these musicals that I’ve really enjoyed and have a really great time here. Last semester, I studied abroad in London and knew that I wanted to have an internship when I came back to the States. I remember when I was in high school, I used to be a part of some shows that actually, Lilly Irwin, who also works here, helped to direct and she would talk about her experience working at The Hanover Theatre. So, that made me look into internships here and I found one that fit my interests exactly. I’m also really big into marketing and social media and combining that with my love for theatre, so thankfully, I managed to get the position and I couldn’t be happier. Coming here every morning has been such a joy. It’s been a really great time to be here and a really great way to spend my summer.

Lisa: Cris, I love the fact that you actually take public transportation here.

Cris: Yes, I do. I take the commuter rail one-stop from Grafton to Worcester.

Lisa: I love that! I did my internships in Boston. Public transportation used to be something that people talked about as a challenge for Worcester. I love the fact that this next generation has embraced public transportation and is able to show that you can live in the outskirts and still comfortably get here in a reliable way, so bravo to you. Peyton, I remember that one of the things that impressed me in your interview is that you did have experience with The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is, of course, our own production. We talked a lot about the changes that have really occurred and how The Nutcracker has really grown up and become a beautiful Broadway quality production in many, many ways. So, if you don’t mind, talk a little bit about your observations, as far as what you’ve seen as far as the growth in The Nutcracker when you were in it, and what we’re doing now in this next season coming up.

Peyton: When I was in The Nutcracker, I believe I was in the first production that took place at The Hanover Theatre, so it has changed a lot over those 15 years or so. Back then, it definitely felt like an incredibly community-oriented production. It still has that quality to it, but it was just a group of people really all coming together, working really hard and trying to put on a production. There wasn’t a ton of massive funding and massive support, it really was people just putting their hands together and making this production come to life. Over the years, as it’s grown, more people have known about it and more people have come to see it. Like you said, it’s become much more of a Broadway quality production.

Lisa: The new set design and lighting design are designed by Broadway designers, and that was one of the things we talked about. That shift from a family event where people are going to support their neighbors, their friends and their family to a potential night out or a really worthy event to go out on a date or bring business associates. There’s a level of elegance now to The Nutcracker here in Worcester that makes me really, really proud.

3 girls perform and dance on stage for The Nutcracker. The girls are wearing blue, white, and pink dresses and have their arms held outward. Behind them is the Christmas tree.
© Mike Nyman, 2021

Peyton: Yeah, I agree with that. I think maybe towards the beginning, people viewed it as a dance recital or something to go watch their friends or children in. But now, I truly feel like it’s comparable to if you were going into Boston to go and watch their version of The Nutcracker. Instead, you can come to Worcester and see essentially the same level of production and performance quality here. Like I said, you still have that like community focus at the heart of the production, which I think does make it stand out in its own way.

Lisa: It’s interesting, too, because auditions are coming up for The Nutcracker on September 11. As somebody who has auditioned before and been in that production, are there any tips you want to give to people?

Peyton: I think it’s just really important to go in with as much confidence as possible. Always put your best foot forward, even if you feel like you’ve messed up. It’s always just important to have that confidence in yourself, because people will notice if you’re very, very confident. Even if you might have messed up the choreography a little bit, it’s okay, because if the performance quality is there and the enthusiasm is there, I think that’s what will make you stand out. I think that’s what Miss Jennifer Agbay does look for and does care about.

Lisa: She does, and she also cares about technique and preparation. That’s why our conservatory has grown like it has, and of course, we have fall classes going on sale and we have a Dance Intensive at the end of August. Cris, we’re going to switch to you for a minute. Why don’t you talk a little bit about the types of things you do as an intern here?

Cris: Yeah! I have worked on a whole bunch of things, which is really great because I feel like there’s a stigma around internships where you’re just running around and doing little menial tasks, but we are really in it here and we feel like an important part of the team. We work a lot on social media, specifically with Ashleigh Prince. We’ve learned how to schedule posts and create content. Yesterday, we did a bunch of mailing for the magazine that has just come out. As for me specifically, I am a first-generation Peruvian American and fluent in Spanish, so it has been my pleasure to work on the Spanish social media. Doing those translations has really also helped me to enhance my own language skills as far as writing goes. I’m also really glad that we’re able to provide that for the Spanish-speaking community in Worcester, which I know really could benefit from getting to see this really amazing theatre, music and everything that we have here.

Lisa: As a Peruvian American, any tips for people who are listening to you, your career, your education and the theatre here as far as suggestions that you would have for anything?

Cris: Coming from an immigrant family, I was always taught that sometimes you’d have to work twice as hard as other people to get to the same places. So, just make sure that if you are pushing yourself like that, you keep that hope and that light, because it can get difficult and a little exasperating when you see your peers sometimes getting opportunities that you wish that you also had. Just know your own worth and know that the time is going to come when something’s going to fall in your lap and it’s going to be amazing for you, much like this internship has been for me. I haven’t been able to intern anywhere before; I’ve done contract things for a Broadway producer, but that’s unpaid and just for experience.

As an intern here, I’m really feeling like I’m in show business. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities that The Hanover Theatre has offered me.

Cris Rabines

Cris: Just make sure that you know that there’s a place for you. No matter where you go, you’re going to find a place.

Lisa: In fact, we actively look for Spanish-speaking professionals, young professionals and interns because we recognize that language and Spanish is really an important service for us to be able to provide so that we can connect with the second largest population in Central Massachusetts.

Cris: Yeah, it’s amazing that I’ve been able to utilize those skills. Regardless of what language you speak, if you have those skills, they are so useful. Make sure that you keep those, don’t lose those.

Lisa: Absolutely, and they’re only going to become more and more valuable, especially in marketing and communications, regardless of what industry we’re talking about. Peyton, what’s been your favorite project during your internship?

Peyton: I think something that I’ve been really proud of and something that I’ve also found incredibly fun is building up our TikTok page for The Hanover Theatre. Cris and I took that from the ground and tried to really build it up and create fun and relatable content for the theatre that wasn’t just necessarily about promoting shows, but help get to know some of the people that work here and see how we are behind the scenes a little bit. That’s been really fun, and TikTok is a really valuable social media platform at the moment, so I think it’s been really great that we’ve been able to utilize that. I’ve also really loved going and working at different events like the Tercentennial and our Christmas in July event. That was really, really fun because who doesn’t love Christmas at any time of the year?

Lisa: It’s true!

Peyton: It’s really nice to be able to connect with patrons and meet the people that are looking at our content and coming to our shows. I’ve really loved interacting with them and being able to be a part of something that brings them a little bit of joy and happiness.

Peyton Surprenant and Cris Rabines

Lisa: It is very rewarding. I also love seeing our patrons and people coming up to the tables. I love tabling at the shows and I love going to special events, because I really don’t meet that many people who are unhappy talking to us about the theatre. People seem genuinely interested in all aspects of that and the community. Another big project that we work on every summer, and you guys have helped to take it to a whole new level, is our Behind the Scenes magazine. Tell our listeners a little bit about that process because it’s hitting mailboxes very soon and we have some really exciting new developments.

Cris: Yes, we did work a lot on the Behind the Scenes magazine and it was so cool. It was a little bit of a return home for me because I did the literary magazine back in high school which was a lot a lot of fun. This magazine is jam packed with information on all of our upcoming shows. There’s a lot of really fun articles in there including interviews, and if you look at the digital version, there’s lots of links to videos and enhanced content. I actually was fortunate enough to write an article on the tours that we have of the theatre. We got to go on the tour itself, and get quotes from the docents. They were just so excited that we were putting the the tour in the magazine and they were really glad to offer that information to us. Definitely check out the magazine, it is so cool! We worked really hard on it.

Lisa: We do have a digital enhanced version available. If you visit our website at TheHanoverTheatre.org, we do have all of our publications available and QR codes that bring you right to the enhanced content. Peyton, were you going to add something?

Peyton: I think that the enhanced content in the digital version as well, is really, really cool because you’re able to see the magazine in such an in-depth way and you’re able to learn so much more about our shows. I was able to also do an interview with two conservatory students, Sydney Duby and Dakota Schantz, who are really, really incredible people. You can go and look at their interviews that I did with them. You just get to know so much more about what’s coming to The Hanover Theatre.

Lisa: Thank you for that. I want to go back to the tours for a second, because you guys talked about how you went on the tours. The tours are truly special and free for our members and subscribers, by the way. If you’re considering subscribing or becoming a member, that is free for you, or just $10 for the public. What were your favorite parts of the tour, what you were surprised to learn or what really stuck with you when you went on the tour?

Peyton: I have been at The Hanover Theatre for a really long time, whether it’s now working here or performing on the stage, so it was really cool to learn about the history of this theatre. I didn’t necessarily know a lot about that before, and it was very interesting to learn about the progression of this theatre, what it once used to be and where it is now. The docents are really incredible and they’re very knowledgeable. They really go in depth about the growth of this theatre, so that was really cool. It’s also really cool going behind the scenes of the theatre, too. I don’t think people necessarily know that they’ll be able to stand on stage and see dressing rooms and all of that. That’s really fun because you get to see where all of these really magnificent performers and talent have been, and you get to be in the same place as them.

The stage view of The Hanover Theatre.
Photo credit: Judy Barrete

Lisa: I always love bringing people onto the stage and having people look out at the chair rail behind the last row of seats, and you can see detail. That’s when it hits home that, wow, this might hold 2300 people, but truly, it’s a great view and the sightlines are really good. When you’re onstage and you look at the wall, you can see that we’ve had all the tours and all the famous people who have performed here sign the wall, which is so interesting. How about you?

Cris: That was actually my favorite part, getting to see all the autographs from all of these shows that I love. I remember freaking out a little bit when I saw it. That was really awesome, as well as just getting to stand on that stage and see genuinely how big the space is. That was really amazing.

Lisa: Okay, one final question for each of you. What do you think is the most valuable thing that you’re going to bring forward that you’ve learned in this internship?

Peyton: I am really grateful that I was able to come into an office space every single day. I’ve spent the last few years of my college experience and a bit of my work experience being remote and working through Zoom because of COVID. It’s been really amazing to be able to come in person every day to work and have a structured routine, and be around really supportive people in the workspace. It’s really taught me how to communicate and collaborate with other people on projects, whether very small or very large. I think that’s a very valuable lesson because I haven’t really had an opportunity like that before. It’s definitely helped my communication skills and my collaboration skills. I’m very grateful that when maybe I don’t necessarily know the answers to everything or maybe I don’t necessarily know exactly what I’m supposed to do, I’m able to be around people that support me when I need help and I feel comfortable enough to ask for help. That has been a very valuable lesson for me, just working amongst other people and being part of a team.

Lisa: Well, we have loved having you. How about you, Cris?

Cris: I think my favorite part has been this professional level of things that we’ve been doing. I’ve done a lot of work back at Ithica College because they really make sure that we have a hands-on experience, but that’s been the student productions, so everything feels bigger here. I’ve loved getting to work through the marketing guides of some of my favorite shows, which this Broadway season is so cool. I freaked out about it so much. Mean Girls, Aladdin, Hadestown, a whole bunch of my favorites that I’ve gotten to generate content for and get to talk about, and it’s part of my job this time. I’m getting paid to talk about how much I love all of these shows.

Lisa: It is amazing, isn’t it?

Cris: It’s a dream gig. So, honestly, I think I’ve loved everything about it.

Lisa: We’ve loved having you, as well. You guys are great. I wish you so much success. I know you’re going to do fantastically in life. You’re welcome back here anytime and we hope to see you at lots of shows. Any other last minute messages you want to tell other aspiring professionals?

Peyton: If you want a job, go out, apply for jobs, go and keep working your butt off for it. Because something will, like Chris said, fall in your lap as long as you keep hope and keep working hard.

If you’re interested in the performing arts world and you’re looking for a great place to intern, I definitely recommend interning here. It’s a really great experience and you won’t regret it. It’s so perfect.

Peyton Surprenant

Cris: I think I’m just gonna second what Peyton said.

Lisa: Well, thank you both again. Like I said, it’s been a pleasure having you and we really appreciate all of your contributions, your fresh approach and the fact that you’ve got us in the hip new TikTok world. You have completely added a lot of joy to our days and we appreciate that and wish you the best. Everybody, you can find out more information about The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory as well as our internship opportunities at TheHanoverTheatre.org.