Over the past weekend, several recent Skidmore Theater alums returned to campus to share their post-grad experiences and perspectives with the current JKB cohort. After visiting Theater Company on Friday afternoon, the team of graduates led workshops throughout most of Saturday afternoon. These workshops—part Q+A, part information session, part interactive exercise—covered a wide range of topics and career paths, including design, tech, acting, arts administration, comedy, playwriting, and directing. Jeremy Ohringer ’13, Gab Nieporent ’14, Gina Doherty ’14, Peter Johnston ’14, Noah Samors ‘15, Emily Moler ’15, Mac Whiting ’16, and Rigel Harris ’16 each led workshops (some of them via video chat), with Harris ’16 producing the entire event. Below are perspectives from three students on their experiences in a few of the workshops.
Miranda Coble ’19 on Mac Whiting and Noah Samors’s Design/Tech Workshop
There are many challenges facing the theater technician as they begin their professional career. With such a physical demand and often an attitude of working through potential physical discomforts, it was refreshing to have the insights of recent alums Mac Whiting and Noah Samors. They discussed the range spreading from getting into the industry to maintaining a long term career in the different fields. Placing the main emphasis on hard work and a wiliness to learn will carry you through a lot in this line of work. Many of the jobs they both got came through someone seeing the work they were putting into a project and wanting to collaborate more—you never know who has hiring power. There is also the balance of knowing your specific knowledge base while being willing to push yourself to grow as a technician. Often, an employer will be willing to teach you skills if you have a good attitude and can learn quickly. And if not there is a lot of research that can be done to acquire the needed skills and techniques: some good YouTube tutorials and Reddit pages were mentioned. By the end of the workshop I was left feeling that it is never too late to learn a new field to stretch yourself as an artist; it simply requires putting in the work and at times resourcefulness. Mac and Noah pushed us to learn as much as we can while at Skidmore while also acknowledging the learning never will nor should stop once we enter the professional world.
Kallan Dana ’19 on Peter Johnston’s Comedy Workshop
Peter was willing to admit that his expectations had changed. He poked fun at his own past overconfidence, telling our group that near the end of his senior year at Skidmore he had told his fellow theater classmates that he anticipated being on Saturday Night Live five years down the road. “My aspirations have changed,” he joked. He said this without disappointment, but with clearheadedness and positivity. Having been in two comedy groups during his time at Skidmore (Ad-Libs and Skidomedy), Johnston knew that he wanted to pursue comedy after graduation. What he didn’t know as a Skidmore student was what that would look like in practical terms. While after graduating he dealt with a lot of rejections and—as he says—”missed opportunities,” he now has has several comedy jobs, including a page position for the Late Show with David Letterman and his current position as an actor and director for the educational sketch comedy group Story Pirates. I was most struck not even by his excellent career advice for doing comedy in New York, but rather by his advice for keeping perspective while still in school. “Don’t take it all so seriously,” he said. “It should be fun.” In other words, he elaborated, it’s all good and well to care about your comedy group, but make sure to keep your perspective open, and not get too caught up in the drama of it!
Philip Merrick ’19 on Emily Mohler, Gina Doherty and Jeremy Ohringer’s Directing/Playwriting Workshop
I was lucky enough to attend the workshop on directing and playwriting with Gina Doherty ’14, who was there in person, plus Emily Moler ’15 and Jeremy Ohringer ’13, who joined us on Skype. We gathered in the Buttner room for an hour and discussed networking, moving to a new city, and the many paths one can choose after graduating. Moler recounted her time working at the Bushwick Starr, Ohringer told us about his time establishing roots in Chicago, and Doherty even handed out a sheet of paper with resources and key concepts that might come up. Topics on the worksheet included fellowships and theater companies of note, post-grad options, and “Things that we love.”
One theme that came up in our discussion was moving to a new city. Moler suggested we give ourselves six months to get to know a city before pressuring ourselves to do something big or important, and Ohringer recommended allowing for three years in a city to put down roots there. I was also intrigued by our discussion on networking. Each speaker agreed that the deep friendships you make with other artists are much more important than making surface-level acquaintances. Networking is primarily about finding people who are excited to work with you, advocate for you, and spend free time with you. As Moler said, the best thing to focus on is turning people who’ve never met you into acquaintances, turning acquaintances into people you’ve worked with, and turning people you’ve worked with into people who will advocate for you.
All three speakers encouraged us to follow our instincts when it came to making post-grad plans; there was no one strategy that all three of them used, and they acknowledged that the path to success is more circuitous than most people think. “It’s not a ladder,” Ohringer said. “It’s a spiral staircase.”
Miranda Coble ’19 is a senior Theater major. Philip Merrick ’19 and Kallan Dana ’19 are Editors-in-Chief of the Skidmore Theater Living Newsletter.