The Kennedy Center
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The Kennedy Center

Q&A with a Kennedy Center WNO intern

Name: Katherine French

College/major: I graduated in December 2018 from East Stroudsburg University in the Poconos and I was a theater major.

Internship placement: WNO Artistic operations

Department: WNO

How I landed the internship: I had a little bit of admin experience in undergrad. I was the Treasurer and the President of our theater organization, and that taught me a lot about the admin side of the arts administration world. Usually as an undergrad, you don’t get a lot of those opportunities — like becoming familiar with budgeting and artistic planning to some degree — so I had a good sense of how things happened behind the behind-the-scenes.

Typical day: I usually come in around 10 a.m., and the first thing I do is check my email and check my schedule for the day because things usually change day-by-day. When I’m at the Watergate, it’s usually more free-form. I can really schedule my day around my meetings that I have. So, I get a chance to work on my projects on my own time. And a huge part of the structure of my day comes from other people approaching me about stuff they would like me to help them with, which can range from putting together materials and packets for meetings, to helping document payroll, to helping develop our Strategic Plan. And actually, towards the beginning of my internship, I made a CD labeling and database system for the commentary CDs of Saul Lilienstein, which were building up in our supply closet, and so it’s mainly free-form tasks like that. And then sometimes I will be in WNO’s studios in Takoma — so, in short, it’s a very different day, every day.

What I didn’t know when I started: What I knew going into this internship was that I was going to learn a lot, definitely about the world of opera — which was something I wasn’t as familiar with coming into this internship because I come from a theater background. Some things are similar, but a lot of things are different.

What surprised me the most: How far in advance everything has to be planned for the season, and how flexible everything has to be at the same time.

Skills gained: I definitely built on my writing and data collection skills a lot, especially going through the Strategic Planning process. And also my stage management comfortability. Working with world-class artists, I am definitely a little less intimidated by opera singers.

Katherine with her supervisor Anne-Carolyn Bird

What I’ve learned about the real world: When you become part of a team, everyone is really pushing for you to succeed. Even in the biggest organizations, if the whole group is centered around pushing towards the same goal, then everyone is going to be supportive of every single piece, even if you don’t necessarily understand what other people are doing and vice versa.

Favorite project: I actually really had fun in my closet — I’m just an organization nerd! It’s really hard to pick a favorite, because they have all been just so different. One project that I’ve been doing on my downtime is weekly research on a recommended opera from my supervisor, since I am so new to opera, and finding out a lot about the classics that I haven’t known.

Proudest accomplishment: Right now, I’m coming up with a draft for the Strategic Planning document, so I think I’m going to be really proud of that once I hand that in. Knowing that something I’m doing right now is going to impact WNO until 2027 is really an amazing feeling.

If I could do anything differently: I definitely would have taken advantage of the informational interviews a lot more early on. I really should have just started looking up people to speak with right away and scheduled them as soon as I could have, when I had more time in the beginning to do them.

Advice for future interns: Definitely do the informational interviews, from the ones I’ve had they have been so informative. You will learn so much about your department, but it’s really cool to see other departments in the Kennedy Center because I think they are all worth learning about. So get informational interviews, even in areas you don’t think you’d be interested in. And don’t be afraid of making your voice heard in your placement — everyone is interested in hearing our feedback because we come with a fresh perspective on everything.

What’s next: After a quick vacation to London, I’m actually moving to Massachusetts for the summer. I’m going to be the Production Management Associate at Berkshire Theater Group until September. After that, it’s up in the air!

Photograph taken by Margaret Wroblewski

Looking for an internship to help explore a career in the arts? Check out the Kennedy Center’s internship opportunities and apply to join the talented ranks of our #KenCenInterns!



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The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center

The nation’s performing arts center.