Theatre students win internships at Tennessee Rep in new acting program

By Janel Shoun-Smith on 9/18/2012

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For the first time ever, Lipscomb University theatre students will get the chance to act on stage in professional Tennessee Repertory Theatre productions this fall, thanks to a new acting internship program established by the critically acclaimed regional troupe.

The Tennessee Repertory Theatre was established in Nashville in 1985 and has had an internship program since 2007 in areas such as set construction, costumes and stage management, according to the producing artistic director René Copeland. But not until this year did the company have many opportunities for students to act in productions and thus earn Equity Membership Candidate (EMC) points in the Actor’s Equity Association.

Lipscomb has placed several students in the past in the Tennessee Rep’s internship program. But earlier this month, students from Lipscomb, Vanderbilt, Belmont and Middle Tennessee State universities auditioned for a group of roles in the 2012-13 season reserved for student acting interns.

Lipscomb students Will Mirrane and Kristi Mason were selected to be Tennessee Rep acting interns for the 2012-13 season. Productions offered by the Tennessee Rep this season include Clybourne Park, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Christmas Story, Caberet and The Columnist.

Such acting internships are common at universities at the graduate level, said Mike Fernandez, chair of the theatre department at Lipscomb, but they are quite rare at the undergraduate level. Because none of Nashville’s universities have a graduate theater program, it is a testament to the talent of local students and the quality of Lipscomb’s and other programs that Tennessee Rep would establish a program for undergraduates, Fernandez said.

“The chance for our students to begin working immediately with professional actors is so valuable to their education. They will get the chance to audition and possibly perform in a more diverse range of productions than we can offer on campus alone,” Fernandez said. “And, Tennessee Rep is one of the top tier professional theater companies in the region. It will be so challenging for our students to be part of a professional community, and not so much in the college bubble.”

Conversations about a potential acting internship at the Tennessee Rep have been going on for some years, said Fernandez.

“Since Mike (Fernandez) came to the theatre department at Lipscomb, I have been very impressed with him and we have had an ongoing conversation since his joining the faculty about developing a mutually beneficial relationship between the Lipscomb department and Tennessee Rep,” said Copeland.

“Tennessee Rep is committed to contributing to the education of emerging theate artists as a way of both contributing to the field and stimulating our own creativity, and working with somreone like Mike who appreciates the benefit to students in having professional working experience is a natural step for us,” he said. 

“We are pleased to partner with Mike and the Lipscomb theatre department in a more structured way this year. It is an exciting addition to any theater student’s education, especially at the undergraduate level, to work with a professional regional theater like Tennessee Rep, and Mike’s commitment to growing the scope and quality of the theatre program is exciting—we’re happy to be a part of it.”