Internships Lead UNH Student Toward a Theater Career

Internships Lead UNH Student Toward a Theater Career

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

Heather Konish ’15 got involved in UNH theater on a whim.

During her first year at the University, the interior design major took a theater class and joined the technical and set painting crews of Little Shop of Horrors. “I just absolutely fell in love with theater and found a way to marry my interests,” she said. “As soon as the production was over, I declared a second major in theater with a concentration in design, and it was the best decision I've made for my future.”

Heather Konish ’15

She hopes to become a scenic designer for films or the stage, career goals she never would have considered if she hadn’t taken part in the many experiential education opportunities the theater department offered, she said.

Rachel Anderson-Rabern, assistant professor and director of the theater program, encouraged her to apply to be a technical intern at Shakesperience Productions Inc., a Waterbury-based professional theater company. “Dr. Anderson-Rabern helped me create a resume for the internship and then worked with me on how to go about getting used to a new environment,” she said. 

Working at Shakesperience required Konish to learn a new lighting system, wiring, designing and controlling the lights. “The feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt when I hit the power button and the lights were operational was something I will never forget,” she said. 

On campus, Konish designed and led the construction of the set pieces for the Student New Works Festival last spring. “Her designs effectively communicated place and emotion,” Anderson-Rabern said. “It was clear that she is an organized and gifted planner and leader, in addition to being a fabulous designer.”

Last semester, Konish assisted professional scenic designer Christopher Hoyt on Secret in the Wings. During load-in weekend, a whirlwind period when the design crew put all the pieces of the set together, painted it, focused the lights and dressed the set, her passion was reinforced.

“Over the course of that weekend, I saw what it means to be a scenic designer, to know your design so well that you can be stapling a rough cut to a platform while directing another group to build a book sculpture and answering questions about building a stair rail,” she said. “It was truly amazing to see how much a person could know and be able to bring to life on the stage.”

This semester, Konish interned with Hoyt throughout the production of the musical Spring Awakening, which will open on Thursday. “The most exciting part was getting to see the scenic design process from the initial stages all the way through to the end product – all while having the hands-on experience of building the set,” she said.

They are essentially visual storytellers, and Konish was a vital part of all of it, said Hoyt, a lecturer at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts and a freelance scenic and lighting designer for UNH and many theater companies. 

“To make it in theater you need to have passion connected with motivation, and you have to have a sense of artistic integrity about what you are doing,” Hoyt said. “She has it – all of it.”

Konish said she is just so glad she stepped onto that first set. “Experiences like this are the first taste of the real world,” she said. “You see the type of work you'll be doing in your intended field. You see all of the knowledge you hold and what you still need to learn.”

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