Janie Townsend | #WCW #WomenInTheatre
Janie Townsend joined us this year as a summer intern with our Audience Development Team. Janie wasted no time, hitting the ground running and making our summer a little brighter. Janie shares her summer internship experience below.
In my limited experience, coming of age stories don’t happen to people in their early twenties. They happen to girls on their sixteenth birthdays, to boys who are very tired of being fourteen despite the fact that fifteen isn’t much better. But here I am, barely twenty-one, and if this summer hasn’t been something out of a coming of age story, I don’t know what is.
I am about to be a senior in college, which consequently means that I’m debating to myself about how, exactly, I’m going to survive for the rest of my life. My meals have consisted of ice cream and nothing more on several occasions. I live in a tiny, creaky house with a roommate who wants to be Kurt Cobain when she grows up and another who frequently keeps her Faulkner anthologies in our refrigerator. My next door neighbors have a pet kangaroo. Yes, I have seen it. No, it is not illegal. I looked it up.
As if that wasn’t a quirky enough combination of factoids about my existence, I spend fifteen hours a week disguising enthusiasm as practical skills at a theatre company. Between the costume department’s pending assignment to design a Santa suit for a giant chicken and the fact that I have my own office space where I can organize spreadsheets while listening to RENT and Blink-182, I can’t quite decide my favorite thing about working here.
My day at the Rep is entirely ordinary and entirely special all at once. Almost all of our offices are nestled into the same corner, separated by a few differently colored walls and curtains hung across doorways. We email each other but it’s unnecessary considering that we could pretty much communicate by yelling across the office, which does happen too.
Every day, Gary makes his way around to say good morning to everyone. Cynthia abruptly sings something to herself from her desk, which could mean great news or spell doom for the rest of her day. Hannah pops into the office I share with Matt. They bicker for a little while, and I silently translate this into some form of friendship. Helen recruits me to seal envelopes for three hours, which I enjoy because it gives us an excuse to talk about hole-in-the-wall restaurants and the annoying pastimes of cats. Tyler accidentally interrupts us by telling his dog to behave because she is in an office and dogs are supposed to behave in offices. Meanwhile, Shane is doing everything for everyone. After all this (and the occasional scramble to execute a board meeting), I step into the summer heat once again and start my drive home at three o’ clock.
And all the while, I am actually learning a number of things from working with Nashville Rep: (1) the importance of “biz” in the term “showbiz;” (2) the adventures and misadventures of non-profits; (3) contrary to my former suspicions that the dramatic arts are prized by the majority of society, they, unfortunately, actually aren’t; (4) how to print postage stamps; and (5) that despite how disoriented I feel regarding my career search and the rest of my life, it is possible to spend my days doing something I care about. And maybe “real life” (whatever that is, exactly) won’t be so scary after all.
When you’re surrounded by people with a healthy sense of humor and a grip on their lives, adulthood suddenly looks less threatening. What’s more, these same people who are impressively managing their adulthood are simultaneously giving of themselves for something they love: Nashville theatre, in this case.
I don’t imagine I’ll be especially grown up by the time September rolls around and I waltz onto campus again for the final round. However, I do find it safe to assume that I’ll feel a little less small after a summer of reminders that our lives don’t have to look any particular way. We just have to accept and love that they’re ours. Whether that means a life of kangaroo-watching and falling asleep to Nirvana blaring from upstairs while I wonder what the future holds, or a life where everything falls perfectly into place and I never eat ice cream for supper − I’m learning to receive the life I have no matter how it looks. Which has something to do with growing up, I think.