It All Started With My CFRT Internship

By Michael Houck, CFRT Audience Services Manager

MikeyIn 2006, I was in the right place at the right time.  I knew the right people.  I was offered a “job” at Cape Fear Regional Theatre and I couldn’t have been happier.  As a teen, CFRT prepped me for college in ways I couldn’t have imagined; and as an adult, CFRT has allowed me to be part of a creative team on the forefront of the arts scene in our state.  For 9 years, I have been thankful to call CFRT home.

It’s my junior year of high school and my visual arts teacher, Jeremy McDonald – who knows I’m a budding thespian and well connected with the school’s theatre department – tells me his wife, Miranda, is working on a local production of The Rocky Horror Show and the company is looking for volunteers.

“Do you want to help out with the lighting?”

“Of course I do.”

When Rocky wrapped, the lighting designer, Martha Claybrook, requested my help on an upcoming production of Fame at Cape Fear Regional Theatre.

“Do you want to help out with the lighting?”

“Of course I do.”

I came to CFRT to work on the light hang and focus for Fame.  Little did I know, I would soon work throughout the entire run of the show – an incredibly exciting opportunity for someone who had not expected professional experience before college.  High school theatre had offered me textbook experience. We read and talked about plays.  We did minimally produced shows with little spectacle – as much as we could with what the budget allowed.  But my experiences in the high school theatre program offered little hands-on technical experience.  My experience with CFRT was the perfect educational supplement and fulfilled my craving – “I want to do theatre.”

When the show wrapped the season was over and I parted for the summer. Come August, I was contacted and asked to volunteer on the upcoming production of Millie. College was looming…

“Do you want to help out with the lighting?”

“Of course I’d like to, but I need a real job.”

Bo Thorp, Founding Artistic Director at CFRT, retorted –

“Do you want a job here for the season?”

“Of course I do!”

At the top of the season, I became a CFRT Intern!

Each day after school I helped in the shop for a few hours working on props and set pieces and organizing for upcoming shows.  I participated with all aspects of lighting for each show, which is where I really felt comfortable.  And, I became a sort-of resident Assistant Stage Manager while I worked backstage during every show that season. During this time, I learned more than I could I have asked for, and because of my internship, I felt prepared for college.

While finishing graduate school at UNC Pembroke, I returned to Fayetteville and was thankful that CFRT welcomed me back with open arms – I was home again.  Since, I have had hands-on experience in every aspect of the theatre.  From working as the assistant director on plays including Around the World in 80 Days and The Little Prince to administering the Education and Intern programs where I worked with and taught children eager to create and learn, I’ve had the opportunity to experience all of the ins and outs of theatre.  Currently, I serve as the theatre’s first ever Audience Services Manager.

CFRT has provided me with professional experiences and knowledge for which I’m very thankful – and, it all started with my CFRT internship year ago.  I am excited to be a part of this theatre family and, as a father, I look forward to seeing CFRT’s youth education and outreach programs continue to grow and flourish knowing that, one day, my son will have his first unforgettable theatre experience near the same stage that taught me so much.

CFRT’s internship program is designed to give high school and college students a serious and intensive experience in the field of technical theatre and theatre management.  This year, CFRT is hosting 9 high school interns who, just like Michael, are provided with hands-on experience they may not ever have the opportunity to get outside of this theatre’s walls.  Your donations help make this possible as they support intern stipends, training, staff mentoring, and office supplies necessary for this program.   Please consider donating today to this worthy program!

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