Sam Fleming’s wardrobe workshop houses costumes from two of Broadway’s most legendary shows: The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. Row after row of floor-to-ceiling costume racks crowd the space, each holding iconic pieces any die-hard Broadway fan would recognize. A quiet corner near the door is where Fleming, associate costume designer for Phantom, tells a group of New York City high school students about making Carlotta’s “Masquerade” hoop skirt collapsible so that it can be better transported on tour.
The students visiting Fleming’s workshop are part of The Broadway League’s internship program in New York City. Their tour of the workshop is only one of many exciting opportunities to peek behind the scenes during the week-long program.
“It’s our fourth year of doing this, and it’s growing each year, which is very exciting,” says Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League. The internship, which accepted a record 30 participants this year, coincides with New York City schools’ February break. With help from the Department of Edcuation, the League selects participants from a pool of students nominated by area high school theatre teachers.
Part of the internship’s purpose is to combat the cliché of the unattainable Broadway dream. “Our goal,” St. Martin says, “is to have kids be aware of the many great jobs that are available on Broadway. Not just on the stage.” Throughout the week the students are exposed to the wide range of professions outside of performing that are vital to the industry through a combination of guest speakers, exclusive tours, performances and backstage time at shows currently running on Broadway. They explore the business of Broadway with visits to a press offices, ad agencies and design studios—like Fleming's. Their itineraries can include anything from learning how grosses are reported to attending a Broadway rehearsal.
“Oh, they love it,” says St. Martin of the Broadway community’s response to the internship. “It has been probably one of the most vibrant programs that we’ve introduced in the last five years.” The internship brings together The Broadway League’s interests in diversity and in reaching a new generation. “We all agree that we have to get more young people involved in theatre and get our theatre professions to represent what our country looks like.”
While students earn unprecedented access, the League can appeal to potential future industry employees. Not only have they, hopefully, intrigued these 30 students, the internship culminates in group presentations in which students must persuade a recent college graduate to take the job of company manager, house manager, marketing personnel, producer, press representative or theatre owner. It may help the League attract those recent grads come springtime.
Gabriella McKinley, 17, is one of the students who toured the costume shop. McKinley, a junior at Susan E. Wagner High School in Staten Island, is an actor, singer and dancer who has always loved to perform. “I’m here because I really want to get into directing, and I want to get into lighting design and set design,” says McKinley. Before coming to the costume shop, McKinley was part of a private backstage tour of Phantom at The Majestic Theatre. “That was something I’ve never experienced,” McKinley says. “I felt like I was a part of history.”
Marcus Edward, also participating in the internship this year, is a 17-year-old senior at Brooklyn High School of the Arts. Originally interested in music, Edward was introduced to theatre when his middle school music program was cut. “[Performing] has been my passion ever since,” says Edward. With most of his theatre experience being onstage, Edward has enjoyed his exposure to the other professions involved in mounting a show. “I feel like it’s kind of helped me be not only a better actor but a better person in general. Because you kind of develop a compassion for the people outside of the theatre who are working countless hours. … I have an admiration for those people now,” says Edward, “and I look at it in a different light.”
That kind of revelation is why Andrew Cole, account director and creative consultant for Type A Marketing—an independent marketing firm for Broadway shows and national tours—is now in his third year of facilitating internship students and introducing them to his field. For the week, Cole acts as a guide for the five interns he’s escorted to Fleming’s costume shop. “Regardless of your interests, Sam Fleming’s wardrobe workshop is a really cool place to visit. For anybody,” says Cole about planning activities for the week that will appeal to his interns and their expanding theatrical focuses. For the length of the program, each student is assigned to a show—some of them end up in small groups, like Cole's, others may fly solo at a show like Hamilton.
Most rewarding to Cole is giving up his time to expose young people to the many opportunities on Broadway outside of performing. Echoing St. Martin’s message of introducing the students to the many opportunities in the industry, Cole says it’s “wonderful” to get to know the kids and watch them discover fields they may not have known about before. “Sometimes Broadway can seem a bit inaccessible. ... I definitely want them to leave with the knowledge that Broadway is for them,” says Cole. “They have a place on Broadway if they want it.”