- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

BEAVER, W.Va. (AP) - Sing. Dance. Act. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Since June 10, aspiring performers from all across the country have been singing, dancing and acting their hearts out on stage at Grandview’s Cliffside Amphitheatre as part of Theatre West Virginia’s Professional Training Program for Musical Theatre Interns.

The young men and women, who hail from Idaho to Florida, were selected not only based on their talents, but also on their drive to improve upon their skill set.

“They’re so hungry,” said Jason Adkins, co-director of the intern program. “That’s how we cast them - not just on talent alone. We look at more than their qualifications, we look at their personalities.”

The 10 young actors took a break from rehearsals to chat with The Register-Herald about their work at the theatre so far this summer.

For Elli Caterisano, who’s studying music and theatre at Furman University in South Carolina, she said she feels lucky to have been chosen for the internship, but the long hours have been challenging.

“Back at school, rehearsals were three hours. Now, it’s seven hours a day,” Caterisano said. “It’s been a big adjustment. I’ve learned a lot, but it took some getting used to.”

She also said it’s been difficult to remember to stay hydrated - the group laughed and agreed as they held up their refillable water bottles in solidarity.

This summer makes the second internship Astoncia Bhagat has been a part of. Bhagat, a Western Illinois University student, previously worked for three months in five shows at Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield, Ind.

“The more you do, the more skills you gain. It takes all kinds of skills to be a professional,” she said. “You learn how to be an individual and part of a company, and how to take care of yourself.”

Another intern, Ashley Davis, a theatre student at Louisiana Tech University, said the dance skills she’s picked up during classes and rehearsals have been incredibly helpful.

“I’ve loved working on The Addams Family,” Davis said. “I wasn’t much of a dancer before this show.”

The interns are a part of each of Theatre West Virginia’s productions this summer - The Addams Family Musical, Hatfields and McCoys, and Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical.

They’re all excited for each of the performances for varying reasons. For Charlee Haddock, a musical theatre student at Catawba College in North Carolina, she’s most excited about shooting a gun in the West Virginia historical drama, Hatfields and McCoys.

For Luke Jaconis, another Western Illinois University student, he’s looking forward to showing off all their skills at the end of the season with Ring of Fire. The cast for the Johnny Cash musical will be comprised primarily of the summer interns.

“It’s going to be our show,” Jaconis said. “It’s our chance to take everything we learned here, go out and do it.”

Over just a few short weeks, the 10 young men and women have formed a special bond. They already feel like family.

“The people here are amazing,” Caterisano added. “They’ve been a backbone and a support system.”

Two talented men, Jason Adkins and Terry Chasteen, oversee the intern program - from casting and housing to scheduling and directing.

After the former director’s departure, Chasteen was set to take over. Before his got his chance though, Theatre West Virginia announced its closure in September 2013 due to financial trouble.

Even after general manager Scott Hill announced the theatre’s revitalization, there simply wasn’t enough time or money to invite interns for the Hatfield and McCoys-only 2014 season.

Last year, Chasteen was finally able to bring back the program. He reached out to Adkins, and together they worked on the syllabus, which added an emphasis on dance and singing.

They happily welcomed eight young performers to the Cliffside Amphitheatre for the 2015 summer season.

“What I saw was a confidence and comfortability that comes with performing,” Adkins said of the improvements of last year’s interns. “Most classes provide technique, but few offer application of that onto the stage, which helps them the most.”

Chasteen agreed that it’s difficult for young performers to learn their craft through programs at school.

“Here, they’re getting their feet wet with professional experience.”

In addition to performing in the three productions, the interns will receive college credit through New River Community and Technical College for attending vocal, dance and acting lessons.

Next year, the program aims to offer even more internship slots. For more information, email Terry Chasteen at tl-chasteen@wiu.edu.

Be sure to look for Adkins and Chasteen throughout the summer at TWV - they’ll be performing in addition to directing the interns.

General manager Scott Hill said he’s glad to have the interns back on board this summer.

“I think it’s important we bring people in from other parts of the country, to expose them to the positives of West Virginia.”

Hill said the Mountain State shows well once visitors arrive, but if out-of-staters make their assumptions based on headlines, the state can be seen in a negative light.

“That’s not the true West Virginia.”

He’s also excited for all the opportunities this internship will afford these young performers.

“There are ripples in what we do here. It can last forever. Scott will be gone in 50 years, but some of the things we’re doing here will still be making ripples in 50 years.”

Performances of The Addams Family will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Cliffside Amphitheatre in Grandview June 22-26, 29-30 and July 1.

Hatfields and McCoys will kick off July 6, and Ring of Fire will wrap up the season starting July 20.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit theatrewestvirginia.org or call 304-256-6800.


Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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