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Once an Intern, Always an Intern

Highlighting the community that endures and the strength of the professional relationships built over this shared experience.

Compiled by current student Betty Fan

In 1997, the School of Performance hired Matt Farrell as the first intern, a graduating production student who supervises students in labs and calls, upholds health and safety standards, and conducts training sessions. After a few years it expanded to two students each year and includes notable alumni such as Bonnie Thomson and CJ Astronomo. With most of them working within the live entertainment industry, they are able to help each other through mentorship and job opportunities. The group remains close despite their distances in time and physical space by making the effort to attend social events throughout the year. 

We asked interns to reflect upon the impact and memories of their enduring community, and lessons learned from this unique experience with the School of Performance. Check out some of the favourite memories below:

Aimee Frost

Intern 1998/99

In December of 2004, I brought my 9-day old son to Christmas Intern Lunch at the Arts and Letters club. Fellow interns held my son while I ate my lunch, which was a luxury for a new mom. Over the years, my fellow interns have watched my son (and daughter) grow and I have delighted in also watching their families grow as well.

After 15 years working at international fashion weeks, Aimee is now back in Toronto working as Producer on digital, hybrid and live corporate events at EL Productions.

Andrew Chute

Intern 2018/19

I cannot say how grateful I am for the chance to have been an intern at Ryerson. Not only did I get my current job from a former intern (thanks again, John!), but the experience led me to graduate school for education. I came to Ryerson as a mature student, looking to change careers and do the things that I wanted in life. Between haggis and intern lunches, I was fortunate to have met the right people to back and support me as I made that transition. I was hired by an intern, recommended by two others, and given advice by the whole gang. The internship at Ryerson is an opportunity, a gateway into a camaraderie of folks who shared a common experience, and turned it into a community.

Andrew is the Head Carpenter at Tarragon Theatre and currently a Masters of Education candidate at the University of Toronto

Anna Spencer

Intern 2017/18

My fellow intern Matthew Duarte and I proved to be quite a pair as interns, working well and having fun at the same time. What made being an intern with him most rewarding was the fact that in our first year of university we became close friends, often going out for dinners or lunches at least once a week. The week we were both hired as interns we went to our usual haunt to have a celebratory dinner and somehow it felt like we had completed some long foretold journey.

Anna is an Equity Stage Manager and member of IATSE 873.

C.J. Astronomo

Intern 2010/11

Tartan. Haggis. Scotch. I don't usually remember the details of what happens at Peter's Robbie Burns party...but I do know that it's always a great time and that there will be hilarious photographic evidence as a reminder.

CJ Astronomo is the Associate Director of Production at the Stratford Festival.

Evan Bonnah-Hawkes

Intern 2012/13

At the end of third year, I remember sitting in Peter's office, we were discussing the show calls for the next school year. Peter then asked if I had ever considered doing something completely out of my skills set as a test. "What about head of PR?" It took some persuading but I agreed that it would be a good challenge. Turns out I was terrible at the PR part but I learned that there are skills I learned in the shop and as a TD that can be universally applied to other areas. Two things I took away: #1 Trying new things is so important in expanding your skill set and gaining new perspectives, #2 don't compartmentalize your skills, experience and training.

Mark Houghton (Intern) clued me in in 1st year that getting to know faculty and staff outside of the classroom is a great way to make industry connections. But, what started as a job seeking strategy quickly turned into community building. Through Mark, Paul (Intern) and Peter (Fleming) I learned that our industry is a big community. Being a part of it and playing an active role is a great way to make connections, get a job, and make friends along the way. I got my first gig in theatre from a former intern because of the connections I made through school and the few interns I had met at the time.

Evan Bonnah-Hawkes works at the Stratford Festival as the Scene Shop Manager.

Ian Wratschko

One of the most important lessons I learned through school and was able to execute on as an intern was giving back to a community that cares about you and that you care about. As a student at Ryerson Theatre School (now School of Performance) I found a family, a place that supported growth and learning, and people that wanted you to be the best you could be. That's why once I graduated I applied to the intern program, it gave me the opportunity to give back to the community and hopefully provide a similar experience for others.

Ian works as a millwright.

Janet Farrell

Many fond memories of my time at Ryerson but so many years later, the one that keeps coming back is the time I was begged for more tech time on stage by the production team for the show du jour - and in a moment of weakness I obliged - only to be "thanked" with a giant ficus tree on my desk the next morning! Sadly, the tree has not survived since then, but the memory does!

Janet is working in administration in the not-for-profit sector.

John Thomson

Intern 2010/11

Then there was the year of the crowd-sourced intern loft install/strike. For whatever reason, the staffing on the loft install and strike couldn't be filled with students so a call was put out for former students and interns to come and lend a hand. The comradery and good will, as we all came back to do something fun and for a good cause made it a night full of warmth and good spirit.

After graduating, I was hired by Stefan Lenzi for a Luminato gig converting a derelict warehouse into a walkaround opera. When I got the call with the offer for the Intern position, I was on a tiny, rented, ride-on street-sweeper, trying to remove decades of city dust from a room with a giant hole in the ceiling, and just missed the call due to the noise. Stefan and I had a good long look at "One Missed Call from Ryerson" and unfortunately, HR didn't leave a message. We both were pretty sure we knew what it was, but had to wait until the next day for them to call back. I believe it was a Thursday and Stefan went to Therapy that night to report, and complain to the gang about them not leaving a message.

John is the Technical Director at Tarragon Theatre.

One person dressed as Sherlock Holmes and two dressed as Watson look at a notebook

Scott Martin as Sherlock and Interns John Thomson and Chris Small as Watsons.

Kassie Hudson

Intern 2011/12

Looking back on my internship year at RTS, it was a crucial and special time for me for several reasons. In first and second year, I struggled to find my way at the school but I knew I couldn’t let myself quit. By third and fourth year, I was thriving and loving the people, the courses, the teachers and all things RTS. I was RTS's biggest fan at the time, so I was HONOURED to be chosen to be one of two interns for the year of 2011 - 2012. I really didn't feel ready to be done with RTS yet. In early 2012, my father suddenly passed away and it was during this time as an Intern that I really felt the community of RTS rally around me as though a second family. Finally, I credit my experience of being an Intern to having given me an opportunity to interview with the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts which is where I have been (in numerous roles) ever since completing my internship in 2012. I am forever grateful to the Intern experience and this community of incredible professionals who will always lend an ear, their advice and a pint.

Kassie is the Event Manager for TO Live.

Kaya Northway

Intern 2018/19

It was late at night, long after most of the students went home. Unfortunately one of the shows had a giant fabric floor that needed to be unstitched to be washed before being resewn and used again. Due to the timing it fell to the interns and another staff member to make sure it got washed and was left to dry on stage. Sometimes needing to be washed a couple of times to get the fake blood out. As we walked back to the mainstage with the floor, in a giant recycling bin, we saw it. There in the distance, roaming campus at 4 o'clock in the morning, a fox. That is the story of the 4 am fox.

Kaya is the Production Manager and Technical Director for the Guild Festival, and also a producer for Fall For Dance North.

Linas Kairys

Intern 2019/20

Most valuable thing I learned while being an intern is teamwork makes the dream work. It is truly impossible to do it all by yourself. In my year as intern, many things made it an "uncommon" year but I learned in the first month that you don't need to face all obstacles alone. Working with the school as an intern, you truly understand the trust and the values of what you can do as a team. The best part is that all interns understand that there is an understanding that "these people" past, present or future interns, are truly people who can make the magic happen.

Linas is currently obtaining his MA in New York City.

Mark Houghton

Intern 2008/09

Like others, this was my first "real" job with union benefits-- I felt truly like part of the Theatre School family, and I loved it so very much: the people, the environment, the work. As a couple of specific recollections, I'll first put forward my memory of the day -- when preparing for a very late strike night followed by an early morning start -- Scott Martin showed me his secret sleep spot in the then Audio studio up the backstairs. Hidden behind equipment and boxes was a sleeping bag, alarm, and perfectly placed reading light. Secondly, I'll never forget the day a student decided to steal the intern keys in hopes of negotiating, through trade, the return of his borrowed, and consequently locked up, school laptop that he had left unattended.Thinking he was some sort of clever, he stood there dangling the keys in the other intern's face. Unbeknownst to him, they were not Paul's keys as he thought; they were mine-- and, oh, upset was I.

Mark is in his fifth year of his Ph.D at the University of Toronto.

Micheal Di Liberto

Intern 2013/14

There can’t be just one story that highlights being a part of the family more than my first Robbie Burns Party. Being invited to Peter’s home is like being invited to the white house. There’s a dress code, you have to contribute, and of course there’s plenty of toasts, bagpipes and ode’s to Robbie Burns. So it was safe to say we were a tad nervous, and our fellow interns were sure to over prepare us for the evening. Good laughs were shared as Paolo and I spoke our facts of Robbie Burns to kick off the night and the tartan was definitely pulled over our eyes on this one.

It's always hard to describe what you did in university to non-theatre kids! Classrooms of 30 or less, show call ‘til midnight, opening night parties, a TD shot and having a connection with your whole graduating class, staff and mentors that last a lifetime. But being a part of the intern family, you really get to appreciate both sides of what makes the school special. The PEOPLE! Coming back to catch up with everyone year after year, to hear how it's developing or how some things never change, is something I have cherished in the theatre world and out of it.

Michael is a freelance carpenter and Produce Manager at Longo's.

Rob Noble

Intern 2011/12

I've become the bagpiper intern; was, in fact, on the way to becoming this even while I was a student. But it's led to some very cool opportunities, working for theatre companies, dance companies, you name it, and thanks to having my fellow interns to put the word out. My favourite gig, though, is still playing for Peter's Robbie Burns dinner each year - I've travelled North America with a number of pipe bands, but I still have the best time catching up with all of the intern family and hearing what they, and the school, are all up to.

Rob is the Senior Lighting and Rigging Specialist at Encore Canada.

Ryan Wilson

Intern 2007/08

When I was the intern we did a show called the Music Man. It was a big show, and it wasn't going well: Will Sutton had a heart attack and the set wasn't ready for Q2Q. Peter sat down with Scott (in his first season I think), Lindsay and myself and told us he was going to call a professional scene shop to build us the set pieces that were not ready. I said “NO WAY! We can do this.” So a handful of students and myself stayed all night, building, fixing and installing a huge tracking tree panel set pieces. It wasn't ideal, but we got the show up, like we always do.

Ryan used to work as a Scenic Carpenter but got laid off, and is now working in Special Effects in film.

Scott Kitcher

Intern 1999/00

At the time, being the third intern it was impossible to foresee how the position would grow and evolve to become such an integral part of the modern day Theatre School. In the beginning interns needed to have a very strong technical background as the position was a stopgap measure to fill the vacant T.D. job. As this is no longer the case; it has allowed the interns to exceed the original mandate and grow to fill a variety of roles, bringing a variety of skills and knowledge to the table. That diversity has made our ever expanding "little" group one the most unique on the Ryerson Campus.

As a member of IATSE 58, Scott is the Head Rehearsal Hall Technician at the Canadian Opera Company.

Stefan Lenzi

I always enjoyed coming to work when I was the intern. Never a day went by that I wasn't involved in the day to day stories of the students. I'm forever grateful and glad to have had the opportunity to spend my first year out of University helping grow the future community. Even now it's always great to see former students working on site.

Stefan is the City Cultural Events Production supervisor for the City of Toronto but is currently working with Toronto Public Health.

Tammy Vuckovic

Intern 2012/13

In Kerr Hall, W79 was used as a classroom, but over the summer became a messy storage closet packed from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Our first task as interns - turn it into a usable classroom again. Evan and I spent three days moving, fixing, and purging furniture, reorganizing and running the biggest game of Tetris you ever saw, eventually turning it into a fully functioning classroom with storage space for set pieces.And still remained friends in the process!

Opening night parties at the Eagles club were what we lived for. Guaranteed great time with good music, lots of drinks and friends. TD shots were a tradition where the TD of the show bought a shot for all past TDs at the party. As an intern, I got to be included in that free shot, even though I had never been a TD as a student. I played that power card every time.

Bi-annual intern lunches are always two of my favourite days of the year. Especially the first year, when you're an intern, because your teachers have now become your friends. A number of intern lunches were held at O'Grady's on Church Street. It was one of my first few lunches that was one of the most memorable. We arrived at 12pm. There were interns coming and going throughout the day/evening, as always. But this time, there was a group of us who arrived at 12pm and didn't leave the bar until after 12am. Our leader Peter included!

Tammy is a Stage Manager, Producer, and Director in theatre and opera.

Trevor Pirri

Intern 2011/12

Highlights of our intern year include: bringing back the Tech Olympics, partying for one more year at The Eagles, carrying so many keys that everyone knows you are coming, and of course, my co-tern, CJ xo. It's an honour and a privilege to be in this family and I will be forever grateful. I know that the traditions and connections will last forever.

The most important lesson I learned at RTS was from Peter on our first day in first year: "Look to your left...look to your right..." I'll leave it at that. Wise words to live by for life in general.

Trevor now works in real estate.

Thank you to all of our interns!

Matt Farrell

Aimee Frost

Scott Kitcher

Oliver Armstrong

Scott Martin

Andrew Hammond

Melynda Jurgenson

Stefan Lenzi

Janet Farrell

Alaina Perttula

Bonnie Thomson

Ryan Wilson

Lindsey Woelfle

Paul Luciani

Mark Houghton

Chris Small

John Thomson

CJ Astronomo

Trevor Pirri

Kassie Hudson

Rob Noble

Evan Bonnah-Hawkes

Tammy Vuckovic

Paolo Collantes

Mike Dillberto

Adam Jules

Bree Lawrence

Beth Elliot

Ian Wratschko

David Beisel

Rene Kimmett

Matthew Duarte

Anna Spencer

Andrew Chute

Kaya Northway

Josh Capodagli

Linas Kairys

Jessica Haggeman

Red Hauser