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Interns get logistical, artistic experience at FestivALL

By Laura Reston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the next few weeks, Katilin Kouns, a Nitro High School senior, will have to forgo afternoons by the pool and trips with her friends. She instead plans to spend the first month of her summer passing out flyers, running errands, and catering to temperamental musicians.

Kouns has landed an internship for FestivALL -- the annual celebration that brings artistic performances and events to Charleston for 10 days every summer.

Kouns will work behind the scenes to coordinate musical performances and develop a unique perspective on festival production. 

Initiated in 2004, FestivALL showcases already popular, local productions and débuts original performances from larger companies. The program includes productions by the Charleston Light Opera Guild and Mountain Stage. Other annual events include the Smoke-on-the-Water Chili Cook-Off, riverboat rides, a dance gala and The Mayor's Concert, among others.

But FestivALL 2013 marks the first time that organizers decided to use interns to help orchestrate the events. 

Chrissy Preservati, a FestivALL board member, has spearheaded the internship program.

She has interned for the Spoleto Festival, where she fell in love with the fast-paced, energetic and unpredictable atmosphere. Her experience at Spoleto, in Charleston, S.C., prompted her to encourage organizers to initiate a similar program for FestivALL.

"I thought it would be neat to have some young energy," Preservati said.

Earlier this spring, she promoted the internship program at local high schools and sifted through the applications to eventually choose six to eight high school- and college-age students from the Charleston area.

The internship program will expand the pool of people who come back year after year to participate and organize the event, Preservati said.

She has assigned interns to help organize musical productions, dance and theater performances, the art fair and the parade on Capitol Street, events on the West Side and volunteer coordination.

"They'll probably have interns run around town doing a bunch of legwork -- typical intern stuff," Preservati said.

Nick Staples, who recently graduated from George Washington High School, has been completing logistical paperwork and running errands for the dance and theater component of FestivALL for a month now. 

When FestivALL officially begins, he will attend dance events, coordinate performers and ensure that everyone remains on the same page.

Kouns has been working for the musical performances and Mountain Stage.

Last week, she attended Live on the Levee where she distributed flyers.

When FestivALL begins, Kouns will perform some of the same tasks as Staples, including handing out paychecks, fetching water and ensuring that everyone remains happy.

"I go wherever I'm needed," Kouns said.

Both students will have to communicate between performers and directors.

"I'm glad that I'm developing that skill now, instead of going into my career blind," Kouns said.

Preservati added that the internship offers a valuable opportunity to work with pioneers in the local art world.

Staples, for example, has been able to work closely with Nina Pasinetti, the director of dance performances.

Staples said that Pasinetti has become a role model and inspires him daily.

"She has a vision from day one and she's able to expand on that vision all the way until opening night," Staples said.

One day Staples hopes that he can adopt her adept directorial style as she balances casting, acting and organizing.

"She puts together such professional shows," Staples said. "It could almost be a show in New York City."

Preservati noted that these skills would help interns juggle a variety of tasks under the high-pressured and unpredictable environment of an art festival.

"With any large scale live event, there are so many factors that have to come together," Preservati said. "[The interns] are just going to have to wing a lot of things and to figure out what it's like the real world, finding out what can go wrong and how to make it go together."

Both Staples and Kouns agree that their prior artistic experience has helped them manage these mix-ups.

Staples was president of the theater program at George Washington High School. Kouns, a member of the Charleston Light Opera Guild, has also participated in high school theatrical productions.

"[The program] appeals to a lot of creative-minded students," Preservati said. "A lot of them are in very creative fields like musical theater or graphic design."

Both Staples and Kouns hope to pursue the arts while in college.

Staples will attend Pace University in New York City next year to study musical theater.

Kouns will apply to college in the fall, but she already know that she wants to major in vocal performance or theater with a joint business degree and eventually become a director.

"Performing is my main love," Kouns said.

For students involved, Preservati said that FestivALL offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"An arts festival is a one of a kind atmosphere," Preservati said. "It's very invigorating, especially for people who love the arts to begin with." 

Kouns has already come to appreciate the invigorating environment at FestivALL.

"I love FestivALL and seeing how the community gets together," Kouns said. "This is a very unique thing, it's very, very cool." Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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