Name: Paul Kappel, '10
Major: Theatre Arts (Arts Management Concentration)
Minor: Business Administration
Activities: Director, Subject to Change (improv comedy troupe)
Vice President, University Players
Business Manager, Alpha Psi Omega (dramatic honor fraternity)

Paul Kappel is putting to work what he learned in his arts management courses by spending 8 weeks of his summer as a Development Intern at Arena Stage, a regional theater in Washington, D.C. The internship is paid through the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program of the Volunteer Fairfax organization, a stipend is designed to encourage college-aged students to work in the non-profit world.

What kind of theater is Arena Stage?

It’s the nation's leading regional theater and it’s in its 58th year. But it’s not just great regional theater; it is largely responsible for the whole regional theater movement in the 20th century, pioneering the concept of doing art for art's sake, not for profit. It’s seen some pretty significant events, including the first American performance behind the Iron Curtain in Russia. Area Stage was the first regional theater to win a Tony Award, and the first regional theater to move a production to Broadway, but the most important chapter in its history might be unfolding right now. Arena Stage is currently undergoing a $125 million renovation of its southwest D.C. home into a national center for American plays, under the leadership of artistic director Molly Smith. Arena has found that it is where "American theatre lives" and is dedicated to pursuing that goal. It's pretty awe-inspiring to go in to work each day knowing that.

How’d you land the gig? What made you apply to this particular internship and what was the application process like?

I had actually never heard of Arena Stage until the fall semester of 2007 when Professor David Howson's managing performing arts organizations class went on a field trip to D.C. to Arena Stage and the Kennedy Center. The next semester I went up to D.C. with a couple of friends to see a show at Arena and I was completely astounded with the quality of the art on stage. I knew then that this would be a great place to do an internship in development, especially while they are completing the $125 million capital campaign.

After some initial phone interviews, I traveled up to their temporary headquarters in Crystal City for a full interview. After the interview I went on a tour with two of the directors of development and they offered me the job on the spot. I really credit Professor Kathleen Panoff, who’s also the executive director for the Modlin Center, for helping me learn to speak confidently in the area of development for the success in my interview.

So what’s an average day like as an Arena Stage intern?

It begins at 9:30am and consists of work on any of a number of current projects that I have.  On any given day, I could be working on grant writing, donor acknowledgments or eBay auction, and of course some general office work as well. I rarely can predict what each day will entail, but always go home at 6:00pm satisfied with what I have accomplished. The days when I actually get to meet and speak with trustees and donors are the best.

Do you see connections between what you’ve learned in your arts management courses and what you’re seeing in practice on the job?

To say that I’ve seen connections would be an understatement. What I'm doing in my internship IS the material I learned in my course-work. The arts management program is very project oriented, giving us real and legitimate experience in writing grants, creating campaigns, donor relations, etc. I share an office with one of the grant writers, and just the other day I was able to offer her help when she was stuck writing a grant. The advice I offered her-- "you need to better convey the story of this organization"-- came directly from one of my arts management courses. It doesn't get much more real than that.

Are there any perks that come with the job? (Meeting interesting people, free passes to events, bottomless cups of coffee, you name it.)

I do get to see the current production for free, but perhaps the biggest perk is that come July, I will be getting my own office. Somehow during a recent office reshuffle, I will no longer have an office-mate (I was already lucky to only have one, some folks have three). But in all honesty the biggest perk is just being in the midst of the whole fundraising engine of Arena Stage. I learn so much every day just by overhearing conversations and working with people who have decades of experience in the field.

The summer’s over and you’re back at Richmond. In an ideal world, what will you have gotten out of the internship experience? Where do you see yourself working after you graduate?

As valuable as the arts management course work is, there really are some things that just cannot be learned in any classroom, and I think this is the reason why the internship has been made a component of the concentration. I will walk away from this internship with an amazing amount of information on not just how any organization works, but how Arena Stage does. I think that the specificity of that experience with any organization will be an example of the good (and bad) things which can happen, and will only improve my problem-solving and management skills in the future.

After graduation, I see myself working in development specifically at a regional theater. It's not that I am opposed to other non-profit organizations, but my passion is really for the theater arts and development. I think you have to believe whole-heartedly in the organization you work for.