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Rai’s Turn

In October of 2011, I was experiencing one of the worst semesters of my life. I was a junior at Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University studying scenic design and technical direction. My school life and personal life were messes and I knew I needed to get away for a semester. I began to research internships and stumbled across this little company called Performing Arts Abroad. Through them, I was presented with the opportunity to do a technical theatre internship in Italy. I leapt at the chance. It was not only something I wanted to do, but something I knew I needed to do.

One year later, I was off on the greatest adventure of my life in Florence, Italy. I was to be studying for two weeks at a local school called Florence University of the Arts and, for the remainder of my three months, I would be working in the Teatro Della Pergola. This theater is one of the oldest theaters in the region that is still in its original building. Here, I learned about the Italian touring circuit and how to run a hemp house. For those of you who don’t know what a hemp house is, it is a theater whose rigging system is done with pulleys, ropes, and sandbags that move per show. Most American theaters have a counter-weighted system where the rigging is in a set position at all times. However, the majority of the things I learned at the Teatro Della Pergola were not about theater, but myself.

When you are in a foreign country, on your own, it is hard not to learn about yourself. I realized that I had not only gone to Italy to improve my skills in theater, though I did; I had gone to improve myself. Changing yourself isn’t something that happens over night. I accomplished it by stepping far out of my comfort zone. I spoke to an Italian in Italian and he didn’t laugh. I crawled across a grid that hung 100 feet in the air. I traveled to foreign countries on my own, and I survived. Stepping out of my little box didn’t kill me, instead I thrived. I had gained something that I never had before, confidence in myself. I came back to the United States as a different person than the one that had left just three months before.

Today, that confidence has propelled me through graduation and into the beginning of what I hope to be an exciting career. I am a graduate of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University’s class of 2013. Currently, I am the Assistant Props Master at Stages St. Louis. I love my job and I feel that my internship gave me the skills and more importantly the confidence to accomplish my goals. I don’t know where I will be going next but I do know I will be able to face whatever may come.

Rai Feltmann

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