OPPS #ONSCENE with Jose Gamo, Former Intern at The 52nd Street Project
Tell us about yourself:
My parents are Filipino, but I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I attended an international school up until high-school and then came to New York City for Fordham University as a theatre major.
My journey as an artist began in high school. I was a member of the speech and debate team in an exchange program and the theatre team traveling with us needed extras for their show, so I got pulled into the mix. Not long after, I was Mercutio in my school's production of Romeo and Juliet and it just kept going from there. Being an Asian artist, I'm committed to throwing myself onto as many stages as possible to help tip the representation scales.
Indirectly, I've always loved roleplaying video-games, particularly ones where the character you play as is a blank slate. I love inserting myself into imaginary worlds, and I think that's where my love for performance comes from.
Tell us about your internship experiences with The 52nd Street Project:
I love them! I interned at The 52nd Street Project the Fall of 2015, and have volunteered there ever since, acting/directing/writing in their shows with kids, and also being a part of their Smart Partners mentoring program. The internship program is an opportunity to see how the organization works and to help grease its wheels. Interns do a variety of things across all aspects of the organization: assisting in the Project's after-school Homework Help program, playing with the kids during free-time, child-wrangling and supporting the kids during writing retreats outside the city, playing small parts and being backstage crew in the professional productions they do with kids, and whatever other errands might need to get done in between.
The internship is unpaid, so really the main cost is your time. But if you have an interest in the arts, particularly arts education, it's a very insightful experience and a great opportunity to meet people you can continue to work with. Anyone is eligible for the internship. I think what they are especially looking for though are people who are interested in arts education and/or working with kids, since that's the majority of the work. And of course people who possess basic office/organizational skills. There are three periods where interns are selected: Fall, Spring, and Summer.
The building is accessible to all, and in my time there I have known one kid who has participated in many of their programs who is wheelchair-user. Some of the tasks like running backstage crew can be more physically challenging, but the core of the internship is working with and taking care of the kids.
What do you think are the benefits and challenges of being a young artist?
The benefits of being a young artist are knowing lots of other young artists who are excited about making things, many of whom will one day be leaders in their professions, and having the energy and glorious naïveté to believe in and pursue great dreams. As for challenges of being a young artist, well that you are young and inexperienced, which means it's hard to know what you're worth and how to advocate for yourself. Others can see you as young and inexperienced, which can make them devalue you and your contributions. People can believe giving you an opportunity is reason not to treat you well.
What would you say to people who think theatre isn’t for them?
That they're probably not seeing or haven't seen the right theatre.
That it's probably not their fault, since a lot of professional theatre is expensive and catered to a richer, whiter, straighter, non-disabled audience.
But also that the right theatre for them is out there or coming.
What would you change about New York City theatre to make it more accessible for young people?
Prices! Particularly with Broadway and the like, who are the face of New York City theatre for better or worse, it's hard just to get yourself in the room, let alone to see something that is actually meaningful to you. And the more diverse we can be with our stories and storytellers, the more we can invite in demographics who don't traditionally find themselves in the theatre.