Performing Arts Students Receive Valuable Career Advice from Professionals

Bienen freshman Noah Becker and School of Communication sophomore Sam Shankman learned why you shouldn’t skip the many networking events Northwestern offers—if you go, you’ll come away motivated, informed, and better prepared for your career pursuits.

Six students from Jones Residential College for Fine and Performing Arts and one student from the Communications Residential College sat down with NU alumni at Adventure Stage Chicago and Lookingglass Theatre during a Dec. 5 Theatre Trek to get career advice.

The trek, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Residential Services and Northwestern Career Advancement, took advantage of NU’s proximity to Chicago and its renowned theatre institutions, and the well-connected alumni there who want to be resources for NU students.

At Adventure Stage Chicago, students had a Q&A session with Producing Artistic Director and founder Tom Arvetis (NU Theatre ‘96) and a group of company members after a brief tour of its home in the Vittum Theater.

Becker, a jazz studies major and alto sax player, said he went on the trek because he wants to have a variety of arts careers—performance, audio engineering, composing and more—and he knew the professionals at the theatres would have valuable advice.

“I wanted to know, ‘What for me, at 19, can put me in the best possible position to have those options?’” Becker said.

Arvetis and other members spoke to students about how different skills, from business and administration to sound mixing, mesh with a career in performing arts. Students asked questions about artistic differences and how to navigate them, balancing a career and personal life, and how the performers found their niche.

“They talked about the misconception that they do a variety of things—directing, acting, funding—and then they settle somewhere,” Becker said. “It was encouraging to hear that doesn’t have to be the case--that they’re supporting themselves even if they’re part-time or full-time or wearing many different hats.”

Arvetis hosted the trek because he recognized how critical it is “to remember where one came from and remember what it was like to be where those students are now.” He hoped the trek would “give them an encouraging message of possibility, commitment and courage” in the face of the daunting post-graduation career search.

“For many (like myself), it’s the first time our priorities are not pre-defined. We have to name our priorities ourselves. And without guidance or mentorship, we can pretty quickly get lost, take unnecessary detours, get discouraged, etc,” Arvetis said. “It’s important to provide positive examples that inspire younger folks to hang in there, be brave and keep their eyes on the prize.”

Artistic Director and Northwestern Alumnus Andy White greeted students at Lookingglass Theatre, where he also did Q&A with students and reminisced about the makings of “Lookingglass Alice”, the company’s original production inspired by Lewis Caroll’s classic “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”.

Shankman, the artistic director of Jones, said it was inspiring to hear White speak about how he and other NU students put on the first Lookingglass Alice production in Northwestern’s very own Jones Great Room.

“Going on the trek, hearing about the humble beginnings of Lookingglass Theatre Company,” Shankman said, “just made that world seem so much more within arm’s reach.”