This week, we begin a conversation with Jen McClure, who is currently the properties master for Yale Repertory Theatre. Learn about when she ran away with the circus, her experience with puppets, and what that whole Yale thing is about.
Below is a transcript of this episode, edited for readability.
ASHLEY: Hey, welcome back to Silk Flowers and
ERIC: Papier Mache Hearts.
ASHLEY: Today we will be speaking with Jen McClure, who is actually my boss at Yale.
ERIC: I’m your host, Eric Hart.
ASHLEY: And I’m your host Ashley Flowers. Thanks for being with us today.
JEN: Yeah, of course! This is great.
ASHLEY: So let’s start off a little bit about how you kinda got into props. I know you have a background in ceramics, and you actually worked at the circus.
JEN: Yeah. So my education is in fine arts, so I have a Bachelor’s degree in ceramics and sculpture. I wasn’t really a theater kid growing up, so I didn’t really do theater in high school, I was never really a performer. But I did a lot of weird artistic things growing up –like pick up trash off the side of the road and paint it… My grandmother kind of did weird stuff like that so they were always kind of encouraging me to kind of play with things and do weird stuff. I didn’t really know that this was a whole job, that this was a thing that you could do, and a friend of mine, who was in community theater, her mom was doing props for one of the shows and kind of showed up at our house one day with a whole bunch of stuff she got from a flea market, and I was like, ‘Wait, people gave you money, you went shopping, and then you get to make stuff… that’s a job?! That’s kind of cool. I do that anyway.’ So, then when I went to art school — I transferred, I stayed in community college for a couple of years because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do — and then when I transferred, I got really lucky because a couple of my roommates were involved in the theater, and I said, ‘I’m kind of interested in this theater thing. I don’t know anything about it, but like, I like to make stuff.’ So they took me down to the theater department and said here’s the people, they said, ‘Great! You could be the props master! You can do it all!’ [ERIC: Hmmmm.] And that’s kind of how I got sucked in a little bit. There wasn’t really an education program devoted to props at the school that I went to. I went to Alfred University, which is really good for ceramics [ERIC: Right.] and they’ve got… they’re basically a liberal arts school and so they have a pretty small theater program, and their theater degree is– you kind of do a little bit of everything. So you learn performing and directing, a little bit of design basics, but it doesn’t really have a focus. Since I was doing the fine arts, I kind of was just doing that in my free time. I took a couple of those classes, but it was more just about working in the scene shop, kind of playing around and trying stuff on my own. This was in the wee days of the internet and YouTube, and it was hard to fall down YouTube holes cause there weren’t many videos to watch. So I read a lot of books and did a lot of research, and just tried to figure out how to do stuff.
ASHLEY: Now, after you graduated, you went and joined the circus and did some stuff there?
JEN: Yeah, so that came a little later. So I worked for a couple of summer stocks while I was in school, and then after being the props master for the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse for two summers up in the Finger Lakes up outside of Syracuse, New York, it’s in Auburn, New York… I met a bunch of people there who went on tours and were like, ‘We can get you a job with a tour’ and I knew that wouldn’t mean that I could make anything, but I knew that it would make me a lot of money. So I was like, okay. I’m pretty young. I’m not settled anywhere. Maybe I should try and do this thing and bank up some money before I figure out where I’m going to land myself. So I applied to a bunch of those, but there weren’t really a lot of openings at the time. So I took a couple little fill in jobs at that time, and did a couple overhire runcrews and stuff at a few theaters, and then a job with Ringling Brothers opened up on their props crew. And that was kind of crazy… they called me and said, “Do you wanna come?” and I was already having… at another job, and so they said, ‘As soon as you’re done with that job… the day after we’ll put you on a plane and fly you down here.’ They do a fun break in– usually in December into January where they go back, and if acts need to leave they switch out and re-rehearse. So that’s when I came in… January 20… mmm… 2007. Gosh, that’s a long time ago. [ASHLEY: (laughs)]. So I got to go to Miami in January, which was nice [chuckles] being from the northeast all the time, and I did that. It was mainly runcrew, so we had to load things in and out of all the different arenas. It was… pretty crazy. And very different from what I hear from, like, typical Broadway show tours, you know–where you’re travelling on a bus, kind of with the same ten people. I mean, we had the whole company of the circus that lived on the train, so we all had little tiny four foot by seven foot rooms– so smaller than a piece of plywood– rooms on the train. But it was nice because I had my own space, and I had a door that I could lock. And that was important. I didn’t have a bunk on a bus. [ERIC: Mhmm.] But the work was not super fulfilling. It was running shows, it was fixing broken things which got broken almost every show, because surprisingly they didn’t have very good systems for storing things. You would think that a company that was touring would have really great road boxes and really great little cubby systems that were padded, but they were just wrapping stuff in packing blankets and throwing it in a truck. I was like, Oh God. So I tried to kind of offer some solutions to fix things, but they didn’t always want them. It was tricky because it was, like, big arenas. It wasn’t even theaters, it was, like, concert like… giant venues. I mean… they do… Usually the tours — I mean, Ringling Brothers isn’t around anymore, they… A couple years ago, they kind of stopped all the touring shows. But what they used to do is every show would do a two year circuit, and then they had two big shows running and they had sort of a third small one. But the two big ones would kind of offset each other. So they would do– every year, the circus would come to Bridgeport, Connecticut or whatever, but it would be the red show, the blue show, the red show, the blue show. It would flip flop, because they would be in a different show. So the first year of the show, they call the ‘Rock Star Route’. They do Las Vegas, and Madison Square Garden, and like awesome places. And then the second year, they call ‘The Rodeo Route’ [ASHLEY: (laughs)] and they do Wheeling, West Virginia, and western Mass… these smaller places. That was the year that I was on, so I did not, sadly, get to perform in Madison Square Garden. But… I did get to see a lot of the East Coast, which is nice. I did that for six months, so I was on from January until June of that year. And May of that year is when I heard that this opening at Yale happened, so… In my previous in-between school work, I had done a little bit of overhire at Yale, and one of my friends was a carpenter there who had gone to Alfred as well. And so, I did a week load-in before Christmas and right after Christmas one year. The scenery crew didn’t have a lot of work the second week, so they were like, ‘Do you want to help props crew? That’s kind of what you wanna do anyway.’ So I just kind of helped schlep stuff for load-in and then kind of held a lot of things while people were doing stuff, but like, asked a ton of questions– Asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Hey, what’s this?’ ‘Hey, who are you?’… really introduced myself to everybody. And at the end of that week, the smartest thing that I ever did was left my resume there. So, when this job came up three years later, they actually reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we remember you, and you know, if you want to apply for this job… if you’re available…’ [ASHLEY: That’s awesome.] Yeah, so that was kind of really awesome. And that’s what kind of pulled me out of the circus. And it kind of pulled me out just at the right time, cause they were about to go into Texas for a month… in July. [ASHLEY: Oh, goodness.] [ERIC: Mmmmm.] And I was like, I don’t know that I want to be in Texas for a month in July. So I got to leave right at the right time. So the downer about the whole job was that it was running shows, and I am not running show person. I… It’s funny, because I really like tasks and jobs that have a lot of little repetitive motions, but I like those little repetitive motions for about a week and a half. And then I’m ready to move on to the next thing. So doing the same thing every day, running that show sometimes three times a day was like, NOT really where I wanted to be. So… it was just kind of tricky because I wasn’t really making things. It was a lot of running and maintaining. And then sadly not making much.
ERIC: Right. Was there anything that you picked up from the circus that you still use in your job?
JEN: Yeah! So there was a couple of weird things… they painted things a lot with… they would just spray paint things to be able to quickly spray paint things. So I actually picked up some really good techniques on spray painting, and I — one of the members of the props crew had been a graffiti artist, and so he kind of introduced me to like, hey there’s like different tips for these spray paint cans that you can get that can like really fine points and really wide points, and like make a flat line, and I was like ‘WhaAaAt?!’ So that was pretty cool, that I got… I had no idea that… So that was a really good thing to pick up. And then they coated everything in glitter. [ASHLEY & ERIC: (chuckle)] So I learned how to clear coat something, then take a palm full of glitter and just blow it on stuff, and it would stick. And then we would take basically like a printmaking roller, like a brayer, and we would flatten it all down, and then do that like three times, and then clear coat the hell out of it, and just spray it with a really-really thick coat of clear coat. But it was kind of interesting because I always thought that when you put coats of stuff over glitter that it would fall off, but it was actually really good to learn how to encapsulate that, because that’s one of the tricky things about glitter– it gets everywhere. [ERIC: Right.] So to try to learn how to make that not happen and not fall off and not snag peoples costumes as they walk by… Yeah. Those are probably like the big things. There was really interesting mechanics that I just didn’t get to do a ton with. During maybe my last month that I was there, I did get trained on driving one of the weird floats which also was super weird. Like, you would think that these things are, like, high-tech and kind of intuitive, like it would be made like a car, like it would be made with a steering wheel and like a brake and a gas pedal. But it was made like weird RC cars are, where it has two up and down toggles where like, front to back is left and right, and then up and down on the other side is go and slow, like fast and slow, like turtle and rabbit, right. So it was like you had to press up to turn right, and down to turn left, and it was, like, kind of weird. And then like, center was straight, there was just like, Go. That was weird, but I don’t really use that. [ERIC: Right, yeah.] But that was definitely like a weird specialized skill that I picked up there. But yeah, it was just… what I think it did do for me, is it made me think a lot about any time that we pack up a show to go somewhere else, is how damaged things can get in transportation, so any time that we transfer a show somewhere, it’s definitely something that’s still in my mind, of how to make sure nothing shifts and breaks, and that the show that you’re sending somewhere is going to arrive in the condition you sent it away in.
ASHLEY: So I know at some point you started doing puppets, and you’ve done a little bit of that. Can you talk about — well, one – how you got into that, what you like about it, and what the difference is of props– the normal props I should say — versus puppets.
JEN: Puppets are really fun and really great, and unfortunately at Yale Rep specifically we don’t do a lot of shows with puppets. I was really interested in them as kind of a craft, so I wound up doing a bunch of stuff in my free time — with big air quotes “FREE”… Spare time I guess? [laughs]. Time not at work. So there were– my first few years at Yale, I did a lot with the Yale Cabaret, which is a purely student-run extra-curricular organization that does maybe 15 to 18 shows a semester. They almost do one show a week. So there was a lot going on there, but it was students kind of doing a little bit weirder things, and trying to experiment a little bit. So there were a few good opportunities that came up through that, that I was able to make puppets with. But I also just kind of tried to like — because I wasn’t doing it at work, I was trying to find opportunities to let me do that. So there was a couple companies that would have puppet competitions that I was like, well maybe I’ll enter that just to give myself a deadline. I’m going to try to make a thing, but I have to have it done by this time because I’m one of the masters of starting a thing and never finishing a thing. Maybe that’s a topic later that we talk about. The graveyard of unfinished projects. Cause there’s a lot of that. So I found that if I had a deadline, and a purpose for doing things, that I could try to do it. I met a couple of people who were also doing some puppet-y things, and I just tried to jump on board with any opportunities that there were like that. So one of my friends was doing a puppet show that was sort of in partnership with the Mystic Aquarium, and I’m sort of a nut for all things nautical, so I was like, ‘Yes, please! I want to help in any way that I can.’ So I helped them make a couple of seahorse puppets, and a couple really big, weird octopus legs, and did a bunch of weird stuff for that. I mean, a lot of these things weren’t paid things, so as much as I kind of try now to encourage people to like, do things and get paid for them, there’s always kind of things that come up that you’re probably not going to get paid for, but the emotional fulfillment that you’re going to get out of it is just as much worth getting paid. But to do that, you have to actually have the free time to do that. You have to be getting paid in your normal job to have that free time. Yeah, so I did some stuff with that, I did some stuff with a local theater group called the Broken Umbrella Theater that some of our carpenters and things from Yale have started in New Haven… They kind of have a local group that I jumped into a little bit and helped make them some stuff. So it was really finding those opportunities when I didn’t have that opportunity in my normal job that I could still kind of grow and learn those skills. I kind of just pick up any books that I can find at yard sales and flea markets or whatever that are weird skills. So puppets in general are kind of pretty tricky for shows, because to be able to use them well, the performers really need them in rehearsal right away, you know. Because essentially that’s a character. And that’s a thing. And I mean… not to say that they can’t do it, but it can be tricky to teach an actor who’s never been a puppeteer to be an effective puppeteer. You know, puppeteer is kind of a skill, same as musician, right. Like, you can kind of do it a little bit, but to do it well requires training and practice.
ERIC: And do you do any performing with puppets?
JEN: Noooot realllllly, no. (laughs) [ASHLEY: (chuckles)] [ERIC: Okay.] Yeah, no, I really like to watch it, and I can get the nuance with it, but — there was one small show that I was in with the Broken Umbrella Theater that–I was like a side, background character. It was like, set in an old-timey bar in, like, maybe–I forget what even the time period of it was– and so a friend of mine who also had a puppeteer background– she has this beautiful, old marionette her grandfather had made. So she let me operate that, and then she played the saw… this song on the saw, and we were like this weird vaudeville act in the background of this bar. I didn’t really have to say anything or do much. But that was also a show that I designed the set for, and I worked on, so I was kind of hanging around and they were like, ‘We need something going on in the background’ and I was like, alright, I guess I’ll do that. It’s strenuous work, that puppeteering stuff. Like, you gotta really have some really good arm muscles and one really strong shoulder to be able to do this for a long time. It kind of requires a lot of people watching. Watching those tiny little nuances and adding that stuff in is really what makes puppets alive and really beautiful. But there’s something sort of interesting about them, to me, that is a reflection of people. You can watch a puppet do something so menial, like, sit in a chair, drink a glass of water, put it down. But, like, if it’s not done well, it’s like [disgusted] uughh. But if you forget that thing is just a hunk of wood and the people are doing it really well, it’s heart-wrenching to watch. Ah, that’s so beautiful. I watched a Ted Talk a bunch of years ago about the guys from Handspring Puppet Company that built all the Warhorse puppets, and oh my gosh, those are amazing and so beautiful. I went and saw Warhorse when it was still in Lincoln Center and they had really stupid cheap rush tickets, and they were like–they were really cheap because the seats were kind of crappy, they were in the first aisle, you know, the first row way, way off to the side on the aisle. But what I had heard was that the horses walk down the aisle [ERIC: Mhm.] [ASHLEY: Oh!] and so, I was like, ‘Oh, if that’s where they’re walking, I’ll take that seat. ‘ I don’t need to watch the whole play, but if I can see that horse up close when it walks by me — that’s what I want. That’s what I want this experience to be. Yeah, that was perfect. But those two guys did a Ted Talk where they talked about the horse, and if you can find it, it’s really wonderful and beautiful. They kind of talked about how they developed this thing. But they say this really wonderful thing that ‘People are spending their whole lives trying not to die, trying to fight death and stay alive. Puppets are already dead, and they’re fighting to be alive.’ (to herself)… err, right? Did I say that right? Maybe? I don’t know, maybe. Yeah, maybe I’ll find a quote, maybe cut it out and say there’s a beautiful quote and I’ll find it later. [ERIC & ASHLEY: (laugh)]. Yeah, they say something really, really beautiful that brings tears to your eyes, like ‘Yeah, that’s right!’ you know… we’re trying to breath life into this thing that doesn’t exist… We’ve already got the life, so we’re kind of taking it for granted, and we’re trying to put life into these really beautiful things. It’s those little tiny things, it breathing, and moving that are the things that we take for granted that are so beautiful in a puppet. I wish that I could do more of it, and meh, maybe someday. Maybe I’ll get a little bit of that. Some summer, when I’m not super busy, the big — there’s a big puppet conference that happens at the Eugene O’Neill theater in Connecticut every year. It’s like an international puppet conference [ERIC: Right.] [ASHLEY: Oh, that’s cool.] that maybe someday I’ll actually get strong enough to apply and then try to go.
ERIC: And the University of Connecticut has one of the few puppet MFA programs, right?
JEN: Right, yeah, yeah. Correct, yeah. So I looked at it very, very briefly, but I didn’t know if I– if it was gonna want to satisfy me forever. Because that was one of the things that kind of… Didn’t scare me, but kind of, I was aware of– even when I was in art school, I was like, ‘I don’t think I can be just a studio artist forever.’ You know? I don’t think I could go and do the same thing. I’m not going to be happy just going and throwing pots every day, or painting every day. Which is why props is so great! We’re constantly doing something weird and different. There’s definitely scatterbrain-ness about me that I… that props satisfies. Focusing in any one thing kind of terrified me, which is why I was, like, ‘I don’t even know… Maybe if I did puppets, I would start to hate them?’ So the fact that I get to do them occasionally is what makes them really fun. But it’s also hard to become really great at that ‘thing’, because the people who are masters have done it their whole lives. So, yeah.
ERIC: Cool. Is there a particular style of puppet you like working with most?
JEN: Umm… I don’t know. I mean, I really like things that have more mechanics, so. The engineering that goes into the foam creation, and all the shapes that go into the muppets are interesting to me. But, when— either rod puppets or marionette puppets have just really bizarre — not bizarre, but have really complex movements, that just function so, so well– that’s really where I find, I think, the magic is. I kind of am interested a lot in automata. Some people say “AUTO–MATA” and some people say “AU–TOM–A–TA” or “AU-TOM–A–TONS”… I don’t know which is right. But I say “auto–mata” it’s probably wrong, but that’s fine… I’m kind of interested a lot in that kind of, just, mechanical machines, and the way that you don’t need hydraulics and pneumatics and crazy things to make stuff work. With some string and pulley and a rubber band, you can get a lot of really interesting stuff to happen. So yeah. It’s those ones that have some sort of mechanism is really what interests me creatively.
ASHLEY: So I’d like to switch over a little bit and talk about Yale, because you’re the props master there. [JEN: Mhm.] What is the relationship between Yale Repertory Theatre and the Yale School of Drama?
JEN: Sure. So, The Yale Rep– what the analogy of the school likes to use, is that The Yale Rep is sort of like the teaching hospital to the School of Drama. So the School of Drama is a graduate level program that exists as a training institution, and then the Yale Rep Theatre is giving all the designers that are learning at the school an opportunity to use those skills that they’re developing in school, and also to work closely with professionals out in the field. So, often directors are either faculty or outside directors that are brought in, and then the designers kind of rotate between the graduating students in each of the disciplines – between lighting design and costume design and sets…sometimes outside set designers and lighting designers, as well as our faculty being sprinkled in there as well. Sometimes if sets and lights are students, then maybe, costumes might be an outside designer. But it just is giving the students an opportunity to start kind of working with other professional people they’re going to work with in the rest of their career. And then the rest of the School of Drama productions are completely student-run… directed, acted, designed, everything. Typically, for the Yale Rep shows, they’re technically designed– the technical directors are students, either second or third year TD students, and it kind of splits between whether the designers are students or outside professionals. The way that my department specifically functions is that the prop department works mainly and focuses on the Yale Rep shows. There’s five main Yale Rep shows every year, and my crew between me, and there’s two staff people — so Ashley, and then our craftsman, David Schrader — are the staff for those productions. Then, for the student shows, there are students assigned to be the props masters, and technically those are technical direction students that are assigned to those, and then I advise them for that process. But unfortunately, just because of the size of our shop and the amount of time that we have, we all get to help build those shows. So those students wind up having work study students that help them, or have to do a lot of that work themselves. So those are tricky positions. [ERIC: Right.] For every one of the main Yale Rep shows, we’re assigned one of the technical direction students to be the assistant props master, so as part of their training, they’re kind of learning how I budget, and how we divy things up between the shops, and how jobs get distributed and how to deal with rehearsal notes — so they’re with us every day in the shop after their classes to see that whole process all the way through from budgeting through tech and opening.
ASHLEY: And usually these students have no background in props.
JEN: Yeah, yeah. Because we don’t have a props-focused track in our program, so the students that we’re getting are technical direction students. And our technical direction program has a high focus also on production management, so we sort of get a split between students that want to be TD’s and students that want to be production managers. So it’s a high possibility that we get a student who kind of has a lot of production management background, but has almost like, no craft skills, and almost no knowledge of props. So even though they’re graduate students, they may have kind of seen props being done, but– so it’s a little tricky, but also one of the great things I think about working there, is that every show you get a new person who you’re kind of starting over with, and you don’t know what they know. You get to teach them all the things that they don’t know, but also because you’re getting new people every year, you can sort of pick up things that are happening out in the rest of the industry. So whether it’s new tools that are coming on the market and being used, or whether it’s new procedures or just the designers that people have been working with–you don’t get stuck in your insular corner of the community. You really get the new ideas being brought in from the students. [ERIC: Mhm.] That’s kind of great. And it’s nice that they’re graduate students, and they want to be there, you know, and they’re a little more focused. There’s a really fun energy from undergrad students, though, that is also kind of infectious and that kind of thing. I had the opportunity to go to one of the KCACTF festivals this past year and be a respondent for them, and that was invigorating to be around students that aren’t, like, jaded yet. [ERIC: Right.] [ASHLEY: (laughs)]. That actually still really like theater. And then they’re also doing shows that, you know.. I mean, the Yale Rep is a pretty big, prestigious theater, but there’s something a little bit freeing about doing a show that less people are going to see, and maybe it’s not perfect, you know, but it’s getting an idea out there and it’s getting people to practice their skills, that you know, there’s a little less pres—I don’t want to say that it’s less pressure, but like a little less pressure…
ERIC: A different kind of pressure. [ASHLEY: (laughs)]
JEN: Yeah, yeah, exactly. You still want to make the best show that you can, but sometimes it’s about people trying a thing, and maybe they haven’t done it before, and that’s okay. The fun — but also year after year, show after show, you do wind up seeing the same things over and over, so you have to be okay with that. You just have to remember, ‘Oh that’s right, the last student knew that, and this student doesn’t know that.’ So I kind of have a mental list of all the things that I have to remember to say when they come in the shop. You know, like here’s where the tools are, here’s who to talk to, here’s what we do… and also don’t forget to do this thing, because you can’t rely on somebody knowing, oh, they’re supposed to do that. You have to remember they’re not going to instinctively do that thing that you’ve been trained to do for your career. [ASHLEY: Mhm.] Sometimes when you forget that, like ‘oh why are they not doing that?’ like, right, because I never told them to do that.
ERIC: Cool. And I remember, you had brought up previously an interest in starting up a props MFA program in Yale.
JEN: Yeah, it would be really exciting, it’s literally been like– that’s been the conversation. What if we were maybe able to have an MFA program? It hasn’t gotten much further than just sort of being a conversation in a meeting with four other people. [ERIC: Right.] What if, you know. It would be really interesting, and there’s just not a lot of places where people can get that kind of training. [ERIC: Mhm.] And get that kind of education, you know. It would be nice to be one of those places. I mean, the tricky thing is that we don’t have a lot of space, and we don’t even have enough space to help with our student shows, so, you know, if we were to try to add even one or two students per year that were always in our shop and trying to find the opportunities for them to really learn, we kind of have to take a little bit of a back step on how we’re doing work now to make sure that we could give those students a really good education. But it also– you know, there’s plenty of schools out there that are only having one or two people in their program per year, so… the thing I’m trying to remember is it’s not like you have to start a program and expect that you’re going to get ten students every year. There’s schools that are succeeding with one.
ASHLEY: So, Yale also does a technical internship. Can you talk about, specifically, the props internship, something I did a couple of years ago.
JEN: Yeah, sure. I mean, you might [ASHLEY: I’ll chime in too (laughs)]. Yeah, you might be able to give a good synopsis of it too. So most of our technical shops have–I think we call it the technical internship or something excessive… It’s a little different from other internships out there because it’s still a part of the School of Drama. So for half of the time that you’re there, you actually get to take classes at the graduate level with the rest of the graduate students…
ASHLEY: But only half of them. So three a semester you can audit a fourth.
JEN: Yeah, so where a normal student’s typical semester course load is either six classes overloading to seven, they take three classes. So that would be three a semester, maybe audit a fourth, so over a year that you’re there, you get to take somewhere between six and eight graduate level classes at the School of Drama. And then– so that takes about twenty hours out of your week between all of those classes, and then the other twenty hours of your week go into the shop. The way that our class schedule is sort of set up is that, typically, classes are in the mornings until about two in the afternoon, and then at two everyone shifts over to their production work. So then, in the afternoon, we get the students in the shop from about two to six every day. And that’s the same for our technical direction students that are assigned to the shows as well. So it’s a little different than other internships where you’re purely, purely in the shop. But I think it’s a really interesting bridge for people to jump into out of undergrad, where maybe they want to go to grad school but they’re not sure yet. Or maybe they just want to take a few more classes but don’t want to commit to three years of grad school, you know. So I kind of like to say it’s like grad school light. You’re getting the chance to take graduate level classes, but it’s only a one year commitment. The downer of it is, is that, because you are in school, and because you’re taking those classes, there is still a tuition that’s associated with that. But it’s only half the typical tuition, because it’s only three classes. But the financial aid program is really, really generous, and pretty good, very need based, and most people come out with almost no debt between getting their financial aid package, and then work study opportunities that they pick up while they’re there. I mean, did you come out horribly in debt?
ASHLEY: I was fine, I came out with no debt or anything, didn’t have to take out loans.
JEN: Yeah, so, it’s a pretty interesting program. We can take up to two interns every year, and we don’t get a lot of applications, so anybody hearing this out in the world, please, please apply. I think that a lot of people sort of self-select themselves, and think, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough to get into Yale’… the point of this internship and this program is like, yeah, you’re not good enough, come and learn something. We’ve taken people who have barely touched props before, and sort of were like, ‘I don’t even know if I want to do this.’ And we’ve taken people who have been out working for a few years and come back and have wanted to learn some things. We have a wide range of people who are applying, but it’s a pretty great opportunity. And there’s a huge range of skills to learn from our people in our shop. I mean, our craftsman has been in our shop for close to thirty years. I’ve been there for twelve. Ashley’s been in… this is the end of her second year. [ASHLEY: Yeah, second year.] What’s interesting too is that we all have really diverse backgrounds. I haven’t really freelanced much, you did. Our craftsman has a huge wealth of knowledge about furniture repair and that sort of stuff. I’m really interested in mold making and have an art background, so we have a really diverse group of people that the interns can learn from, that I think that they benefit from a lot too.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I think what makes this internship very different to other props internships that I have done is— non-Yale internships, I was doing very small projects, I was assisting other artisans, I wasn’t really doing a big project. And when I got to Yale, you’re doing a little bit, but then you’re suddenly thrown to the wolves, it felt like, you’re like, oh let’s do this large project now, we’re gonna take you through it and we’re gonna hold your hand, but you’re going to do it, and the next one, we’re not going to hold your hand.
JEN: I think we’re throwing you to the wolves with some tools and a whole bunch of food.
ASHLEY: (laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.
JEN: So you’ve got all the things to succeed, but there’s the chance of that wolf coming to get you if you don’t work hard.
ASHLEY: But it’s good. It was a great experience, and I learned a ridiculous amount of knowledge, and felt extremely prepared to go out into the world, where before I was like, I’ve used this saw once before.
JEN: Yeah, my big thing about it is that, I know that it’s an education opportunity, and I want students to come out of that with more information than they came in with. So it’s definitely not a ‘Hey, watch me do this and go get me coffee and you’re gonna clean up stock every day.’ type of thing. It’s very — I want it to be really hands-on because I want those students to come out with a whole bunch of stuff in their portfolio that they didn’t have before, and they can, you know, go get a job. You know, I mean, you came out of there and went and jumped into New York and were prepared enough to come back. One of our interns this year got a job at Milwaukee Rep as one of their artisans, so it’s a good training program.
ASHLEY: Well, guys, I think that’s going to be the end of this episode. Thank you for listening to Silk Flowers and…
ERIC: Papier Mache Hearts. And thank you to our guest, Jen McClure.
JEN: (chuckles) Thank you so much for having me.
ASHLEY: If you have any questions or want to give us a topic that you guys want to hear, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We also have a twitter account you can check out at silkmache…
ERIC: Find us on Itunes and GooglePlay. Rate us, review us.
ASHLEY: Alright. We’re going to finish up this conversation next week, so tune in then. Thank you!
Transcription by Victoria Ross.