OHS student builds sets for Fireside Theatre

Oregon High School student, Claire Michels, helps build a set for the Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson earlier this summer as part of an internship through the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

What started as just a whim has turned into a possible career path for Claire Michels.

Michels, who’ll be a senior this fall at Oregon High School, embarked on a theatre internship opportunity through the University of Wisconsin-Parkside earlier this summer.

She “applied on a whim” for the chance to work as a technical assistant for UW-Parkside’s Klopcic Scene Shop and for an internship with Children’s Theatre of Madison. Michels was chosen for both, but decided to accept the UW-Parkside/Fireside internship opportunity.

During the course of the internship, which lasted from June 17 to July 15, Michels built sets for Fireside Dinner Theatre productions, based out of Fort Atkinson. She and other students also took part in a “rigorous” program to handle “set and prop construction, painting and installation in a professional setting,” according to a UW--Parkside news release.

The show she helped build sets and props for was the production of “Annie the Musical.” According to the news release, the interns built the set “overnight” at the Fireside on Sunday, July 14.

Michels said she and her fellow interns were also enrolled in an independent study in technical theatre through the university arts department. Having little knowledge of how to build sets before this opportunity, Michels said she learned how to use different types of saws, drills and other tools.

“Additionally, she picked up on essential crafting and safety skills needed for this line of work,” the release states. “On top of that, she’s gained other skills she didn’t expect, such as learning how to live away from home, with roommates and how to collaborate with other interns on making the set.”

She said was on her lunch break at school when she “got the call” that she was accepted. Michels was so elated, she could hardly contain her excitement. Michels said working with a professional theatre company was a goal of hers, since she planned on pursuing a career in the field beyond high school.

She had to submit an application along with letters of recommendation from Oregon School District teachers. Michels then went through interviews with UW-Parkside staff and she was among four candidates selected.

And after staying on the UW-Parkside campus for almost a month, Michels said she’s going to apply for college there this winter.

“Overall, I’m glad I took a risk in applying for and accepting this internship,” Michels said. “It has taught me a lot about myself and the world of theatre. That will help me as I am applying for schools in the next year.”

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.