This past spring, Caitlin McQuade ’18 took the class “Performing Women,” which piqued her interest in the world of contemporary theatre. During the semester, McQuade realized that she had spent much of her theatrical education studying classics in their traditional forms. “While I love the classics, this course inspired me to start seeking out new works that are really pushing the conventions of theatre and allowing new voices in,” she said.
As part of Performing Women, McQuade read the work of an artist affiliated with The Orchard Project, a non-profit arts incubator in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Now, this summer McQuade is working as an apprentice with the Project, assisting artists in residence over the course of three sessions.
Founded 11 year ago, the organization gives aspiring artists and groups the time and space to work on new projects and perfect their acts. Through the support of individual sponsors, the Project spends nearly $400,000 on venue rentals, plus the cost of lodging and meals for artists whose applications are approved. From Memorial Day to July 4, artists with the Project fine-tune and rehearse their pieces in the hopes of attracting commercial sponsors.
By shadowing the talented group of artists working with the Project, McQuade has gathered new techniques and exercises which she can directly apply to her own study of theatre. “I continue to be interested not only in acting, but also in directing, playwriting, dramaturgy and devised theatre. The Orchard Project is a great opportunity for me to meet and observe working artists from all of these disciplines,” she said.
Hometown: Portland, Conn.
High School: Classical Magnet School
Each morning after the group warms up, McQuade gets a schedule of the day. Most mornings, she is able to participate in a workshop with one of the artists in residence. In the afternoon, she assists the artists in their rehearsal spaces, a task entirely dependent on the artist and his or her needs. Sometimes she is charged with gathering props and rehearsal supplies, other times she serves as an actor in a reading and is asked to give feedback.
In the upcoming fall semester, McQuade is co-directing All’s Well that Ends Well with Frankie Outlaw, and will be completing a theatre thesis next year. She will carry the lessons she has learned from the Project into future work, a valuable leg up in a risky industry. “Working in theatre can often be an unstable thing, since you are often moving from project to project. So it’s very valuable for me to get to meet people who are making theatre lifestyle work,” McQuade said.