By Frank Portillo
The Theater Arts Department partnered with the Center Theatre Group to make East Los Angeles College its official higher education partner.
“It’s a pretty overwhelming honor … They’ve been pursued by many schools before, and we’re even talking four-year universities with really impressive programs. They decided to choose ELAC out of all those schools for their education partner,” Faculty member Jessica Hansen said.
The head of the education program for CTG Camille Schenkkan said that ELAC was selected because of Theater Arts department’s commitment to career development services “at an extremely high level.”
“The Theater Department in particular is focusing on career readiness for all of the theater students. They’re also thinking of areas within non-profit live theater, where we need additional career development and support,” Schenkkan said,
“Instead of training people for jobs that don’t exist, they’re talking to their students about how the industry works and helping them get acclimated within that industry so they can hopefully step into a career once they’re through with their education.”
Hansen said that the organization is the largest theater company in the Western states, grossing $15 million in an annual budget.
The local theaters that fall under the CTG umbrella are the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre and the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
“They are a center hub for employment and what’s happening in theater … They have a really amazing education program and it has a couple of different parts to it,” Hansen said.
She said that CTG does outreach in the community, but focuses mainly on the East Los Angeles/Boyle Heights area.
As a result, CTG offers exclusive internship opportunities for ELAC theater students.
Aside from the exclusive internships, CTG offers both ELAC and high school students specialized workshops.
The group has a costume and prop shop that is located near ELAC’s main campus, offering students possible courses and fellowships.
Schenkkan has appeared on the main campus for workshops such as teaching students how to create resumes for the professional world, which differ from normal job resumes.
The partnership began because of staff members who are still engaged in the theater community outside of school duties and who have a connection with the group.
The Theater Arts Department has also participated in events with CTG such as career fairs.
“The key for them is that we, here in our department, focus on career preparation so that our students understand not just how to make theater and how to do it well, but how to make a living doing it. That really has been a key to why they were attracted to our program … They like that we focus on all aspects of theater, especially stuff on the technical end,” Hansen said,
“We’ve had a lot of students apply and receive internships by them … Having an internship at Center Theater Group, for someone who does theater, that is a really big deal. I didn’t do that. I wish I had that on my resume when I was a student. The students are automatically benefiting from the partnership. Just being able to say that ‘I’m from ELAC’ and ELAC is officially recognized by this famous theater company. That benefits all of our students who study theater,” Hansen said.
Hansen said that the department has received students who choose to begin their college career with ELAC because of the word of mouth from CTG at their events, adding to the population on campus
“It’s a pretty big deal for our students and our faculty because our faculty has worked hard for something like this to happen,” Hansen said.
Hansen said that another perk of the partnership with TCG is for the department to receive complimentary tickets for students to see professional productions that they normally wouldn’t be able to.
Hansen said that students also have easy access to Schenkkan for professional advice
Alumnus and professional theater actor Peter Mendoza has acted at all three theaters at some point in his acting career.
“The theater scene is LA is very small. There are only a handful of big theaters like Center Theatre Group and the Geffen Playhouse. They’re like the broadway of LA,” Mendoza said.