D&P student earns dream internship building sets for "Hamilton"

As any pickle knows, there is no such thing as a wasted summer during your time at UNCSA. Some students spend months searching for the right opportunity that will give them real world experience, networking and pieces to add to their portfolio.

Rising 4th year Scenic Technology student Justin Fenniman didn’t have to go far to find his perfect fit as Shop Floor Intern at Hudson Scenic Studio. He applied and interviewed at Design & Production’s annual Job Fair in February. With Hudson’s impressive credits of building the original sets of “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Cats,” it’s safe to say that it was a summer that Fenniman will never forget. 

We caught up with Fenniman to learn more about what projects he worked on this summer and the most important things he learned: 

What was your role this summer at Hudson Scenic Studio?

This summer I had the pleasure of being the Shop Floor Intern. I worked in both the Iron Shop and Carpentry Shop building scenery for multiple productions including a production of “Hamilton” that is opening in Puerto Rico and “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” a play opening this fall on Broadway. 

Editor’s note: “Bernhardt/Hamlet” is a world premiere production opening September 2018, written by Theresa Rebeck and starring Janet McTeer as legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt who set out to take on the title role in a production of Shakespeare's “Hamlet.”

Justin Fenniman

Fenniman spent his summer interning at Hudson Scenic Studio in New York who has built sets for major Broadway shows including "Hamilton." / Photo: David Korins via Hudson Scenic

What was your favorite project you participated in?

My favorite project was working on “Hamilton.” It was the first job I started working on when I began my internship. It was great to be thrown right into the middle of the build and trying to find my way through the shop was intimidating and exhilarating. 

How did you find out about this opportunity?

I found out about this opportunity through UNCSA’s Job Fair and through Hudson Scenic Studio’s website. I applied online and I interviewed with Bridget Van Dyke (Scenic Tech ’13), Production Manager, at Job Fair.

What did you learn from this experience?

Every day at my internship, I have learned something new and exciting. I’ve seen new pieces of hardware that I’ve never used before. I’ve learned just because someone’s your boss, doesn’t mean they always have the right answers. The most important thing I learned was how to work smarter, not harder. Some workers in the shop have been working at Hudson Scenic for over 20 years and they don’t want to waste time on problems that have manageable solutions, so they come up with simple solutions to make everyday jobs easier on themselves.

Justin Fenniman in D&P shop

Justin Fenniman working in the D&P scene shop.

How is building at Hudson different from building for a show at UNCSA? 

At UNCSA, the carpenters are involved with every part of the production. Even the carpenters have interactions with the technical team and everyone is thoughtful about the timeline. At Hudson, a carpenter’s job is solely to focus on the construction of scenery. The workers on the floor only worry about their projects and go home at the end of the day. The workers themselves don't worry about the production as a whole. They leave that to the project managers and production managers. 

How do you feel this experience prepared you for your career after graduation?

My time at Hudson Scenic has been a huge help in preparing me for a career after graduation. I plan on working in a commercial scene shop after I graduate and having spent some time seeing how these shops run, I have figured out what skills I need to work on to be an even better carpenter.

by Melissa Upton

September 03, 2018