After graduating with a 5-year degree in Drama, it was time to look for paying work. At that time there was a massive "cattle call" style audition for something called the South East Theater Conference, or SETC. Mostly it was used to help cast the giant "outdoor dramas" that were more popular back then than they are now. Shows like "The Trail of Tears" and "The Book of Job" which ran all summer long in outdoor theaters, largely as tourist attractions. But there were also dinner theaters and regional theaters doing casting as well. I ultimately accepted an intern position at a dinner theater in Lexington, KY, which was supposed to offer room, board, a very small salary and a chance to learn the trade by working with more experienced professionals. Sadly, it was grossly misrepresented and the interns were essentially slave labor. Or at least indentured labor. I did not learn anything new, but in fairness I was given the chance to put what I had learned at U.Va. into practice. I did stage lighting, sound, prop creation, scenery building, and so forth. The "room" turned out to be a cot in the basement of the owner's dad. The "board" was dinner theater leftovers. Luckily my sanity was saved by the fact that my roommate at U.Va. also took the same internship and we were thrown into it together. I learned how to make props and dress sets on the cheap, by borrowing and scrounging and exchanging ad space in the programs for something essential (like, say, an antique candlestick telephone or a vintage lava lamp.) I mostly wanted to perform, though; not intern as a stagehand, so I was always auditioning and lobbying for a chance to audition. The owner was very reluctant to lose his cheap labor force, though, and resisted mightily. I finally got a decent speaking part in "Fiddler On The Roof" and when the show closed, I was dismissed. Not for anything wrong that I had done; hell, I taught them more about props and sound than they ever taught me. I think the owner was just tired of having me try out instead of working in the shop.
I did leave them with some great stuff that I had learned how to do. I built a vacuform machine for things like door moldings and set trimmings. (A vacuform machine is basically a wooden frame that holds a sheet of thin plastic which you soften using heat. Underneath this frame you place a mold of whatever you want to duplicate. The top frame fits snugly over the bottom frame -- the one with the mold -- and is connected to a vacuum cleaner. You put the softened plastic over the mold while sucking out the air and bam! instant mold.)