Noah Listgarten chose to pursue professional opportunities in theatre before enrolling at Case Western University. Photo courtesy Noah Listgarten.
By Celia Fritsch and Meri Klingelhofer
At the end of last year, Noah Listgarten was enrolled and had submitted his deposit to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio to graduate in the class of 2021. But, he decided to defer his enrollment for an internship with TheatreWorks, a local Bay Area theatre company. With support from his parents and a strong desire to pursue a passion, Listgarten has had a useful experience during his gap year learning more about the technical side of theatre.
During the application process, Listgarten wanted to take a gap year because it sounded interesting to him, as he wanted to do more work in the theater world. “My goal was to take a gap year. But, if I couldn’t find anything to do during that year, I knew that I could always go straight to school,” Listgarten said.
He is going to Case Western Reserve for mechanical or aerospace engineering. “I really wanted to work in theatre more professionally than I did in high school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay very well,” Listgarten said. He figured that taking a year off would be the best way to get some professional experience in the field.
His parents supported him from the beginning. They thought it was a good idea and helped him plan out his gap year. Listgarten decided that if he had something lined up for the year, he would defer his enrollment. If not, he would go straight to college.
Since starting his internship, Listgarten has been offered five additional jobs from other theatre companies, such as Broadway by the Bay, Santa Clara University, and Palo Alto Players. “I feel like once I had a base to go on, it was really easy to start from there and learn and grow. I needed this internship at Theaterworks because that’s how I got my five other offers,” Listgarten said.
At those companies, Listgarten has been working with lighting and set building. “I love working with my hands and building things, so I found it really fun. I learned how to do welding and how to take a design and turn it into a set,” he said.
His experience at professional theatre companies has differed from Menlo’s productions. At Menlo, there’s two or three people whose main focus is technology. In lighting alone, TheatreWorks has a Lighting Designer, Master Electrician, Light Board Operator, and any other people who come to help on certain days. “It’s pretty much the same thing, but scaled up,” Listgarten said.
A significant benefit of working in theatre during a gap year instead of after college is that Listgarten gets to live at home. “One of the reasons that there are so few people working in theatre is because nobody can afford to work in theatre and live here,” he said. But because he’s living at home, he has the ability to work in theatre and live comfortably. Not having to pay for rent is a huge benefit, as his internship is unpaid.
Another benefit of taking a gap year is gaining work experience. “I have more work experience now, which coming out of college, most people don’t have. It gives me an advantage,” Listgarten said. Now, if he ever wants to pursue theatre after college, he has a year’s worth of work to put on resumes. TheatreWorks is one of the largest theatre companies in the Bay Area. “Having worked with them gives me a status in the theater world,” Listgarten said.
Listgarten’s biggest takeaway from his experience is the ability to work with people. “Being able to work with other people, understand how to do a job, and work in a different environment is something that I have definitely learned that last year,” he said. His internships and jobs have given him useful tools for the real world.
Listgarten believes that the only negative of taking a gap year is that he will have to get used to the school schedule next year. “I kind of don’t want to go back to the school-grind kind of thing,” Listgarten said. This past year, he has discovered the differences between school-work and job-work. “I once worked 80 hours in six days, but I had never felt as stressed as I did on any given day at Menlo,” Listgarten said. At school, classwork carries into homework and studying for tests.
Listgarten thinks students interested in taking a gap year need to have something lined up. Students should choose a college, then try to work on their plan for a gap year. “If any students are interested in doing it, they should talk to someone who has taken a gap year, flush out their idea, figure out what they want to do, and then go for it. Because the biggest thing is that you just have to try it,” Listgarten said.