As Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Arielle Ems ’15 never dreamed she’d spend her summer interning at the happiest place on earth.
The Saint Mary’s University theatre major from Portland, Ore., was hired as an entertainment tech intern, working in lighting at the four Walt Disney Florida theme parks.
Ems was hired at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) conference in Fort Worth, Texas, this past spring. Businesses from throughout the U.S. conducted interviews at the conference that she and other Saint Mary’s students attended in March.
On a whim, Ems decided to check out Disney.
The Disney recruiters hired her on the spot and convinced her that it would be a mutually beneficial internship. Plus … the job WAS in Florida.
“The only caveat was that I had to have a car,” Ems said laughing. “I said, ‘I’ll take care of it, but I didn’t even have my license yet. I flew home, got my license, flew back to Florida and bought a car. It was crazy. But I got there and loved the experience.”
Ems said every day at Disney was different. “I worked in all four parks. I might have been at Hollywood Studios, working with Beauty and the Beast one day, and another day at Epcot working with a big event at the World Showplace or at a summer event where we had a bunch of cover bands performing. Or I might have been at the Magic Kingdom doing the Celebrate the Magic show at Cinderella’s castle — and that could have been all in one week.
“They really try to put you in a place that will benefit you but they also want you to be well-rounded.”
Ems said the experience she gained is invaluable. “It’s amazing. There was so much to learn. There was one guy who was a technician when Magic Kingdom opened, and he said there is always more to learn. The thing I love about lighting is it’s such an ever-growing industry because of technology. Every show is different and you get to be really creative.”
When Ems first came to Saint Mary’s, she couldn’t imagine doing lighting. “I always thought it was too complicated, but I really found a niche for lighting in college,” she said. “Saint Mary’s has been great. There are always opportunities for people to try different things, and the teachers help us hone in on our focus and help us develop as theatre artists and technicians.”
Ems first gained experience as a stage manager, and she joined the Page Series production center crew right away her freshman year. While working on the Page Series professional shows she began enjoying doing lighting, and now her senior year she will be designing lighting for a couple of shows and serve as a master electrician as well.
“If I’d have done any other program, I don’t think I would have been able to switch around like that and still graduate in four years,” she said. “And I’ve done a lot of shows at Saint Mary’s. I had to start cutting shows out of my résumé because I didn’t have room for all of them.”
Ems returns to Saint Mary’s this fall with a whole new skill set to bring to the college stage.
And she returns with great memories of “making magic” all summer.
“You walk through the parks and you see how much that place inspires people. They are so excited, and you really are making their dreams come true,” she said. “To be a part of creating that inspiration and that magic every day was a rewarding experience.”