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Each year, tens of thousands of college students flock to the nation's capital for unpaid internships in hopes of gaining some real-life know-how, and getting their foot in the door. Now the D.C. internship experience is getting the theatrical treatment, in Two Guys ... Become Interns, a new musical revue by Mark Walter Braswell, a D.C.-based composer and lyricist. Rebecca Sheir talked with Braswell about what sparked the concept for the show, which features Mikey, a White House intern played by Mikey Cafarelli, and Paul, a Capitol Hill intern played by Paul Scanlan.
Braswell: I had started trying to craft my songs into a cabaret, which we did a test run on that last June. But after that was done, friends and family and supporters thought I should have a storyline for it, and what I was looking for was for young actors to have a way to express themselves through my music.
At first it was supposed to be about college kids, but thanks to me bouncing it off to my brother and a good friend, they said 'oh my gosh, this other idea about interns is great.' And when I said that's about Washington, they said, 'but the show is in Washington, and you love Washington, and you live in Washington, so you've got to go with that.'
Sheir: So originally, the cabaret, was that just called Two Guys?
Braswell: Yes, originally just Two Guys, but my concept from the beginning was to take the two guys to different situations. So the first stop in the journey is to take them to the Washington institution of internships.
Sheir: I understand you did some very interesting research in prepping for this show.
Braswell: Yes, I'm a lawyer for the federal government, for the United States Courts. We have had interns for years in our office, and I always try to do my best to make them feel welcomed and everything ... but I realize that they all must have a different perspective than from what we see at the staff meetings. So I began interviewing not only friends of mine whom were interns, but also some interns who work at the Judiciary building where I work.
Sheir: In putting this show together, what did you learn about the internship experience that maybe you didn't know before?
Braswell: I learned that it all comes down to the human factor, that guys and girls that are in those offices, they're not only trying to take on new responsibilities and learn new things, but they're also building relationships and the personal things that happen, and sometimes they are romantic, like I allude to in the show. And I was actually told by one intern that the whole summer they were looking at this girl in another cubicle, and they were too afraid to go talk to her because she was 22 and they were 21. And toward the end of the summer, one of the managers realized and introduced them, and then they got to spend a lot of time together. And it turned out they really hit it off.
So all of that really made me feel when you have emotional ballads, that they can tell the story of not just adults, but young adults who are trying to do this experience in Washington. They told me about the fact that they're just trying to grow as people, but also absorbed as much as they can in their duties. And granted, I think a lot of interns today get better duties than I might describe for fun in the show, but in one of the interviews, one intern said, 'I am so tired of scanning.' And I worked that into the show as one of the jokes.
[Music: "The Intern Song" and "West Wing Boy" by Mark Walter Braswell from Two Guys... Become Interns]
Photos: The world of D.C. interns