To Ecuador…and Beyond

Abi Nelson participated in PAA’s Music Internship in Ecuador in Fall 2017. She is from Edinburgh and has just begun a job at The Orpheus in Surrey just outside London, an opportunity she says grew directly out of the work she did during her PAA program. Another exciting example of a PAA participant using our program as a springboard for her career in the arts!

Getting ready to leave university is a pretty daunting thing. Will I get a good grade? Where will I be in a few months time? How will I pay for things without student finance? Will I get a job?? I never would have guessed that just 3 months after walking across that stage in my gown and cap that not only would I have travelled across the world to live in Ecuador for two months doing something amazing, but I would also get a job that I not only get paid for, but I LOVE. And who’s to thank?

Performing Arts Abroad.

Love at first sight…

In my final months of my university career, I had a lot of thinking to do. I knew I wanted to travel after I graduated. I also knew I wanted to work in the field of Theatre for Development. What I didn’t know is that I could do both those things immediately after I finished university and that one would provide a kickstart for the other. How did it all happen? Well, that’s a long story. But I’ll try cut it down for you…


Going back a few years, when I was 18 I went to study Drama at Kingston University in London. Not exactly a parent’s dream – especially when I threatened to study Law just a few years prior – but my favourite subject nonetheless. Apart from knowing I didn’t want to be an actress, I didn’t have a clue what I would do with a degree in Drama. I loved directing, teaching… anything that helped others achieve anything they wanted. But it wasn’t until my third year of university that I discovered Theatre for Development (TfD – theatre used as a developmental tool). I had finally found what I had been looking for, putting my passion for the Arts into helping others.


It was while searching for a way to combine my new found love with my old one – Theatre for Development and travel – when I stumbled upon Performing Arts Abroad, an amazing organisation offering study abroad programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities all over the world in the Performing Arts.

Skipping ahead a few months and I’m all set to head off to Ecuador! The team at PAA had made everything so easy. They had listened to everything I hoped to achieve during my time abroad and tailored a programme just for me. I was off to work in Sinamune, a school for disabled people with a focus on the Performing Arts. And although the school didn’t have drama lessons, they said I could start my own drama class. It seemed too good to be true!

As soon as I arrived in Quito I knew I was somewhere special. From the beautiful mountains and volcanos to the exquisite streets and parks, I had a feeling I was going to have an amazing two months. Arriving at Sinamune only confirmed that.

Sinamune is an amazing organisation founded by Edgar Palacios, Ecuador’s famous trumpet player. Starting as just music classes for a few disabled people, it has expanded to an amazing school with around 80 students studying music, dance and art, along with regular studies such as language skills and maths. From my second week, I was teaching 15 students drama (and 3 students Piano). It had its challenges of course, like the students having no previous drama experience and me having not too much skill with Spanish (the language I had to teach in). But with 6 hours of Spanish classes a week after school and the ever-growing confidence of my students, we very quickly got into the swing of things. And we had something to work towards! The school wanted the class to do a performance at the end of my 8 weeks in front of fellow students, the students’ families, and tourists. I remember feeling so much pride and love for every one of my students that day.

While doing some research for what to do with my drama class, I found the website for an amazing company in the UK doing a similar thing to Sinamune. The Orpheus Centre is an independent specialist college in Surrey that increases the confidence and skills of young disabled adults through the performing arts. I knew instantly I wanted to be a part of it, and there happened to be a job going in the fundraising department. I have always enjoyed fundraising and I knew it can be an invaluable way of ensuring the continuity of organisations like Orpheus and Sinamune. Although I was worried about my reasonable lack of experience, I applied. Not long after, I was having an interview over Skype. They were so interested to hear about the work I was doing at Sinamune and thought it gave me invaluable, transferable experience that I could bring to Orpheus. I was overjoyed when I got the job offer.

After a tearful leaving party, and an incredible trip through the Cloud Forest, Andes and Amazon with my dad, I was ready to head back home. I had a few days at home to say hi to the family, then I was back down South to start my next adventure. I truly believe my experience in Ecuador not only gave me life-long friends and memories, but it also gave me a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do and a huge boost into my career.

Spain Times

Hannah McCarthy is a PAA alumnus who interned at La Caldera dance studio in Barcelona, Spain during the summer of 2017. The video below is the final product of Hannah’s capstone project.

During my eight week Dance Internship in Spain, Barcelona quickly became like a second home to me. After being ushered into a taxi with my new roommate, Natalia, I realized that I would be learning even more about myself than expected that summer.

First lesson: Step, or might I say, leap out of your shell as soon as possible!

PAA makes a point of mixing their students with other groups studying or working in Barcelona. I had a roommate from Virginia and flatmates from California and North Carolina. Each of us from different places, interning in different fields, yet we were plopped together in a nice apartment in Gracia, expected to become friends for life. Well…it worked. I’ve never met a more talented, interesting group of women who I could spend every waking moment with while seeing new places and experiencing new things.

Once I quickly got comfortable with the roomies, it was time to start work. An all new group of people, with even more diverse backgrounds, and a bit of a language barrier (my Spanish was a little rusty at the beginning). I interned at La Caldera, a dance and scenic art creation center that opens its doors to artists, teachers and audiences of all kinds. Here, I would be able to watch and participate in the inner workings of a dance focused non-profit, while also taking professional level classes and building an international network of dancers and artists. Needless to say I was nervous taking my first steps through the big glass doors.

All the nerves and first-day jitters vanished when Raquel Ortega, my supervisor, immediately smiled, grabbed my hands, then kissed both of my cheeks. Never have I felt more welcome in a work environment. This jubilation in meeting a new acquaintance was something I was not used to in America. I would continue to notice the accommodating nature of the Spanish culture throughout the 8 weeks of my immersion.

Second lesson:  Observe, take note, make change.

As time rolled by, I was rapidly becoming more infatuated with Barcelona and its slower-paced, laid-back tone. As a part of my internship, I got to walk around Barcelona’s various artistic districts to deliver fliers and promote upcoming shows. Some people might not be attracted to the idea of walking up to 11 miles per day and tirelessly hopping on and off the Metro, but I couldn’t get enough. Every day was a new discovery. I found exhibit after intriguing exhibit. I watched artists at work in studios. I saw street art of every color and style. I also made mistakes and got lost a few times, which only allowed me to see more of the city and its carefree people. After about the second week, I started to slow down my relentless power walk and breathe in each moment. The world around me was opening. I was speaking more Spanish to local shop owners, even ordering my coffee in Catalan. I was on a mission to adapt to my surroundings, and I was welcomed with open arms. That is when Barcelona became home.

Perhaps the most inviting community in Barcelona was the dance scene. When it came to taking dance classes, my nerves were at their pinnacle. I had never taken classes in Spanish. Do they even say ‘plie’, I would think to myself before entering the studio space. Again, I couldn’t be nervous for long. The classes I took at La Caldera were filled with new concepts and ideas. The mood was inviting, calm, less competitive than many American dance classes seem to be. I felt as if, for the first time in my adult life, I was dancing for myself. No one was judging me. There were no mirrors, so I couldn’t even judge myself. I listened intently to corrections and felt them viscerally rather than just letting them flow in one ear and right back out the other. When we did contact exercises, we truly touched each other. It was a sincere feeling that I often missed in my classes back home. It made me want to bring these lessons I was learning back to my university classes. I was being challenged to step far out of my mental and physical comfort zone…and I just didn’t get tired of it.

Third lesson: Just do it all.

When I was offered the opportunity to complete a capstone project, I was nudged by my advisers to do so. I always had the idea of wanting to choreograph while in Spain, but I wasn’t sure who to set the work on. Once I decided to do the capstone, things just started falling into place. Typical Barcelona magic. My adviser introduced me to a dancer named Elisabet Sanchez. She hadn’t danced in a while, as she was busy being the single caregiver for her young son. However, she was more than excited to learn my choreography. From there, our stories and lives began to intertwine. Together, we created a work which spoke to the female situation in society. Long talks led to the realization that our cultures shared many similarities in that aspect. Oppression and confusion were woven into both of our pasts and consequently into the piece. Out of our sharing of stories and favorite literature, grew a project that is unmatched with any of my previous experiences. I think it sums up my experience with the PAA Dance Internship in Spain. I will always be grateful for the beautiful city of Barcelona and its open and accepting people.


Worst thing about me was fixed in Ecuador, OLEY!

Hello, there! Yes yes yes, I made it all the way from a small old city Bethlehem, Palestine to Ecuador. Let me tell you first a little about myself. My name is Aleen Masoud, a 22-year-old Masters student in Arts, Business and Creativity at Newcastle University. I started playing the violin at the age of 10 at Edward Said National Conservatory for Music and at the age of 18, outside of my bathroom’s door, I started singing too. You can say I’m a traveler too, but never thought I’d travel to South America in my life. So, how did I end up there?

I decided that I wanted to do something special before the stress that I knew it’s coming in my life. So, I started googling; fun things to do before being a student, again. And guess what I got? NOTHING useful! So, after spending time thinking, I knew what I needed was a new cultural experience plus doing something fruitful to the society; Yup, that’s called volunteering. Back to googling, I read about Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) and that was exactly what I needed. I did a music internship for 4 weeks and not only that, I made friends, became part of a family, saw beauty itself and gained weight, Duh!

I was excited but more nervous. Especially that my mom was stressing me out more, thinking that I might get kidnapped (After watching a movie called Snatched), ill or worst-case scenario die. I took the risk because that what life is about so, on 16th June 2017, I arrived at Quito. I must tell you that every single thing with PAA is very organized. After 2 days of sight-seeing, it was time to meet my host family and start the program, where I did it at SINAMUNE institute.

Now we are getting into the point, worst thing about me is knowing directions, which I’m horrible at! I travelled around the world from UK, touring around the States, Europe and around the Middle East too. But the problem, I always used to depend on others when traveling. I was only a follower and I would always say, ‘I don’t know, you do it, you organize guys, if you depend on me we’d get lost’. And voilà, it was only me, myself and I on this trip. And to be honest, I never thought I’d manage. Guess what? I never even got lost! I have to admit that this experience made me know more about me, my abilities and the person I want to become in the future. And made me absolutely ready for my next step at Newcastle and knowing even if I get lost I can manage, I am INDEPENDENT!

Quick advices:

  • Don’t pack that much, you won’t need it.
  • Make sure to break your money into $1,5,10.
  • Learn some Spanish, por favor!
  • Always have an open mind and heart.
  • Drink enough water.
  • 4 weeks is not enough, go for a minimum of 8 weeks.
  • Don’t think about love there, just enjoy your moments.
  • Must dance Salsa with a local. Back to the previous point, it’s not love, you’re just dancing.
  • Be careful, same in any country you travel to.
  • If you care about your shape, lose weight before going there.
  • Have fun!

London Theatre Profile: Young Vic Theatre

Christine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London. For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January. Stay tuned for more from Christine soon!

Young Vic Theatre

Five Fun Facts:

  1. The Young Vic theatre takes pride in how open and accepting they are. They are big supporters of the LGBTQ community, which is shown by the large rainbow flag they hang outside their doors. They believe that their secret to success is to support everyone, and be welcome to all. Pretty good motto if you ask me!


  1. No matter what your price point, you can go see a show! The Young Vic gives away 10% of their tickets in order to allow people who normally cannot afford theatre tickets to go see shows. They also offer a variety of ticket prices for students and kids. They want to make sure they share their art with as many people as possible.

  1. They play a big part in arts education for London. They encourage all local schools to come and see shows in their theatre, no matter what the age of the kids. Not many of the surrounding theatres are as great about providing options for arts education in the area.

  2. They have a wonderful café right inside the lobby! It serves as a great meeting place for a casual cup of coffee, or to enjoy some lunch. (I highly recommend their croissants!)

  1. They have an awesome green sustainability program, which you can tell immediately from walking into the building. They were awarded 3 stars by Julie’s Bicycle, a local sustainability charity, which is the highest score you can get! They encourage everyone to help create a better environment, and definitely do their part to make that happen!


Brief History:

The Young Vic theatre was originally supposed to be an “offshoot” of the Old Vic theatre, which is right across the street. Laurence Olivier said that there should be a theatre to develop plays for young audiences, and then the Young Vic was born. It was built on an old bomb-site from World War II. Since its beginning over 30 years ago, the Young Vic has been on a steady stream of producing wonderful theatre that can be available to all. To find out more about the Young Vic, visit their website:

Coming next:

The Space Arts Centre

The New Alternative Sound From Italy

Elizabeth Willis is a student at West Texas A&M University.  She has participated in multiple PAA programs, including the Music Industry Internship with Indie Rock Band in Rome, where she interned for Kutso.

Remember when we all use to wig out over some wicked good artists like Weezer, The White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Nirvana? I do and to be honest I still listen to them. These bands all had something in common at the peak of their popularity, they weren’t afraid to go against the status quo and sing about how they really felt. The goal was to give listeners something that was different and usually made a statement. For years this has been one of my favorite genres of music to explore and I’m here to introduce you to a new sound that you might enjoy with alternative releases being put on the back burner. Kutso, is an Italian Indie band that was founded in 2006 by front man Matteo Gabbianelli. Other members of the band include Donatello Giorgi on guitar and vocals, Luca Amendola on bass and vocals, and Simone Bravi on drums. The band released their first official album “Decadendo (su un materasso)”, Decaying on a dying mattress in 2013 at Circolo Degli in Rome. The hit single “Alè” remained in the top 10 of Indie Music Like for more than 4 weeks gaining mass popularity. Over the past two years, Kutso has scheduled more than 200 performances across Italy and has won numerous awards at multiple music festivals. In February 2015, they released their second album “Musica per persone sensibili” which included three hit songs “Elisa”, “Io Rosico”, and “Spray Nasale.”

Kutso has such a unique sound and even more of a unique persona. They are able to bring an audience to life with the combination of vocal range, excitement and much more. If you watch some of the band’s music videos, or even better, watch them live, you will see how energetic and explosive they are! I encourage all of my fellow alternative and indie rock lovers to check them out online and if you’re in the same city, live! Below I have listed a link to some of my personal favorites, I hope you enjoy.

London Theatre Profile: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane


Christine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London. For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January. Stay tuned for more from Christine soon!

Theatre Royal, Drury Laneauditorium-from-the-royal-box

Five Fun Facts:

  1. The current building on the site of the Theatre Roya, Drury Lane is the fourth building to be put there! All of the same name, same location, same idea, but they kept burning down and needed to be rebuilt. Each one was more grand than the previous one! Why did they catch fireyou ask?? Well…giphy-copy2. No, it wasn’t from a fire breathing dragon. It was because of the lack of safety curtains! Back before everything had electricity and light bulbs, they relied on candles to light the stage fromthe front. Now if someone were to tip one of those over and the stage caught fire, you would normally bring down the safety curtain to save everybody, right? WELL, because these fires happened so rarely, the safety curtains rusted shut and were not able to be used! That is why at every West End production you see, they will always pull down the safety curtain at the interval. Just to make sure it won’t malfunction…output_mjaho43. The theatre is DEFINITELY haunted. On the backstage tour they offer (which I highly recommend!!), they explain all about how there are ghosts everywhere in the theatre. One of the ghosts was an old cast member who never forgot anyone’s lines. If an actor ever forgot his lines, this cast member would tap them on the shoulder from behind and whisper them into his ear. One day, that cast member was on stage, and he forgot a line. He apologized to the audience, announced his resignation immediately, and was never seen again. To this day, when someone forgets a line, they often feel a little tap on their shoulder, and they instantly remember their line, but when they turn around, there’s nobody there…

output_x8jqku4. Ever wonder why everyone things that theatre stars and movie stars are, well, stars? You can thank David Garrick for that. He ran the theatre for many years, and he changed the view of actors in the public eye. They were always seen as common workers just as everyone else was, but he made sure that they were seen as much more than that. You can also thank him for giving women the ability to be in theatre! Men always played the roles of female parts, but Garrick knew it was time for women to shine in the theatre! The only exception to his rule was for the ever so fun Pantomime Theatre (when a man dresses as a woman for comedic effect).giphy-3

  1. During the shift between Shrek The Musical and the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber donated millions of dollars, of his own money, simply to renovate the theatre back to its original state. He knew that the theatre was originally beautiful, and he wanted to restore it back to how it should have been many years ago. Talk about a dedicated artist!

Brief History:

The First Theatre Royal opened in 1663, but the current standing building was built in 1812. The Theatre Royal has been home to many important historic events, such as the first performance of the National Anthem. The theatre has been a staple in London’s West End for so long, and continues to always put on amazing performances. If you would like to find out more information about the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, visit the Really Useful Group’s website: royal

Coming next:

St. Martins Theatre

London Theatre Profile: The National Theatre

christine-steinChristine Stein is a PAA Arts Administration Intern in London.  For her internship capstone project she’ll profiling a different London theatre every month from September to January.  Stay tuned for more from Christine soon! 

The National Theatre


Five Fun Facts:

  1. The National Theatre has three different theatre spaces. Their largest theatre is the Olivier Theatre (named after Laurence Olivier, their first artistic director), and because it was Olivier’s favorite color, all the seats in the space are always bright purple!


  1. Throughout the history of the National Theatre, they have had several resident companies of actors, which means that the same actors would stay for the entirety of the season and do every single show. However, these weren’t just regular casts. Have you ever heard of names like Ian McKellen, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench or Anthony Hopkins? Imagine being able to watch them in every single play for years at a time! Check them out in their National Theatre days!
Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

Judi Dench & Anthony Hopkins

Judi Dench & Anthony Hopkins


Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

  1. The National Theatre is a repertory theatre, which means that they can put on several shows at once. In only two days, the National Theatre can put on six different productions! Each theatre space is a different size and has the capability of doing different types of shows, so the variety of shows being put on all at once is amazing! Can you even imagine cycling through shows that quickly?

tumblr_lvkp9tvzsy1qapbk34. Feeling inspired after seeing a show at the National Theatre? Well in addition to having some fun souvenirs, their shop has an incredible array of scripts! They have everything from Shakespeare to whatever is currently playing on the West End, so there is always something for everybody! It basically makes you feel like Belle when she walks into a library! Can’t wait to read the script you just bought in their shop? You can mosey on over to one of their many places to eat. From cafés to a full on dining experience, the National Theatre has all you will need!


  1. They offer a really cool backstage tour! In case you are ever curious about the inner workings of the National Theatre, the tour that they provide is excellent. You get to see backstage of the theatre spaces, you get to see people working on the sets, and you learn a lot of really fun facts about the theatre and its history! I give it a 10/10 on the backstage tour scale!

output_h3uy0iBrief History:

The National Theatre opened their first production, Hamlet, in 1963. The first artistic director of the company was Laurence Olivier, and originally, they started their productions at the Old Vic theatre. They did not have their south bank location until 1976, but that didn’t stop them from producing great shows with marvelous talent! Since they have opened, they have performed thousands of shows to hundreds of thousands of people! The National Theatre is truly one of London’s greatest spaces for performing arts. To find out more about this theatre, visit:

Coming next:

Theatre Royal Drury Lane