On a recent Tuesday morning at Wellfleet Preservation Hall, 20-year-old intern Mia Lima made sure the coffee and water were hot and plentiful and plates of donated homemade snacks were full. A local political group met at a table in the main room. A writer worked in a quiet zone on the stage, and visitors ordered snacks to go.
As she had been on Tuesdays and Thursdays since February, Lima was ready at the coffee bar with a smile and thank-yous for regulars and newcomers. The donation-based café, set up while other in-town bakeries were closed, has been a main project for the hall’s first intern in a new project called Step Up to help broaden the uses and audiences for the cultural and community center.
That’s also an aim for an upcoming spring movie series. While the coffee bar will close after May 4, Lima’s four-Tuesday series is just starting: The Birdcage, the 1996 musical comedy starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, will be screened on May 2 at 6 p.m.
Lima says that’s the first film she saw after moving to Wellfleet from Haiti at age 10 to live with Ellen LeBow and Seth Rolbein, who became her godparents, guardians, and family here.
“Even though I didn’t understand much of the language, I could get the humor in it,” she says. “I think it’s also the first movie I saw with LGBTQ representation. That is looked down upon in my culture, and it’s something I had to get used to when I moved here. It was one of the cultural shifts I experienced.”
The other movies in the series — The Way We Were, Top Gun, and The Fabelmans — seem like unusual choices for a Gen Z arts intern until you know their meaning in Lima’s life.
The Way We Were, screening on May 9, is a film Lima saw while waiting for her visa. It taught her some history of her new country, including political activism and anti-Semitism. She said she chose Top Gun, which is screening on May 23, after a college friend persuaded her to see it.
But it was the more recent film The Fabelmans (screening May 16), Steven Spielberg’s ode to his own family and formative days as a filmmaker, that spoke to Lima most. For five years, she was part of the Young Company at Brewster’s Cape Rep Theatre, working both on stage and behind the scenes, and has since contemplated the possibility of a future as a performer.
“It was cool to watch somebody else’s journey into a dream that they’d had since they were a kid,” says Lima of the film. Seeing how others “get there” is especially interesting, she says.
Lima will introduce each film with her backstory and says she hopes her picks will speak to all ages. She says she learned English in part through watching movies.
Lima’s three months of part-time work is part of an effort by Preservation Hall’s new executive director, Kathy Fletcher, to expand audiences. The internship program is the first one to be offered during the off-season, and Fletcher says it’s designed to teach “emerging, underserved arts professionals” about opportunities in nonprofit arts administration and “the transformational power of the arts and community.”
While young people like Lima add “vibrant energy” to an organization, says Fletcher, she also sees the internships as a way to help Outer Cape residents from Lima’s generation. People in early adulthood “have really struggled in the past few years, particularly on the heels of Covid,” she says.
Lima, a budding performer, seemed a perfect choice for the program. During the years that LeBow and Rolbein were helping Lima immigrate with Hernitte Riviere, her young aunt, LeBow was very much involved in the formation of Wellfleet Preservation Hall. The two girls, who grew up as sisters, spent a lot of time there. Her familiarity with the hall enabled Lima to shape the internship with her own ideas about what might expand its appeal to younger people.
That and the fact that “she’s a go-getter and team player,” says events manager Alex Sesentón.
The interns “have been able to jump right in and really make a difference,” Fletcher says.
Emeline Dickinson, also of Wellfleet, started as a second intern in March and plans to create a pop-up flower shop.
Fletcher hoped Lima’s coffee bar would be a gift to year-rounders and a new way to use the hall as a gathering space. Director of programming Emily Henderson helped Lima line up the movie series, and other youth outreach efforts include plans to have Lima visit Nauset Regional High School, her alma mater, to talk about opportunities at the hall.
“There are a lot of kids at Nauset and on the Cape who do visual art, music, dance, and theater. I think it would be nice for them to have a place outside of school to do it,” Lima says. “We want them to know Preservation Hall exists. I’m not sure how many of them do,” she adds. She hopes the movie series might bring some first-time visitors.
The internship has also helped Lima think about how her life might evolve.
It’s good to get an idea of where an arts career could go in the future, says Lima. “I could see myself doing arts and nonprofit work … when I stop performing.”
Movies at the Hall
The event: Spring movie series hosted by Mia
The time: Tuesdays beginning May 2, 6 p.m.
The place: Wellfleet Preservation Hall, 335 Main St.
The cost: $12 (free for students under 21); see wellfleetpreservationhall.org for information