American Stage shines a light on 40 years

Tato_Castillo_headshot_SmChoosing American Stage; January 19th, 2018:
By Tato Catillo
In 2007 I was a senior in High School completely immersed in Theatre and planning to study it in College starting the fall. This was also the year I got an opportunity with American Stage as an Intern. The Theatre was located in a smaller building which housed offices, work spaces and an intimate black box stage. Everyone in the staff was completely new to me, and though I also didn’t really know how I would spend my days while I worked there, I was excited to begin the experience to come. Luckily for me this Theatre had plenty for me to learn and do.

I sat on a chair close to the Directors during rehearsals for which I happily gave my undivided attention. I worked as an intern during OTHELLO, 9 PARTS OF DESIRE and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. The level of creativity and passion I saw in those involved in those productions impressed me to a degree I couldn’t yet comprehend. I got to see professionals in their element which gave me something to aspire to in my own career.

That was ten years ago and I am back, this time as an Apprentice. When I heard that American Stage had an apprenticeship program I immediately decided upon being a part of it. I had no hesitation as I had previously witnessed the powerful works that this company produces and I wanted to take part in it again.

I have gained new training and experience since my internship season but I’ve also grown more comfortable with myself and as an artist. This program has been exactly what I need to grow professionally and I think any young actor would be very lucky to have the same experience at the beginning of their career.

When I returned as an apprentice for the 2017-18 season I walked into a totally different Theatre. The energy of this company has changed but its mission to create community is the same. The stage is a completely new version of the old one. It is capable of more theatricality and inviting bigger audiences while still feeling almost as intimate as its predecessor.

Being an apprentice is like an intern in that it gives you a strong sense of purpose to grow personally and create connections through live theatre. This time I get to do it along with four equally invested fellow apprentices. Our theatre is manned by a pioneering team who are doing amazing things in their field and teaching us about it. The Advancement Team is reaching out to younger audiences by offering them unlimited live Theatre at an affordable rate with the Young Americans Initiative. Education has an exceptional summer camp, classes and a touring show for the young ones as well as well attended IMPROV training programs and shows.

This is still the same theatre where powerful theatre is being made and each season comes with exciting possibilities. Our artistic director’s courage and vision inspires everyone to be present in their work that much more every day. This is only the second year of the apprentices program and there are other recently implemented programs, like the 21CV New Play Festival, which creates opportunities for new playwrights to share their voice and contribute their talent to our commitment to the arts.

From my experience, the goal of this company has always been to make a strong connection with its community and that is still done with a bigger impact than I’ve ever seen before. I think the future is exciting for American Stage, its Apprenticeship program and the powerful stories yet to be told on our stage. I look forward to seeing this company reach its goals and full potential for many more generations to come.

Learn more about the Young Americans Initiative by visiting americanstage.org/YA, and check out this article in the Latitudes Section of The Times!

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By Kody Hopkins, Taylor Sweat, Courtney McLaren, Tarilabo Koripamo, and Tato Castillo.
New Theatre’s Resolutions; January 5th, 2018:
Hello and Happy New Year to all of our American Stage followers! The apprenti got to have a nice and relaxing week off for the holidays, but now it’s time to gear up for some of the busiest parts of the American Stage season. With a new year comes new hopes, goals, and aspirations. We thought we’d create some “theatre resolutions” based on what we wish to accomplish with our time left in the program, and talk a little about what we are most excited about for the rest of this season. Read on below to see what some of us are thinking about!

Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmKody: What makes theatre so compelling to me is the collaborative process: no single person puts the entire show together. I have primarily been on the performance side of the process, but, being a curious mind, I’ve wanted to work in the other lanes that make theatre happen. This desire was a large part of the draw I had to this apprenticeship program. Not to mention, if I want to accomplish my goal of starting my own theatre company one day, I need to soak in as much information from as many departments as I can! This apprenticeship has already seen me become more comfortable with theatre electrician work, marketing, dramaturgical research and independent creation. Being part of the production crew for A RAISIN IN THE SUN, I hope to get more comfortable and capable in the scene shop. I’ll also be continuing my improv training this year, which I believe will make me a better performer. And, of course, we have our Apprentice Showcase in July. One of my big theatre resolutions for this year is to write something for that showcase so that I can see my work on stage and work on improving myself as a playwright. As for what I am looking forward to, I personally can’t wait to start rehearsals on STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR. We don’t know our personal assignments for the show yet as apprentices, but I have never been a part of putting on a full production of a brand new work. As someone who admires American Stage’s mission and wants to emulate not just this theatre, but see my own work produced, I think this is going to be an exciting production.

TAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_SmTaylor: It’s so nice to start a new year doing what you love. It’s like you can go ahead and knock one thing off your resolution list because, for once, work doesn’t feel like work since coming to American Stage is basically like going to your second home. There are so many great things that lie ahead for this year. I’m particularly excited about the 21st Century Voices New Play Festival and preparation for THE PRODUCERS. It’s neat to be able to work the play festival because as apprentices, we’ve had our hands in this since our apprenticeship started, so it’s like seeing something you put time in come to life. It’s even more exciting when you know that these might be the first readings of some of these plays, and the fact that you can say that you were a part of the playwright’s first reading is pretty special. Of course, I’m excited about THE PRODUCERS because it’s a musical, and as a member of #TeamStageManagement (Can I make that a thing?)(Social Media Guru Edit: It’s already a thing.), musicals are particularly exciting because there is so much going on at one time. Plus, it’s just one of those classic campy tap musicals, and I’m all about campy tap musicals. While I have a few resolutions for myself personally, I’d have to say my theatre resolution would be to dive deeper into the work I’m already doing. Ask more questions. See how I can be of more assistance. Reach out to more audience members. Keep conversations going after the show. I think it’s important as a theatre artist to continually challenge yourself and immerse yourself as much as you can into your work, so I feel like I can challenge myself a little more in the coming months.

Courtney_Ane_McLaren_headshot_SmCourtney: A new year, and I get to ring it in with American Stage! What could be better? As the new year arrives, we naturally think about our lives — where we are, where we hope to be and so on. There is much I hope to accomplish in the new year. In my time with American Stage, I really hope to focus on my audition book, to further build up my repertoire of monologues and songs that I truly love to perform. As an actor, auditions preoccupy a majority of our time, therefore I want to have a plethora of strong pieces I love. I also hope to work on developing my own creative ventures in terms of writing music and stories. I know American Stage will do all they can to help me accomplish these goals. American Stage’s future is boundless this year. So many positive things are occurring, including the Young Americans initiative. This initiative will allow those under 20 to enter the theatre for free. Observing the impact this could have will certainly be a wondrous thing to behold in 2018!

Tarilabo_Koripamo_headshot_SmTari: I have never been into the whole idea of the new year, new me. The entire new year resolution fiasco always terrified me in the past. However, as I get older, I set goals I want to accomplish personally and professionally. Here are some things I look forward to as an Apprentice in 2018:
Read more plays. I want to challenge myself to a play every month. Both for the stories, and for engaging monologues.
Accent work. If you do hear me speak, you’ll notice I have a Nigerian accent and British accent in my pocket. I still need that authentic American accent. I want to slip in and out of roles without diction inhibiting my professional growth.
Learning more about stagecraft: I am most of all eager to keep growing and learning about theater. The truth is, you can never know enough, but that won’t stop me from trying. It’s not a lot, but it’s an excellent place to start when I think of things I want to accomplish.

Tato_Castillo_headshot_SmTato: I’m looking forward to doing the Park. I want to see in what ways the experience is the same for the company and audience and in what ways it changes. I think doing a musical outside will be challenging but fun no matter what production role I am assigned. Of course, part of this resolution is giving my best audition to hopefully be in the cast. I am also looking forward to the apprentice Showcase because the possibilities to where it could go are endless and it’s completely in our hands. I look forward to working with my fellow apprenti on it. I know we will all be equally dedicated to it. I hope to come out of this program with a stronger understanding of the audition process, my current abilities and how I can apply them better for the rest of my career.

 

Visit americanstage.org/YA to learn about American Stage’s commitment to the future of live theatre.

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Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmTAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_SmTarilabo_Koripamo_headshot_SmBy Kody Hopkins, Taylor Sweat, & Tarilabo Koripamo, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice
Gearing up for 21st Century Voices Cycle; Dec. 29th, 2017:
We like to keep things busy here at American Stage, and 2018 will be no different. What better way to kick off that new year than with some new plays? In 2017, American Stage produced its first installment of the 21st Century Voices New Play Festival. Not only did it introduce the Bay Area to some freshly minted dramatic works, it gave us an exciting new play to produce this season (STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR). In case you are unfamiliar with the festival, it’s one of American Stage’s initiatives to cultivate the next generation of voices in the theatre. Hundreds of play submissions from across the country get read by a diverse group of community members and our Producing Artistic Director and discussed until a handful of standout plays are selected. The reading was completed, discussions were had, tears were shed, plays were selected, and all that’s left is the festival. Now, the turnaround is quick — it takes place January 11th-14th! — so it’s all hands on deck for the apprenti. Each of us will have an assignment in at least one of the works, and some of us have the good fortune of being involved in more. One thing’s for sure: we are all thrilled to be a part of introducing never before seen plays to our spectacular community. Read on below to see a little of what some of us are doing, as well as our thoughts on the festival!

Kody Hopkins: I have the awesome chance to not only stage manage one of the works (GOOD BAD PEOPLE), but also be acting in one of them (IF NOW WERE HENCE)! This means I get to be on the ground floor of not one, but two hand picked new works. As a sometimes writer myself, I find this opportunity exhilarating. There’s nothing quite like that first table read during a rehearsal process, such as the ones I’ve been in for this season’s productions, from THE ROYALE to MUCH ADO. Take that feeling, though, and multiply it tenfold, and you get the kind of sensation present at a new play reading. Something unique about playwriting, I find, is that it demands a sense of trust and boldness. Plays being works of art that require performance, a playwright has to find ways to get people to speak their words and hear it aloud — whether it’s a group of friends or trained professionals — in order to determine how it should move forward. This requires courage and trust, as you’re giving up something you’ve spent countless hours on, maybe before it is completely ready, to be heard and critiqued. It’s an essential part of making a good play, and I can’t wait to be included in that process.

Taylor Sweat: I will be stage managing IF NOW WERE HENCE during the 21st Century Voices New Play Festival. I didn’t get to read this play while on the committee, but after reading through the synopsis and character descriptions, I’m sure I’m going to love it. From the description, it is a play that explores female emancipation during different stages of the characters’ lives at a time when women didn’t have as many rights as we do today. I definitely think this is the right play for me because I’m someone who believes in the equal treatment of women, and I’m interested to see how these actors are going to bring that story to life. I’m super excited to do this because not only will it be the first reading of a play that I’ve had the opportunity to stage manage, I will be a part of something really incredible. The opportunity to have your material read by professional actors in a professional theatre house is such an honor, and I can’t imagine the excitement these playwrights must be feeling. It makes me happy that I’m going to be a part of this step in their journey to get their play produced.

Tarilabo Koripamo: I will be reading for the character Maggie in IF NOW WERE HENCE by Tess Light. If you didn’t already know, you will now: I love reading out loud (Kody can attest to this). I think this is an excellent opportunity to continue my work on diction, so I am excited about the rehearsal process. I look forward to the festival because it is going to be my first 21st Century Voices Festival at American Stage. The exposure of new plays to an actor is like taking a kid to a candy store for me. Also, for many playwrights, it’s an opportunity for their stories reach the community. I believe most of all, the festival is a time to discover new voices, come together, and celebrate the playwright’s part in storytelling!

Learn more about all of this year’s selections by visiting americanstage.org/NEW!

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Courtney_Ane_McLaren_headshot_SmBy Courtney McLaren, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice
​”All we have to share, and to give!” A look into American Stage’s School Touring Show; Dec. 1st, 2017:
A muskrat, a mongoose, a tailor bird, a cobra, and their human pet. It sounds like the start of a joke, but these were the characters comprising American Stage’s 2017 educational touring show. As an American Stage apprentice, I was fortunate to be an actor in this production!

For those who may not know, an educational touring show is a show for young children that travels around the county into community schools. The set can be broken down and loaded into and out of a van that the actors drive from location to location. Post show, the children have the opportunity to ask questions in a chat back with the actors. This year’s show, Rikki Tikki Tavi, is adapted from the short story by Rudyard Kipling. It tells the tale… (or tail! Don’t you love my animal pun!?) of Rikki, a baby mongoose who has awoken from a deep slumber to find himself in a garden far from his family. Within the story, Rikki grows from a childlike state of innocence to develop a deeper understanding of the world around him. Along the way, he meets Darzee, a self-serving tailor bird, ChuChu, a fearful muskrat, and Nag, the cruel cobra. By the end, each character comes to their own self-realization, and as a team, they discover the value of friendship and teamwork.

Teamwork is the underlying factor that made this experience such a special one. Many children would ask in our chat backs, “What made you want to become an actor?” I would talk about my experience in high school when performing Godspell. With the focus strongly on the ensemble, Godspell brought me to the realization that a group of people storytelling could have a positive and deep impact, and that realization led me to make theatre my life’s work. This touring show experience brought me back to that early realization. It was yet another star example of the power of ensemble, the power of teamwork. Sadie Lockhart, Andrew Street, Ally Thomas, our fearless director, Tiffany Ford, and I created an unstoppable team. Doing this tour was insanely rewarding, but also insanely tiring. Between the early morning calls, two show days, and the Florida heat, you can easily wear yourself out. However, our team consistently looked out for each other. If you messed up your lines in the show, someone would cover. If you needed a laugh, someone would bring up one of our endless inside jokes (Jelly Lobstah, COME ON, It’s a Bear! Dunkin Donuts! etc.). If you needed Starbucks for the 6:00 am morning call, someone would grab it for you. If you woke up late, someone would travel to your house to get you. If a creepy guy wanted to use your phone at Wawa, the whole team would gather around you to make sure everything was alright (That’s a story for another time!). We truly grew to be one of the most in sync casts I have had the privilege to be a part of. This group synergy brought forth the best in each of us, the best in our show, and the best from our audiences.

School TourPerforming in the children’s world, in their schools and cafeterias, allowed us as actors to see the impact of theatre on a very personal level. The children were usually mere steps away from us, enabling us to read their reactions quite well. As we all know, children typically have not yet developed their filter and are thus very vocal with their reactions. Listening to their pure reactions day in and day out made each show unique. It energized the actor in each of us, thinking “Who knows what they will say next?” Whether the children were trying to guess which animal Rikki was (a bear, a raccoon, a werewolf), commenting on the action to encourage or discourage our characters, or assisting us when something went awry (like the time I accidentally dropped Nag’s egg at the play’s climax!), sharing the gift of story with these children transformed both actor and audience.

There are too many incredible stories to share, but a few really struck me. One such tale was the time we performed at a Catholic pre-school and, on the fly, eliminated the word kill each time it was said in the show to ensure an age appropriate performance. Another gratifying performance was for our oldest audience, a center for adults with special needs. Another favorite was the little girl who saw us perform at her school and then raised money doing chores for two weeks so she could buy tickets to see the show again. Another was the girl who asked for our business card so she could call and hire us for her birthday party. Yet, another was our performances at the outstanding Tampa Theatre. On another occasion, we performed at an arts middle school. Being more familiar with theatre, these students gravitated towards different aspects of the show, and at the chat back held with the officers of the drama club, they had many insightful questions. Sadie had a full circle moment, when she was asked by a young girl, “What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an actress?”

All in all, this experience was theatre at its best. I got to work, laugh, and play every day with a group of people I love. I was able to act, create, and give the gift of theatre. I passed on the magic of storytelling to the next generation each day. I saw before me the impact theatre can have, and how a little imagination can go a long way. Thank you for your time, and have a great day! ChuChu out ya’ll!

To learn about everything that is American Stage Education, ‘Like’ them on Facebook at facebook.com/AmericanStageEd!

Click through to see some photos from the show!
Rikki Tikki Tavi Production 2017


hs_1.By Kody Hopkins, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice ​The Under 20 Passport – Free Tickets for Young Theatre Goers; Dec. 1st, 2017: My name is Kody Hopkins, and I am an apprentice at American Stage. This is the second year of the apprentice program here, and already I can feel the ways it is setting me up for future success in my chosen career path. ​ At our AS 40 Celebration event on October 6th, Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte spoke about the Young Americans initiative at American Stage. It involved the growth of the apprentice program, the continuation of our new Under 30 program, and one particularly bold new addition: free admission in 2018 to all guests under 20. The room erupted into claps and cheers. I was too stunned at first to join in. I had never heard of a theatre trying something so radical. I could imagine this at a Broadway house, or maybe on the West End, but here? My mind raced at the implications — would younger people finally come out more? Would the theatre be risking too much with free seats? Then came the call for support. Numbers were generated, numbers higher than I could possibly hope to contribute to this early in my life. But our ever charismatic Jim Sorensen was determined to get as much help for this initiative as possible, no matter how small the contributions. The number came down to something I could feasibly do, if I really wanted. My hand shot up, inspired to do what little I could. I was unsure he would see me, and if he did, afraid he might think it was a joke. When he finally caught my hand, he was surprised, but treated it very seriously. Was I sure? Yes. When I talked to Stephanie afterwards, I tried to put into words what it was that drove me to make that move. In the world of performing arts, there has been for years now a growing sense of alarm about attendance and ticket sales. Data seems to show that subscription models may begin to dry up, that bringing new people into established theatre is becoming harder and harder, that it is only a matter of a decade or two before some sort of irreversible crash. Some blame young people — too concerned with their phones and Netflix and social media. Others point towards the theatre, its production choice, its price range. I’m not sold on either. What I told Stephanie is this: I don’t think there is anything wrong with the theatre. If young people like me and my fellow apprentices are this crazy about it, willing to go through four years of schooling for these degrees, willing to work long hours for sometimes small pay, how can there be something inherently wrong with it? I believe it is an issue of accessibility. How easy are we making it for someone who has never seen a show to join us? How welcome are we making them feel? What can we do that will allow them to see a reflection of themselves in what we create? Will making tickets free to those under 20 solve this problem? I don’t know. But, it is exactly the kind of bold move and forward thinking the performing arts community needs in order to forge the next generation of theatre goers. That mission is important for more than just economic reasons. Theatre can move people, bring them together, inspire them, and plant the seeds of empathy in their souls. The more we reach out to the coming generation, the better our future civilization may be. And that is why I chose to offer what support I could. I want to end on a small interaction I remember from my time in university. I worked at the library, and during one of my shifts, I was talking to one of my co-workers about the production I was in that he happened to see. He told me he enjoyed it, and that it was the first time he had ever been to the theatre. He was 19 years old, and that was his first time in the theatre, something I had been doing for seven years at that point. And it wasn’t a failure on his part — I believe it was a failure on ours, on the gatekeepers of the performing arts world. I hope he was inspired to go see some more. Read more about American Stage’s new initiatives by clicking HERE. Check out this video of our #GIVINGTUESDAY special announcement:


  hs_1.By Kody Hopkins, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice The Great American Teach-In; Nov. 24th, 2017: Career Day. Many are familiar with the scene: the cool cop talking about protecting the city, the fantastic fireman imparting safety knowledge, a dashing doctor discussing his daily duties. The Great American Teach-In, which took place last Wednesday (Nov.15th), is kind of like Career Day, bringing in professionals across a variety of disciplines to talk with youth about the triumphs and tribulations of being an adult worker. American Stage took part in the event this year, and this humble apprentice got to visit some very awesome kids at Skyview Elementary (and got a free shirt out of the deal! Yippee!) while also learning a thing or two himself. I’ve had an interest in theatre education for a while now, born from numerous Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) shows and a school tour. Turns out, professional theatres all across the country are becoming serious about their education departments (a good thing), and are often on the lookout for Teaching Artists with experience. So, I jumped at this opportunity to join seasoned Teaching Artist Patrick Jackson for a morning of sharing theatre with the young people at Skyview. It was delightful to watch someone with as much experience as Patrick do his thing. While we definitely had our work cut out for us with how incredibly well behaved the Skyview children were, Patrick was great at keeping their focus and attention while always implementing the right theatre games, whether it was kindergarteners or 5th graders. At the core of our lessons throughout that day was the most important thing that we as theatre artists do: tell a story. Turns out, lots of kids love telling stories! Whether we were singing songs about baby sharks and their families, going on a lion hunt through numerous environs, creating a story about missing buttons on picture day, or improvising the legend of Bubbles the Unicorn, we got to explore and tell stories alongside these young people’s fantastic imaginations. Stories are at the center of everything we do; it’s part of what makes theatre so universal. That day, we got to create stories that made people laugh, gasp, and jump for joy, all because they had elements familiar to everyone. Eager to learn as much as I could about the whole gig of being a Teaching Artist, I made sure to ask Patrick several questions throughout the day. Once, I asked him what he personally felt the goal of our outreach programs similar to this are. He gave an awesome reply, stating that the goal isn’t to try and make everyone an actor, playwright, or designer, but to allow them to explore and feel safe in implementing their creativity — something that will serve them no matter what profession they find themselves in. He also made the great point — one that my TYA director back in Greensboro, NC, often made — that this may be the first and sometimes only theatrical experience these young people will see. I saw it as a way of empowerment, of putting tools in their hands that enabled them to fashion whatever is in their minds into something concrete. My favorite part was easily going on that lion hunt (I’ve never “ran” so fast!). Patrick loved seeing the kids’ faces light up and the teachers’ very nice compliments (we’ll have you know we were the “best speakers yet”!). Patrick and I weren’t the only ones to participate, however! Our own wonderful Colleen Cherry went to Madeira Beach Middle School (her alma mater!) with Jim Sorensen to give a mini-playwriting/performance workshop. Jim noted some “too-cool-for-school” kids who loosened up and got into the storytelling and creation of theatre. Colleen said that “only one or two students had ever acted before so it was VERY cool to see all of them so enthusiastic to get in front of their class and share their creations.” For her, part of what makes these programs important is their absence from when she was in school. It can be tough when you are by nature a more creative and expressive type as a youth and don’t have an outlet during the day through which to explore it. Colleen mentioned she had tried to create a drama club while a student at Maderia that didn’t quite come about until after she left. “It’s pretty cool to come full circle and teach the drama club there now through American Stage’s Outreach Program and give the students a safe place to be creative and silly and as weird as they want to be,” she said. Just like we could all learn a thing or two from a policeman, a fireman, or a doctor, I think theatre artists of all types have something to share and teach, as well. We also take the best selfies. Mr. Patrick & Mr. Kody at Skyview  


TAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_SmBy Taylor Sweat, American Stage 2017/2018 Production & Stage Management Apprentice Production and Stage Management Life; November 17th: The Production and Stage Management Apprenticeship is something that is new to American Stage, and I am so honored to be a part of its inaugural year! I am the assistant stage manager on all six of American Stage’s mainstage productions. So far, each production has brought me something memorable that I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere. I also get the opportunity to be immersed in many production elements of each show. So, what does a day in the life of a stage management apprentice look like? Let’s dive in. Most of my duties center around what a typical assistant stage manager what do. There’s a week before the first rehearsal, known as prep week, where I get to help the stage manager (in this case, the illustrious Rachel Harrison, who I hope everyone gets a chance to work with someday because she is phenomenal) tape out the rehearsal space, prep actor scripts, outline paperwork, and get dressing room spaces ready. To better understand what prep week is, think of the weeks leading up to Christmas. You wrap presents, put the tree up, and bake cookies for the special night. When it finally arrives, it’s a joyous occasion, and totally worth all of the prep. The joyous occasion in this metaphor is, of course, the rehearsal period. During rehearsal, I am responsible for creating the blocking script. This means that I am keeping track of the actors’ every move and interaction within the play. I also sometimes serve as an actor stand-in when a particular actor is absent, and provide actors with line notes at the end of a rehearsal run. During rehearsals, I start keeping track of entrances and exits, costume changes, and major scene shifts to make tech week run smoother. When it comes time for tech week and the actual run of the show, my role becomes the deck head, which means I am responsible for all transitions and changes within the show. Those scene shifts and changes that I took note of in rehearsal are transferred to a piece of paperwork known as a deck sheet, which assigns crewmembers to certain tasks to perform during the show in order to make sure the transitions run smooth and are properly executed. This is probably the most tedious piece of paperwork I make during the show because it changes so often depending on what happens within the show. My duties during the run of the show usually revolve around making sure actors are in places at all times, aiding in major scene shifts, and sometimes, performing crucial duties that pertain to the show. That’s my favorite part of the job, because it breaks the stereotype that assistant stage managers are never seen because they’re always backstage. For example, during THE ROYALE, I was the honorary percussionist, meaning during Round Six of the show; I was playing the drums backstage to aid in the action. In MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, I get to wear a comfy dress, aid in major transitions, and take care of a rooster named Prospero. There’s never a dull moment at American Stage, to say the least.  

 

The cool thing about my apprenticeship is that I have the ability to be immersed in other parts of theatre. I help during strike (taking down the previous show’s set) and load in (building the new show’s set), I sometimes get to paint and help props, and I get to work with lighting calls. My favorite (and most unique) lighting call was for THE ROYALE. Those individual lights on the center walls were made in part by me running around the grid with wire that connected the clip light on the wall to the dimmer in the grid. I love being able to do many things during my time here because it allows me to still do the things that made me fall in love with technical theatre in the first place, all while letting me pursue my passion in stage management. It’s truly the best of both worlds, all “Hannah Montana” puns intended.

The best part of my job is not the fact that I’m living my dream, or the fact that I get to work in various parts of theatre. The best part of my job is the people that I’ve met along the way. Being an assistant stage manager allows you to be exposed to so many theatre professionals, be it actors or designers. Everyone I’ve met treats you like family, which totally coincides with everyone at American Stage. Here, I don’t feel like I’m going to work, I feel like I’m going to a family member’s house for a few hours, and honestly, that’s how work should be anyway, right?

So the next time you find yourself in the audience at American Stage, keep your eyes peeled. You never know, you might see your friendly Production and Stage Management Apprentice in disguise.


 

hs_1.By Kody Hopkins, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice
21st Century Voices; Nov. 10, 2017:

While taking playwriting in my senior year of university, I was lucky to meet the founder and producing director of the Contemporary American Theatre Festival — an organization focused on cultivating and representing the voices of new dramatists. He said something that has stuck with me to this day: that art is meant to create resonance. We all come to the theatre to laugh, to cry, to be empowered and to feel vulnerable. The most exciting and engaging stories are still out there, yearning to be told, and this festival was invested in a future of theatre creating resonance. Thankfully, they’re not the only ones committed to that future.

Every arts leader across the country has a responsibility to be the vanguard for the next generation of theatre. American Stage has already joined the fray, continuing to hone and develop our Young Americans Initiative, intended to boost the voices and people that will carry theatre forward. Our 21st Century Voices Cycle is part of that. The cycle involves taking new play submissions from all across the country and picking a handful to receive a staged reading, providing blossoming playwrights a chance to workshop and refine their craft. Last year was the first cycle, and not only will we be bringing it back, but one of last year’s plays, STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR, will be appearing on our main-stage later this season for its FLORIDA PREMIERE! That’s what’s so great about this program: we not only help shape the future of our theatre community, but enable you to see new and bold stories currently unknown to many.

One of our first assignments as apprentices was to be part of the new play reading committee, narrowing down the hundreds of submissions. Being a bit of a writer myself, I enjoyed parsing through the ten-page samples before moving on to full length plays when the list was a more manageable(!) sixty. I got to see the trends and themes the next generation wishes to embody in their works, be it all female casts, exploring issues largely untouched by mainstream theatre (i.e., the death penalty, or fracking), an emphasis towards diversity, or stage conventions ranging from projection to the use of social media.

The final meeting where we discussed our narrowed batch proved equally informative. Our committee was a well rounded group of individuals, stretching through all ages and experience levels. I loved getting to share my thoughts and views as part of the new crop of theatre makers and goers while listening to those who have been upholding it for years now, or ones that have primarily seen it from the audience perspective. It was proof that theatre is meant for all, and the best type of theatre is one that draws from life’s vast experiences and champions unique, powerful stories that are meant to resonate with people.

Sometimes, I think I’d like to have a play of mine produced. I just need to think of something worth saying, first! Until then, I am grateful to know that theatre companies like ours use their strength in the community to lift up unheard voices and new perspectives. The theatre doesn’t evolve by itself; it requires those within the system to constantly be on the lookout for ways to connect, engage, and resonate.

We will be announcing our choices for this year’s 21st Century Voices Cycle soon, so keep your eyes peeled! We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate the talent and the artistry of theatre’s future writers.

YOU CAN NOW PURCHASE AN ALL ACCESS PASS TO THIS YEAR’S NEW PLAY FESTIVAL!
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hs_1.By Kody Hopkins, American Stage 2017/2018 Acting & Production Apprentice
AS40 Celebration; Oct. 27, 2017:

Forty years is a long time for a company to be around. Some of the companies that shape our world and community today are just as old, give or take a few years: Apple is 41 this year, Microsoft 42, and Raymond James 55.

No matter the company, the journey is often the same. It begins small, finds its groove, then changes the landscape for all those to come. A group of like minded and passionate individuals gather together to create something where once there was nothing. For the American Stage founders, it was St Petersburg’s lack of a professional venue for theatre. What once began as an educational touring company grew into a provider of top tier entertainment through a full season of offerings, a St Petersburg tradition of outdoor theatre in the park, and one of the only Equity houses in St Petersburg, guaranteeing some of the best talent available in the country.

Like all those other big companies, a support structure is needed. Instead of stock, we rely on trustees, donors, grants, ticket sales and subscription packages. Through the generosity of our community, American Stage has not only preserved through the decades, it has thrived. We owe a great debt to those who have got us to where we are today, and we hope that it is paid in some part through our commitment to powerful stories, boldly told. At American Stage, theatre is more than a getaway: it is an agent of change, a mosaic of humanity, a whirlwind of intrinsic energies.

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My name is Kody Hopkins, and I am an apprentice at American Stage. This is the second year of the apprentice program here, and already I can feel the ways it is setting me up for future success in my chosen career path.

If you check out our Facebook, or have seen a performance since our AS​/​40 Celebration, you may have witnessed a little preshow light show. Quite simply, this is what happens when you let an apprentice play too much.

My duties for this first show were primarily production based, with a focus towards lighting. I helped wire the light wall, focus the regular stage lamps, and sat by our charming master electrician Chris Baldwin for the programming of the show.

I have dabbled in some very amateur light board programming, and was interested in learning more. During the first week of the run, I started to get an idea: I could make numbers with the clip lights on that wall. Why not make a 40 in order to celebrate AS 40? That’s simple enough. But, since I’m a creative, and sometimes don’t know when to stop an idea after it gets rolling, things… morphed. What began as a little joke of unscrewed light bulbs during the preshow turned into a chance for me to teach myself about light board effects programming. As silly as it all seems, it actually is a great example of why this apprenticeship and working at American Stage is so great: I had an idea and a desire to learn something new, and I was allowed to run with it and learn (and fail a little, too. But we won’t mention that!).

In the end, it was my way to shine a little light of my own on this awesome company that has given me a great opportunity.

Share your American Stage stories and memories by posting with #as40YEARSSTRONG, emailing STORIES@americanstage.org, or by visiting americanstage.org/AS40

​CLICK HERE TO VIEW PHOTOS FROM OUR AS40 EVENT!​