American Stage shines a light on 40 years

Count Your Blessings.; 08/31/2018:
By Kody Hopkins

Thought the apprentice blog was done, did you? Not quite yet! There’s a few more posts left in the tank before the new apprentices officially take over, and who knows what they’ve got in store for you (something awesome, I bet). Being my first blog as an officially “graduated” member of the American Stage Apprentice program, I thought it appropriate to look back and thank some people. You don’t have to work at American Stage to know that it is full of fantastic, talented, and helpful people; people like Rachel Harrison, Stephanie Gularte, and Jerid Fox. We love them and they’re great, but you all know those names! Therefore, this blog post goes out to some of the more behind the scenes, unsung heroes of our apprentice program.

Especially since I’m authoring this post, I would be remiss to not put Michael Alford at the top of the list. Mike was chairman of the Board of Trustees during our apprenticeship, and the kindness and generosity that I’m sure nabbed him to that position was constantly on display when we were around him. Flashback a year ago, and bright-shiny-new apprentice Kody didn’t have a place to call home for about a month. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem for long, as Mike graciously opened his house to me, we learned lots of things together and even have our fun in places like https://newmacau88.net/, you should definitively go take a look ! So, not only did I get to know our awesome chair of the board better for the intelligent, generous individual that he is, I also was able to walk to the gulf shore anytime I wanted! (Even so, this North Carolina boy is still mountain crazy. Nice try.) Mike is also known in the theatre as the unofficial boat tour guide of the Gulf for casts and apprentice groups. While we were unfortunately almost always too busy for those excursions, several of us got to have one early on in our apprenticeship, and we still remember it to this day! So, thanks, Mike!

Speaking of the Board of Trustees, I think you would be hard pressed to find a better one for a professional theatre not just in Tampa Bay, but across the country. While I haven’t had the chance to work for many professional theatres yet, I can definitely say the board at American Stage sets a high standard for all to come. Similar to everyone who works inside the theatre, the board feels like extended family. We apprentices would see them at every first rehearsal, every opening night toast, and many other special occasions. They’d always commend us on our work and ask us for our thoughts on the theatre and the city. Some even opened up their homes for Thanksgiving dinners and going away parties. As a group, they even pitched in to get each of us a little Christmas present! Like I said, I may not know every board of trustees around the country, but I can’t imagine there are too many that have such a group of kind, generous, open hearted individuals as ours. The board of an organization can often feel like a faceless, domineering entity, I feel. I always had a face to put on the board at American Stage, though, because they were such a warm and integral part of the AS family. A big thank you from we the apprenti!

Finally, I think it important to thank all the people many theatre goers may not think about, or take for granted. When you go to see a show, chances are the things you walk away remembering are the actors’ performances and maybe the set or lighting. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that much more goes into making a production go smoothly than actors and a set. There are carpenters, electricians, volunteers, house managers, advancement teams, and much more. Luckily, American Stage picks top notch people not just at the senior level, but throughout all of the organization. I personally want to thank Chris Baldwin, our Master Electrician. Chris is a goofy guy who may make one too many jokes during tech week, but no one is better at guiding you through how to repair a lighting fixture or save the show 30 mins before curtain because of a problem with the light board. My favorite thing about working with and learning from Chris was that he never made me feel dumb or foolish for the questions I asked. He’s also supremely talented at keeping cool under great pressure (very handy for those late night tech sessions). Then there’s our awesome house manager, Taylor McKee, whom I’m sure many American Stage goers have met. Taylor was always ready with a smile and enthusiastic “hello” when we’d show up for work, no matter the time or day. He is also an exceptional conversationalist (perfect for a house manager). Last but certainly not least, American Stage attracts some stellar volunteers. There are too many to name and I’m sure I didn’t have the privilege to meet half of them, but I definitely want to thank Joseph and Bonnie for all of their kindness and support throughout the season!

Phew. That was a lot of thank yous. I’d say that’s a good problem to have, though. We apprentices did a lot of work this past season, but none of it would have been possible or nearly as good if it weren’t for the people not only in this blog, but all across the company (and frankly, all across the community!). I guess the actual last thank you should go out to all of you who read the apprentice blog! Thanks for letting my fellow apprentices and me have a platform to talk about what was going on in our artistic lives and express ourselves. You’ll see at least two more from me, Kody, then who knows what exciting things will come next!

One exciting thing that is for sure to come is the beginning of American Stage’s 18/19 Season, LIFE. OUT LOUD. Mark your calendars for the first show, the Pulitzer Prize winning play, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, beginning October 3rd, and go to americanstage.org/our-season to learn more about all of the incredible shows to come!


Harrison & LeannaUNDER 20 PASSPORT AMBASSADORS FAREWELL BLOG; 08/24/2018:
By Leanna Harting & Harrison Betz

Sadly, our time here at American Stage is coming to a close. From getting stuck in a freight elevator to a pavlova surprise, this will be a summer to remember. The fun and sometimes crazy ride that was volunteering has taught us many things, such as how to operate a freight elevator correctly. But, in all seriousness, this experience has been extremely educational, and we look forward to using our new skills in our future theater endeavors.

Of course, the single greatest skill we’ve learned is public relations. I mean, how often do you walk into the Vinoy and ask to put up a poster? Being able to walk into various locales and non-awkwardly ask for something is pretty cool. It’s also been great to learn how to talk to people about theatre and explain to them the opportunities at the stage. Because it’s not like social interaction plays any part in theatre…

The next most important learning opportunity is that of organization. Surprisingly, a 40-year-old theatre company can sometimes have slightly disorganized archives. Sifting through hundreds of photos is fun enough, but when you add in the unlabeled, unidentifiable photos from the early 90s, nothing is more entertaining. On top of that, having to organize a pile of mismatched boxes and pieces of art only added to our training. We also had the pleasure of learning a bit about running the American Stage website, as we assisted in adding next season’s show dates to their online calendar.

As we continue through high school, both of us plan to take part in the theatre program. Whether or not we grow up to be theatrical stars is yet to be determined, so for now we can apply ourselves to the opportunities we already have. American Stage has given us new ways to do that.

Giving us insight into the behind the scenes of a theatre company, the staff at American Stage have been very accommodating. Not only have they taken their own time to teach us how to do certain things, like working with quick redirects or crafting the most eloquent Facebook posts and the most aesthetic Instagram stories, they’ve also been very kind, making us feel right at home in their theatre family. We will truly miss them. Hopefully, we will be able to return again when we have the time. They have gone above and beyond to make our experience better and to teach us new things. Those are things that a pavlova can’t beat, no matter how uncracked the meringue is.


 

Chance-Headshot-2_WEBUNDER 20 Artist Collaboration; 08/17/2018:
By Chancellor Joyer

Hello! I’m Chancellor Joyer, Im sixteen years old and in my junior year, attending Wesley Chapel high school. Art is one of the only things I like to do, I love looking at art books, sketch compilations, etc., of artists I admire with all my heart. Art has always been an interest to me, I started drawing when I was two years old, drawing what I saw on television or what was in front on me. I picked up oil painting around two years ago. In the beginning it was frustrating and I wanted to return to painting with watercolors. But then I realized that I needed to have that experience to become disciplined and well rounded as an artist. Before I knew it, all I would do was sketch and paint, I’d thrown all the other mediums I enjoyed to the side so that I could focus on bettering my oil painting.

I was mentored by the Featured Visual Artist for BAD JEWS, Tracy Copes! We were paired together to create a body of artwork to complement the production, which was on display in the lobby throughout the run. The art we created blended nicely with the themes and concepts we chose for our work, the color choices, etc. It was awesome to work with Tracy on this project. I’d had trouble finding a suitable mentor previously, so I’m glad to have Tracy as a connection now.

I learned quite a bit from Tracy about the art world and how it works, including how to hang artwork, and going with your gut instinct on a piece. The art I created for this show was some of the most fun pieces I’ve done to date. While working on them I would lose track of time, and then I’d look at my phone and see that 8 or 9 hours had gone by! But then as soon as I thought I had done a good job on something, I would get an idea and add in whatever it might be.

Before I was introduced to American Stage, I had little experience seeing productions. My Freshman year I took a theatre class. My school put on productions that were written by the President and Vice President of the drama department. They were funded by my peers who sold candy bars and washed cars because all funding was put into Football. Everything was built by the teachers and a few students who volunteered (they did a great job considering the fact that they had to pull off an elaborate and complicated production on little funding and support!) and at the time I thought, “Wow, that was great!”

Little did I realize, what I had experienced as an audience member was nothing compared to watching a production put on by American Stage! One of the first productions I watched was MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. I was amazed, I had no words to describe how I felt about it. Now that I look back on it, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that kind of immersion, I was at the edge of my seat waiting for the next amazing line, or wondering what would happen next. My attention was completely captured, when it ended I was a little sad it was over, but then that was pushed aside by the awe I was experiencing.

Working with American Stage was an awesome experience! I was able to create pieces that I felt were true to myself as an artist. Before American Stage, I had only a few contemporaries and those around me who had faith in my art — but thanks to American Stage I was able to meet many people who want to see my future work. This opportunity opened up a whole new audience to me and allowed me to start my journey to becoming the artist who I want to be. And I thank them for that, because without it I don’t think I would’ve been able to start that trek. This experience will be one I hold dear for a long time.

Learn more about Chancellor and the 17/18 WE THE PEOPLE Season Artist Collaborations by visiting americanstage.org/WTP.


 

TAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_Sm Courtney_Ane_McLaren_headshot_Sm Tarilabo_Koripamo_headshot_Sm Kody_Hopkins_headshot_Sm Tato_Castillo_headshot_SmApprentice Blog Season Finale; 08/10/2018:
By the 2017-18 American Stage Apprentices

So it is said that all good things must come to an end. As the five of us stand on the edge of our time with American Stage (hopefully just for now!) and look beyond, we can’t help but look back a little. It’s been a year full of triumphs and tribulations — this blog is partly a testament to that! But, for this “final” post (more on that later), we wanted to make that reflection purposeful and not just for ourselves, but for the incoming apprentice class.

We asked the soon to be third apprentice class to throw some questions at us. Instead of just answering it in a huge blog post (because who likes that, Kody?!), we decided to make a little welcome video of sorts! Courtney McLaren worked super hard putting it together, so, we hope you enjoy our little love letter that’s both a farewell to American Stage and a welcome to the new apprentices. Hopefully, it will be helpful to anyone who wants to know the kind of company American Stage is, and what lessons they have to impart on young artists as the theatre starts looking 40 FORWARD.

There’s also this! Kody threw together a little document highlighting some visitor tips from one new St. Petersburgian to six more. It’s by no means comprehensive, but, it’s a start and something he invites the new apprentices to expand upon.

Working at American Stage means being part of a family and a culture of openness, creativity, and kindness. The last apprentice company did plenty to help us acclimate to our time both in Saint Pete and at American Stage. We hope that in our small way, we’ll help the new apprentices. Being at American Stage means helping one another. This is just another link in the chain of ever-growing bonds and connection, from one group to the next.

It feels appropriate to end on some Shakespeare. So, for the current apprentices: all’s well that ends well; and for those soon to be apprentices: what’s past is prologue; what to come, in (your) discharge.


 

The Penultimate Posting; 08/03/2018:
By the 2017/2018 #asAPPRENTI

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog and our Facebook, you know that our time as the 17-18 American Stage Apprentice Company is coming to an end. After August 12th, our year long immersive and intensive job/learning inside of American Stage will be finished. What have we learned, and what do we hope to accomplish next? In our penultimate blog, we reflect on the year, our showcase, and what’s to come.

Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmKody Hopkins:
One of the first things Stephanie Gularte had us do when we arrived in Saint Pete was articulate goals for ourselves to accomplish during this apprenticeship. Out of curiosity, I dug mine back up, and had a little laugh. While I think I definitely achieved what I set out to do (and then some), boy, can I be a suck up sometimes (see: “I always like to be of the ‘leave things better than they were when you found it’ mindset, and though that may be difficult to apply as a lone apprenti to such whole company (that is already excellent as is), I’ll certainly do my best”. Woof.)!

If I said it once on this blog, I’ve said it a thousand times: I was interested in this apprenticeship because of its holistic approach to theatre, rather than a singular focus on performance. I love to learn, I feel most at home in a theatre, regardless of what I am doing. I wanted to leave this apprenticeship feeling capable of stepping into nearly any kind of role somewhere else. I think I’ve done that.

During my time here, I’ve built sets, hung lights, compiled dramaturgical research, crafted audience presentations, performed, done marketing and outreach, and helped educate young minds in creativity. I have grown in every way that I wanted to. I came having never been a teaching artist, and leave with months of experience; I came with zero points towards Actor’s Equity membership, and I leave over halfway to being eligible; I came knowing at least to measure twice and cut once, but left being able to build entire set pieces on my own. Most importantly, I got to express myself in almost every capacity, and was allowed to create with my fellow apprentices.

Were I to pick one thing I appreciated the most about American Stage, it would be the culture here. It is one of family and acceptance, encouragement and freedom. No matter what I was doing, be it the curtain speech, assisting in an education class, or working on the light board, I was given the space and permission to use my creativity to make something unique. I Shakespeare’d a curtain speech. I learned how to and subsequently helped sound design an entire main stage performance. I taught myself how to program lights and made a little celebration of the theatre’s anniversary. I wanted to create a blog for the apprentices to express themselves and reach out, and was given the space to do so. And, perhaps most of all, I was allowed to make my own story with the other apprentices and put it up on the stage.

I feel blessed to have written and designed so much of our showcase. I feel honored that we all got to tell an important and specific part of our story. It wasn’t until the last week of showcase that I realized what we had created and how powerful it was — at least, in my opinion. In my eyes, TOO is a work about how we as individuals — young, old, male, female, black, white — see ourselves in art. It is also a chance for us to choose how we wish to be represented in that art. And that is an important and timely message, I believe.

What comes next is more up in the air than I’d care to admit. I do know that you’ll see me on the American Stage Improv team from September to February! I’m hoping to make my way back to the main stage, too. Regardless of what comes next, American Stage was a critical part of forming my identity and career path, and what I have done and learned here have not only empowered me now, but will also echo into everything I do from this day forward.

Tato_Castillo_headshot_SmTato Castillo:
American stage supported my professional growth this entire year and accepted me for who I am; so it was a unique experience in the most positive of ways. I worked along many insightful and talented professionals that taught me that to be successful on all levels, you must be excited and genuinely interested in what you do.

When it comes to the showcase, it was about the connection between us and how it taught us about ourselves outside of our jobs as well as within the diverse and creative world we shared as acting and production apprenti.

After our time here comes to an end, I plan to seek work in theater, film shorts and start creating my own work. After that, it’s about partnering up with people with whom I share a vision and the desire to craft meaningful stories for today’s audience.

Tarilabo_Koripamo_headshot_SmTarilabo Koripamo:
As I reflect on the last 11 months with American Stage, the one question that is persistent is: Why was it worth it?

As an actor, it is sometimes to reconcile that it is going to be harder than usual; from bettering our craft to housing. However, this year taught me that persistence during tough situations can only strengthen my dedication to my all-around artistry.

I think at the end of this roller coaster it’s a question that is answered because of the experience. I am more confident now than ever that I not only want to be an actor, but also a director. One of my primary goals in wanting to work in America is that the theater helps aspiring international actors such as myself in adapting to the social norms in America. Acting in America will aid in the cross-cultural integration of storytelling on a global platform and getting hired by American Stage was one step closer to making that happen. This is a company that is actively looking for ways to tell stories that redefine, retell and reimagine the singular ‘American’ story.

One of the highlights of my time at American Stage has been getting to work with children and helping them nurture their creative minds. This is because my long-term career prospects as an artist is the progression and advancement of talented children in Africa by providing them with early exposure to theatre. As much as I love my background, I did not grow up in a system where stagecraft was a profitable way to spend one’s childhood; I do want artistic children’s imagination to be nurtured and given a platform to grow. I enjoyed this part of my work immensely because I got to be part of shaping the next generation. It is fulfilling to know I can be a part of these children’s artistic growth.

Thanks to Stephanie Gularte, this opportunity has encouraged and opened up lasting personal relationships that I did not initially think I would obtain during my time here. Working with four other unique individuals, they became not only professional peers but friends. I value their talent, skill, and commitment to the theatre. I do hope I am fortunate to share a work environment with them in the near future because I am truly honored to be part of this group. A group that is funny and bright, and is always looking for ways to provoke intelligent conversations. So, thank you, team!

COURTNEY-MCLAREN_SmCourtney McLaren:
This past Wednesday, we had our last All Staff meeting. Each department did their own wrap up, presenting through a slideshow, anecdotes, skits, funny stories etc. their department’s perspective of this past year at American Stage. I sat there, in awe, laughing and reflecting upon this wonderful situation I had found myself in.

I said yes to American Stage a year ago. I remember packing up and driving away from my apartment at 2:00 AM on a rainy August night, getting ready to move away from Massachusetts for the first time in my life. Now here I am, a year later on a rainy August night, composing my thoughts on what this past year has been to me.

When I said yes to American Stage, I didn’t know the full package of what I was getting. I didn’t know that St. Petersburg would be this insanely unique, vibrant, and bustling city I would fall in love with. I didn’t know that the two former apprentices I met in the lobby the first day, Sadie Lockhart and Matt Acquard, would become such good friends and such a part of the fabric of my time here. I didn’t know that American Stage would provide me with so many onstage opportunities to grow and to affirm my abilities. I didn’t know the staff would be such a supportive, cohesive unit. I didn’t know my fellow apprentices would challenge my perspective of the world. I didn’t know that I was walking into precisely the kind of community I hope to build myself as an artistic director someday. Yet, I am glad I didn’t know all of this, because it made discovering it all so much more fun.

My time at American Stage reaffirmed my artistic voice. It did this through every onstage experience I was privileged to be a part of, but also through the showcase. The showcase was difficult, if I am to be honest. It was hard discovering where to begin, what we wanted to talk about, what we mutually had in common, and who was doing what. Communication got clouded, having everyone as an equal collaborator made things tricky at times, and in that final tech week, with the nightly rehearsals lasting until 3 am, I was exceedingly rung out. Yet through that, we truly made something wonderful, something we all have an equal stake in. It reminded me of the reason I got into theatre in the first place; the power of ensemble to communicate together what one person could not alone. I was strengthened and stretched in my talents. I was reminded that I have a voice and that through risks, collaboration, and bravery, beauty can be made.

As I sat in the All Staff meeting, sitting in the community of artists, friends, and collaborators I had become apart of this past year, I thought upon all I had experienced and couldn’t help but feel amazed. When the apprentices had their turn to present, we had no skits, funny stories, or slideshows. We merely said a few words about what this year had meant to us. When it was my turn to talk, I couldn’t help but cry (so embarrassing) because I truly felt so invested in and blessed by this organization.

Summer has always been my favorite season, specifically the start and end of summer, for I love the magical feeling a beginning and an end of an adventure has. I started my adventure at American Stage at the end of last summer, and this chapter draws to a close at the end of another summer. What lies next? I am not a hundred percent certain, but I know it involves me sticking around St. Pete for a while, and continuously auditioning, pushing forward as an actor, and working on my craft, reaffirmed in my creative voice. For I know “It’s time to start something new and trust in the magic of beginnings.” – Meister Eckhart

 

Processed with VSCO with 5 preset  Great news – our showcase TOO has been extended a week! Visit americanstage.org/YA for details.


 

DKeeping up with the #asAPPRENTI; 07/27/2018:
By Ally Thomas

Hi everyone, Ally Thomas here! (I was the 2016/2017 Season Education & Outreach Apprentice, and you may have also spotted me on School Tour, teaching classes and camps or helping the Advancement team with Gala.) This summer I’m in Roanoke Virginia, studying at the Hollins University Playwright’s Lab! This unique summers-only graduate program offers an MFA in Playwriting, as well as two graduate certificates in New Play Performance (which is the certificate I’m pursuing) and New Play Directing.

As an actor in Hollins’ Playwright’s Lab, I’ve had the rare opportunity to collaborate closely with directors and playwrights to create new works. The summer session is just 6 weeks long, but my brief time here has been jam-packed with classes, readings and performances! In the middle of the summer we had a 24-hour play festival, where I performed in a brand new 10 Minute play, less than 24 hours after it was written. We just wrapped up our Summer Festival of New Works, consisting of 8 Play Readings over 3 days, most of which had never been read aloud in front of an audience. In my classes, I’ve worked on scene study and audition technique, as well as performance styles such as commedia dell’arte and melodrama.

Because this interdisciplinary program is structured to be summers only, the students are all working professionals in their respective fields. This has allowed for a great converging of the skills I’m learning at Hollins and the work that I do throughout the year. The emphasis that Hollins places on telling relevant stories is something that resonates with me deeply and really reminds me of the work that American Stage does. Even as I type this, the team at AS is reviewing submissions and gearing up for the 3rd annual 21st Century Voies Festival. I can’t wait to see what new stories we get to discover in 2019! I’m grateful to have found two communities of theatre artists that value new works development and desire to tell bold and powerful stories.

Here are some photos from my summer with Hollins:

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Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmTAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_SmCOURTNEY-MCLAREN_SmPutting on a Showcase; 06/29/2018:
By Kody Hopkins, Taylor Sweat, & Courtney McLaren

Sad as it is to say, our time as apprentices here at American Stage is coming to a close (say it ain’t so!). We’ve all learned a great deal and grown as artists and theatre practitioners because of our time here, but that’s all for another blog post. Today, we’re going to pull up the curtain ever so slightly on arguably our biggest project yet: the Apprentice Showcase.

All sorts of things can come up over the course of the apprenticeship, and you don’t quite know all of what you are going to do up front at the start. One thing that was always clear, though, was the showcase. Each apprentice company gets to create, produce, and present their very own showcase at the end of their year with American Stage. Last year’s apprentices set the bar high with their “Mosaic” showcase, and this year, we the apprenti are hoping to carve out our own space with… drumroll please…

Too.

Yup. That’s the name of our showcase! “Too.” There will be future posts about all the discussion we’ve had behind the name and the content, but the short of it is, we wanted something that captured the larger movement both here at American Stage with its We The People season and across the country. The word “too” gives the idea of a connection, of a shared story or feeling. A frequent quote from our Producing Artistic Director, Stephanie Gularte, who in turn quotes Oscar Wilde: theatre is “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” It is that sense of sharing, connective tissue, and togetherness that we aim to impart with our showcase.

So, I’ll give you some quick details and notes about where we’re at right now, and then I’ll turn it over to Taylor for some words. From the get go, we wanted to try and self-create the majority of the content in our showcase. Several of us are interested in writing and wanted the opportunity to showcase that particular talent. If I had to estimate, I would say upwards of 75% of our current script is written entirely by one of us, and that’s pretty exciting. We’ve also got a little bit of everything: scenes, monologues, dances, and songs (oh my!). This week, we will be finalizing our script so that we can begin the process of bringing a brand new piece of art to life. Our current “problem”, and it’s a good one to have, is we maaaaaybe just have too much stuff! We got pretty inspired and have made and found a lot of great content. But now’s the time to focus it, and start creating something sharp and succinct to share with all of you.

I think that’s enough from me for now, though. Here’s fellow apprentices Taylor Sweat and Courtney McLaren with some words:

Taylor: The showcase has definitely challenged all of us creatively. We’ve basically created a piece of theatre from the ground up over the last couple of months and it has been crazy. For me, the process actually began back in February creating a production timeline for the showcase. Basically, a production timeline tracks back 16 weeks before a performance and shows us all of the important meetings and rehearsals leading up to opening night of the show. Fortunately, the acting apprentices are allowing me to play along with them, so I’m also working on learning music, memorizing lines, and choreographing a big dance number. It’s kind of crazy balancing the production side of things with the performance side, but it’s all worth it. I hope that audiences take a little piece of us home with them. I hope that they find something about themselves within this piece. We kind of explore the whole human experience within the piece, so the biggest compliment for me would be hearing that we inspired someone or sent someone on an emotional roller coaster. I hope that they not only enjoy the piece, but think critically with hope for the future.

Courtney: Within the next few weeks, if one was looking to find an American Stage apprentice, you would probably find us either: writing, designing, marketing for, or rehearsing for our upcoming showcase. For months we have met to plan, brainstorm, and visualize the fruition of our months of training. Now, finally, it is just around the corner.

I first heard of the showcase a year ago, in my interview with Stephanie. From that time, the possibility to utilize the showcase as a means of further exploring my creative voice has always been appealing to me. As an artist, I know I need a gentle push now and then to achieve my vision, or else I’d end up forever stuck in a conceptual phase. This showcase gives me the push I need to really see through my creative visions from beginning to end.

Working with my fellow apprentices, as an ensemble, to create this showcase in many ways has been incredibly rewarding. The feeling of finding common ground with someone in which to plant your shared creative vision is thrilling in such a unique way. This discovery of this common ground is one of the things that in fact inspired our title, Too.
The power of a creative ensemble is what inspired me to pursue theatre, so to have the importance of ensemble reinforced through this project has brought me back to my roots within this art form.

As our showcase emerges, I have had endless thoughts and feelings bubble to the surface. I have felt thrilled, confused, joyous, frustrated and everything in between. Yet, all in all, the main emotion that consistently underscores all the work that is being done is a sense of hopefulness. The showcase has provided me and each apprentice with a sense of hope; hope for our creativity to be seen, hope for our creative voice to continue its development, hope for a chance to be heard, hope that we can provide a sense of understanding, and a hope to find our collective path through these difficult times by means of our shared creative voice.

And so there you have it: just the first itty bitty taste of what American Stage’s second apprentice company has in store for you. Make sure you keep tuned in to the blog to hear more about this original work we are making, and how you can catch it after select performances of BAD JEWS!

Oh, and, yes, I may have suggested the title “Too” because it is also a play on words (we are the second apprentice company, after all). Visit americanstage.org/YA for more information on the Apprentice Program.

 


_MG_3263UNDER 20 PASSPORT Ambassador Blog; 06/15/2018:
By Leanna Harting & Harrison Betz

My name is Leanna Harting and I am a sophomore at Palm Harbor University High School. I have been involved in theater since I was in Kindergarten and I love going to see stage productions. I am also a Girl Scout, and have had the privilege of participating in theater activities through scouting as well. Being a part of theater has helped me make many lasting and strong friendships. I was introduced to American Stage through friends, and I am overjoyed to be a volunteer this summer.

My name is Harrison Betz and I am also a sophomore at PHUHS. I am interested in joining the theatre program at my school and have always liked the enthusiasm with which theatre has been produced. Besides that, I am involved in Boy Scouting and I feel that exposure to the theatre is something that would interest many of the boys in my troop and in the local area. I was introduced to the American Stage through events that Raymond James has hosted, as my mother works in the St. Pete branch.

While seemingly inconsequential, access to the theatre is something that is vital. Theatre provides a way to connect with a story in a much more personal way than a movie or a book. Being only a few feet away from the raw emotion of a play can give the viewer a completely new perspective and bring the story to life. Through initiatives such as the Under 20 Passport, American Stage is working to bring that connection and vitality to a wider population.

Our focus as ambassadors is to spread the word about the Under 20 Passport, which allows anyone under the age of 20 to attend American Stage productions at no cost. To us, the passport acts as a ticket into the wonderful world of the theatrical arts. The theatre can be hard to access for many people, especially youth. This can be attributed to ticket cost and lack of transportation. Many teenagers do not have a good source of income, or any source at all, meaning they have to rely on their parents in order to attend many events (if their parents have the means). This applies to transportation as well. The Under 20 pass effectively eliminates the first issue. Of course, free theatre should be celebrated, and is something many members of the younger generation should be interested in. Because of this, our main job is to inform people of this opportunity by advertising in places frequented by teens, whether that place be physical or online.

Through our work at American Stage this summer, we hope to gain new knowledge about the inner-workings of a theatre; whether this be through clerical or outreach work. As theatre fans, we cannot wait to learn as much as possible and to bring new faces into the theater scene. Furthermore, as Floridian high school students, volunteering at the American Stage counts for Bright Futures hours. Bright Futures is the state-run scholarship program, which awards tuition money to students based on volunteering hours within their community. Due to the outreach done by the theatre, this work contributes to our future education as well.

During our first few weeks of volunteering, we were tasked with jobs concerning both community outreach and office needs. Our main community outreach project was advertising American Stage’s current and upcoming productions, as well as the Under 20 Passport. To do this, we journeyed up and down the streets of downtown St. Pete and passed out posters and brochures to local businesses. While we were out, we documented the advertising process on the company’s Instagram page (here).  Of course, the best part of this job was all the dogs we got to pet along the way.

While in the office, we have been entering and organizing data on things such as audition videos and actors interested in the company. We have also spent time going through the Stage’s review archives, and saving the listed articles as PDFs for grant submissions and other uses. Additionally, we have also been helping make posts to the company’s FaceBook and Instagram pages. These posts are meant to advertise productions and promote excitement for the arts.

One of the highlights of our volunteering experience was the auditions for American Stage’s upcoming season. We helped sign people in and collected audition forms and headshots. When we weren’t working out front, we had the pleasure of sitting in on a few auditions. From an actor’s standpoint, it was really eye opening to be on the other side of the audition process. We are both super excited to use our new audition knowledge to our acting advantage in the future.

Thinking back to the work we’ve been doing, it’s a new way to look at theatre operations. We certainly did not realize the full extent of all the work that needs to be done behind the scenes. Although small in scope, our volunteer work has been incredibly enlightening and educational. Both of us are extremely grateful for this opportunity, and hope our work helps bring more excited audiences to the theatre.

Of course, this was all only the first part of our American Stage adventure. Stay tuned for a second blog post detailing our later weeks of volunteering!

Learn more about American Stage’s Youth Initiatives at americanstage.org/YA


Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmAuditioning Apprentices Anonymous; 06/15/2018:
By Kody Hopkins

Hello, everyone! Our apologies for the silence from the Apprentice Blog last week — it’s been a busy time at American Stage for us with STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR, summer camp (yay!), and the ramping up of our Apprentice Showcase planning (more on that in future blog posts!). This week brought another big event to American Stage: season auditions. Since auditioning is a big part of the performing arts (and of getting into this apprenticeship!) and it’s prime audition season right now (especially in the Tampa Bay area), I thought it would be neat to do a little post with some tips and anecdotes pulled from our apprenticeship and other experiences about the wonderful world of auditions. We’ll start off with some of the more helpful points I’ve gleaned from my time at American Stage, collated from workshops with some great artists, my time at the FPTAs (Florida Professional Theatre Auditions!) and speaking to some of the cast of GIBRALTAR.

Earlier in the year, we all sat down with Benjamin T. Ismail (who directed MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!) to show off our monologues and do some work. One of my biggest takeaways from that meeting was about the true meaning of the word contrast. You’ll see “contrasting” pop up quite a bit if you’re checking audition boards. Many people (or maybe just me!) interpret this as contrasting genres — you do a funny monologue and a serious monologue. However, as Ben laid out and helped us hone in our workshop, contrast is about much more than that. What auditors really want to see is that you can play a range, and that you can make bold and specific choices about with your material. The more stark and apparent the shift between your two monologues, the more impressive it will be. Another important point Ben touched on and that was further underlined by the Q&A lunch I attended at the FPTAs is the importance of always working on your audition material. One company leader at FPTA referred to your audition as your business card: it should always be ready and well made. Another great tip I heard was about monologue choice. First, what you choose is often a reflection of you — especially if you’re auditioning for a room full of strangers — so choose wisely. Secondly, actors often feel the need to pick material that is challenging, whether it be a gut wrenching monologue or a belty song. Many auditors can be put off by this, as it is pretty hard to sell the reality of that as a stranger in under two-minutes. Often, they would rather see you create a grounded, believable character. It’s the director’s job in the show you may be cast in to get you to a place of high emotion.

I also got some great tips from Joe Joseph, who is currently playing Sameer in American Stage’s production of STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR. He phrased it as the “hour-long freshman seminar” he’s been making in his head that he wishes he could’ve had five or six years ago. Here are three key points he thinks young actors should keep in mind:
Be yourself. The most powerful is the most comfortable, natural, prepared, friendly and grounded version of yourself. You entering that room is just as important as what you do in the room. There will always be someone who can sing higher, dance faster, or do something objectively better than you. So bring yourself.
Make bold choices and go somewhere. Show them something. It is more interesting to go big and fall on your face than provide an average, unremarkable audition. Don’t concern yourself with what you think they want to see. Show them what you see.
If you don’t know something, ask. Questions are good. They show that you’re a thinking person.

All stellar tips, if you ask me. Now, even though we always want to do well and give our best, we’ve all had those auditions that were just… not quite what we wanted or expected. I talked to some of the apprentice team to have them share some funny audition stories:
Taylor Sweat told me of a time she was helping a director with the audition process. It was a pretty standard ordeal: come in with a 60-second contemporary monologue. Inevitably, someone either didn’t get the memo, or thought they were clever. They come in, and the first few lines of their “monologue” went a little something like this: “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell. I know right now you can’t tell… ”
Tarilabo Koripamo had already gotten the hard part out of the way — they liked her monologue and were having her come in for a callback. She gets there with her sides (short scene selections from the play) all prepared, but notices all the women in the waiting area seem to have the lines for the other role in the scene highlighted… deciding to pay it no mind, Tari goes into the room full of her natural confidence to do the work, only to have the other actor start reading her lines. Uh-oh. Everything turned out alright in the end, though: after Tari course corrected, she ended up getting the part.
My audition story is pretty embarrassing. At the university I went to, the theatre department did a weekly thing called Workshop, where student directed (and sometimes written) scenes could be performed, giving the students more opportunity to create and work outside of the year’s shows. Towards the beginning of each school year, there’s a big audition for all the freshman that would like to be seen by the student directors. This was my second college audition, and I came from a school with a small theatre program, so there were a lot of dos and don’ts that I didn’t know — especially don’ts. So I walk into the space, which unlike a regular audition room of maybe four to five people had more like forty, and presented myself: “Hello, my name is Kody Hopkins, and I’ll be doing a monologue from ‘The Walking Dead’.” Yup. I had chosen a monologue from a TV show. I didn’t know at the time that that was rather taboo, and was rewarded with a room full of laughing people — before my monologue. My serious, end-of-season monologue. Needless to say, I didn’t catch anyone’s interest, and I didn’t make that mistake again.
Tato Castillo actually has a pretty deep, but also heartwarming one. I’ll let him speak for himself: “I vaguely remember a time when I was around 14 years old and barely spoke conversational English that I decided to audition for a film or tv show in Orlando. I remember after my audition the whole room wanted to laugh but didn’t and I did not feel comfortable obviously. It was because not only was I unable to show any kind of acting ability or speak fluent-standard English, but I was reading for a character who was at least twice my age. I don’t know what I was thinking. I did all of that knowingly, but I just wanted to do it. I wanted to feel like I did something brave. Something to get me closer to my goals, that would teach me to try even if all odds are against me. So I walked out of the room as calmly as I could, thanked everyone before leaving and then just kept trying for a few more years. I am at a different point in my life now but I still have the same kind of approach to performance art, and that is to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible, take risks more easily and be willing to totally fail. You can only grow and/or get stronger from it. My pay off was making my family proud of me on that day. We all went out to celebrate afterwards. We even took pictures with cool classic cars that day. It was one for the books.”

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next mainstage show, BAD JEWS, more from the Apprentices, and more about our showcase…


TAYLOR_SWEAT_headshot_Sm COURTNEY-MCLAREN_SmBehind the Scenes at American Stage; 06/1/18:
By Courtney McLaren and Taylor Sweat

This week, Courtney and Taylor take you behind the scenes in and around American Stage. Watch Episode 3 of the Apprentice Vlog below!


 

Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmMATT_AQUARD_SmLetters from the Field; 05/18/18:
By Kody Hopkins and Matt Acquard

While the American Stage Apprentice program is still in its beginning stages (we’re only the second group to join the company!), it is already showing its promise as a way to help young theatre practitioners make their way into the world of professional theatre. Many of last year’s apprentices have continued their career in the arts after their time with American Stage: we’ve heard from Ally — who now works with American Stage’s Advancement Department — and Sadie — who’s been adventuring all around the country spreading the joy of theatre with Missoula Children’s Theatre. This week, we get a report from former apprentice Matt Acquard, whom American Stage goers most recently saw as Claudio in this season’s production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, and will see again in BAD JEWS (A Seriously Smart Comedy about Family, Faith, and Legacy coming to an American Stage near you this July!). Matt hasn’t been sitting on his laurels in the downtime between these shows, however, having booked a gig for himself at Annapolis Shakespeare Theatre, further developing his professional resume. I think it’s time to let him do the talking, though, so read on below to find out what Matt feels his most important lessons learned from the American Stage Apprentice program were.

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Matt: So it is officially my turn to blog about my experiences at American Stage. I absolutely loved my time as an apprentice and I can’t put in words the growth I had not only as a person but as a performer due to the guidance of everyone I encountered along the way. As the Joker says in The Dark Knight “And here we go.” Out of the many wonderful things I learned from doing this apprenticeship, the ones that have made the most impact on me are:

  1. Trust yourself and others
  2. Do not be afraid to “fail”
  3. Keep yourself open to new experiences and opportunities

My favorite part of making live theatre is the collaboration. The fact that a group of people can get together and within four weeks bring the world of a play from the pages of the script to life is magical. That feeling I get when the company takes that first company bow on opening night after a hellish tech and many hours of stress and worry I can only describe as intoxicating with a side of admiration for each and every person that helped this moment come to be. Now with that being said, in order to get to that point everyone needs to be bringing their “A-game” throughout the rehearsal process. This is where the ability to trust yourself and others becomes a necessity and requirement. Arguably the hardest lesson I had to learn was that you can only control what you bring to your work. There will be times when you feel like others are not holding up their end of the work and when that happens you must let it go. The only thing that you have any control over is your professionalism and efforts, and if you bring both to the table consistently people will notice.

I am a perfectionist. It is something that I have had to struggle with my whole life and tends to get in my way when performing. When I got cast in my first professional leading role (Claudio in Much Ado at American Stage) I was so excited to be a part of it, but I also was extremely nervous because I felt the need to be perfect from the first rehearsal. I came in with all my lines learned and I had done all my research and homework prior to the first read, but let me tell you when it was time for that first rehearsal I was a freaking mess. I sweat through my shirt and during the read I had forgot all my lines that I worked weeks on to know and had a serious case of agita. This carried over the next day when we moved into the green room and I guess it showed all over my sweaty face because my director (and wonderful friend) pulled me aside to reassure me that everything was going to be fine and to just have fun exploring the text and the character. From that moment on, I adopted the mindset of “fail big and hard” during rehearsals and not only has it made me a better performer, but it also takes a tremendous weight off your shoulders. I also have applied this to auditioning as well. I used to HATE auditioning. My auditions would be SO awkward and I would worry more about how the people in the room were reacting than connecting to the work, and as you could imagine getting cast was difficult. As soon I looked at my auditions as mini rehearsals I became more grounded, centered, but more importantly I just really enjoy them now!

The main reason I wanted to join an apprenticeship like the one at American Stage was due to the training’s focus on making well rounded theatre professionals and not just actors. If you want to “make it” and have a career in theatre you really need to be able to do everything from acting, to directing, to lighting, stage managing, marketing, and even building (sometimes you just got to build a flat). Due to the limited timing, resources, and needs of the theatre, it can be challenging in the program to get exposure to all of this, so I made sure to say yes to all new adventures that I could. For example, I was really fascinated with set design so I mentioned my interest to a set designer about 3D modeling on computers and got to play around on different drafting software with the designer and learn the ins and outs of design. I was also given the opportunity to help build the sound cues for Hairspray! because I learned how to sound engineer during our showcase piece. If I hadn’t gone out of my way to look for these opportunities or simply talk to someone about my curiosities I would not have been exposed to such interesting and cool learning experiences. One of my favorite professors in school told me the last day of undergrad “Matt, just remember you are never done growing as a performer” and I constantly remind myself that every single day.

[CUE TRIUMPHANT MUSIC] Well congratulations! You made it through my post without falling asleep or checking your Facebook feed for cute otter videos! I would like to say thank you to the apprentice team for wanting to hear what I have to say about my time in the apprenticeship, American Stage for everything it has done for me and for liking me (or tolerating me) enough to bring me back again this season, and of course you for reading this post! I hope you found this helpful and wish you all of the broken legs.

-Matt ☺

 


 

Kody_Hopkins_headshot_Sm Courtney_Ane_McLaren_headshot_Sm American Stage Across America; 05/11/18:
By Kody Hopkins and Courtney McLaren

May is upon us and school’s almost out, meaning American Stage Summer Camp is right around the corner! The sun is shining, theatre is in the air, and nearly all the apprenti are on deck for a summer chock full of imagination, exploration, and education. Some of us are brand new to the job of teaching artist or assisting, while others have more experience under their belts. Read on below to get a glimpse at what classes we’re all looking forward to, and what it is we find special about theatre education.

Kody Hopkins: When applying for the American Stage Apprentice program, one of the areas that caught my eye was the summer camp and teaching artist opportunities. As I was on the job hunt after college, I saw many theatres around the country are always looking for teaching artists, but also saw the blank space on my resume in regard to that. Coming from a solid background in theatre for young audiences, teaching was something I was always interested in, but never had the opportunity to do. I’ve been thankful to start changing that this past quarter with American Stage’s educational outreach at PARC, which allowed me to work with an exceptional group of adults to put on a Star Wars themed play (life goal, really). Like I have heard many educator friends say, part of what I found so enriching about that experience was learning from the students themselves. They taught me beautiful lessons in kindness and respect, in sharing and being. That is what draws me to education: the relationship between teacher and student. My life has been impacted immensely by the educators in my life. They’ve guided me, saved me, enriched me — I am who I am today because of the care my teachers took with me. Whether it was learning how to think critically or how to best shape and audition, I became a well rounded, open minded individual from my education. This summer, I’m looking forward to being an assistant in several classes, but the one I’m most excited about is definitely “Unicorns vs. Dragons”. Creating our own story from scratch is exciting enough, but throwing in fantastical elements like dragons and knights and fairy tale creatures just scratches that video game/Game of Thrones itch of mine. I can’t wait to meet all the bright young minds and start creating with them! If my PARC experience was any indication, I’m positive I’ll learn more from them than just how to be a teaching artist.

Courtney McLaren: A tie to the past and to the future. To me, this is what theatre education provides. Teaching allows me a chance to identify with my students, a chance to be reminded of the excitement theatre holds, a chance to see a bit of a former version of who I was through my students. Simultaneously, teaching can provide students hope for their future; they can find a place where they identify, where they belong, where they can express themselves in unconventional ways. Teaching can provide students a glimpse of what can be. It allows them to see what is possible, and find a way towards becoming the person they want to be.

This is why I am so excited to begin teaching again this summer. Prior to my arrival at American Stage, I had spent the past two years teaching performance and playwriting in the gorgeous Berkshires of Massachusetts. I taught in schools, as well as summer camp. Which is one reason I am excited to teach here. Having already taught summer camp classes before, I cannot wait to see how American Stage constructs their camp experience, for it will undoubtedly be different, thus giving me more to learn and draw upon as a teacher. I am especially excited for a class I am teaching which showcases the songs of Moana. It has the potential to be so much fun and with the current material, I am eager to see how invested the children will be. As a performer, musical theatre is where I feel my niche lies. Therefore, I can only imagine teaching a form I am so passionate for, a form which gives me so much joy, will prove to be deeply satisfying as well.

Our training session, was immensely entertaining and informative. When you walked in the room you could feel the positive vibes everyone was putting forth. As the session wore on, this proved to only be more true. From the games we played, to the kinds of questions being asked, it was apparent that this was a welcoming, energetic group of individuals who will work together to create a safe atmosphere for our students. This is perhaps one of the aspects of camp I am most excited for — creating a strong sense of ensemble amongst my fellow teachers and I.
We’ve got a busy, but fun filled summer ahead of us. If you want to get your kids in on the fun, head on over to americanstage.org/YOUTH-SUMMER-CAMP and sign up for a session today!


 

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American Stage Across America; 04/06/18:
By Kody Hopkins and Sadie Lockheart

The goal of the American Stage apprentice program is to prepare young professionals for any challenge that may be thrown at them. From acting to building to dramaturgical research, we do it all. Sadie Lockheart, part of the 2016-17 apprentice company, got a lot of experience within the education department — especially the touring shows. Educational tours are popular all across America, and many professional companies specialize specifically in touring productions. Sadie is now part of one such company, and I got her to send me some of her thoughts about theatre education and her experience thus far. Read on below to see what she has to say!

There are few places that are quite as magical as American Stage. I suppose to say it is magic is an understatement because the magic that is created is sustained by many intelligent, hard-working, and creative individuals. However, my year as an Acting and Production at American Stage felt like magic. I quickly learned that there was so much behind the scenes that goes into each production, design, and educational program.

I worked with the education department quite a bit throughout my time as an apprentice and fell in love with the various ways that theater education can help young minds to explore, process, and understand the world. As an apprentice I performed in the school tour of “George’s Marvelous Medicine” by Roald Dahl. If you are unfamiliar with the school tour program, we travel around to schools in the counties surrounding St. Petersburg and perform a show for students. After the show we have a talkback, where they can ask questions about the story, production, or about being actors. I was encouraged by seeing how a theater production made their imaginations burst with excitement. This play gave students permission to think outside the box and imagine a world that was more creative than their day-to-day. I believe that exposing students to theater can augment their experience in school and the way that they look at the world.

After my apprenticeship was over, I auditioned again for the school tour and was honored to be a part of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” this past fall. I played the part of Darzee, the tailorbird. She is selfish on the surface, but in many ways selfish only because of her fear or being hurt by the other creatures in the garden. The play teaches us that though we are different from each other in appearance, we often are surprised by how similar we are deep down; that, despite our differences, we all have the same range of emotions that we experience through life and together we can always accomplish more than by ourselves.

Currently I am working for Missoula Children’s Theatre, which is an international touring group that travels all over the country and part of the globe to bring theatrical opportunities to students ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade. We arrive in a town on Sunday, hold auditions on Monday, and teach a one-hour musical to the students over the week that performs on Friday and Saturday. There are two Tour Actor/Directors, and we switch off who is directing and who is acting each week. My particular tour is an adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Of course, in one week, we are not going to make all the young minds become actors, but that’s not really the goal. Rather, it is to expose them to a different way of thinking, build their confidence, and try something new. I have had the incredible opportunity to see and learn from so many young people and support them in finding confidence in themselves and growth through theatre, all in the span of a single week.

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The other day, I got a note from a student that said, “You guys have shared and helped me to be proud. Also you have made me think of things in a different way.” I wish I had read it sooner, so that I could have expressed to her just how much she had helped me see things in a different way. I have found that that’s the beauty of theater: we all learn from each other. We are able to set aside or use what we bring with us, and put on a show together. We are able to perform silly and imaginative pieces. We are able to tell diverse and powerful stories. And most importantly, we are able to connect and see the human side in all of us. I will forever be grateful to theater for bringing together so many people from so many walks of life, to create such incredible experiences together. I am in awe of American Stage for all the educational opportunities that it provides for young artist and for all the bold stories that they continue to tell for all ages. I cherish the time I had learning and growing at American Stage and I will continue to be an advocate for the important theatrical movements that the company so boldly takes.


Kody_Hopkins_headshot_SmImprov 4 Apprentices; 03/02/2018:
By Kody Hopkins
One of the perks of being an American Stage apprentice is free access to the awesome improv training classes we do here. Before coming to American Stage, I had always viewed improv as a silly way to have fun with friends. During college, I was head of a theatre community in my dorm, and we’d put on monthly improv nights that focused on games from shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? and mostly just try to have a good time. We were real amateurs, but, that’s kind of what made it fun. While I am most definitely still having a great time doing improv, the first two levels of American Stage’s training program have shown me not just how much deeper improv can be, but also that I have much more interest than I ever anticipated.

An emphasis of the improv training program here at American Stage is being bold. What rocks about this is, not only does it encourage you to go for it in class, it makes you a stronger actor and a more well rounded human being. Do you ever feel like you shy away from things in day to day life, or don’t take that chance that plunges you into the unknown? That’s actually a lot like being in an improv scene. Improvisers — especially beginners — are always concerned about trying to be funny, which locks them up and creates a lot of anxiety. Through improv training, I’ve learned to trust myself enough to go into those moments boldly. One of my favorite tips is starting the scene by giving yourself a “gift”: maybe your character just had a breakup, maybe they just won a million dollars, maybe they’re the smartest human on the planet. Take that, before a line is even said, and go from there. It’s like positive thinking in everyday life. These little scenes are also an opportunity to get better at listening to another person. The bread and butter of building a base reality in the beginning of an improv scene is to always agree and extrapolate with your partner — the infamous “Yes, and”. The best improv scenes are founded on trust and listening, which honestly sounds a lot like real life friendships and relationships. The more you pay attention and invest, the more you have to build from, and the greater the outcome.

Doing these two quarters of improv training has boosted my confidence as an actor. There’s not much to fear in rehearsal after you’ve serendipitously plotted an assassination of the pope (it’s make believe!) or failed to be a good henchman for your crime boss who’s breaking into the national bank. It’s also helped me feel more intuitive as a human being; you learn to keep your eyes and ears open more, to look for opportunity in each moment life presents you. I find myself looking forward to Saturdays not just because it’s the weekend, but because I get to cut loose with some other improv students and laugh it up with (at?) them. Even in these beginning levels, there have been some truly hilarious moments. And what’s so great about those moments is that they’re unique to us, in that room, at that time: by the nature of improv, they won’t ever be repeated again. They’re our little secret ;).

To learn more about our Improv Training Program, or to catch a show (Hawk & Wayne are back Sunday, the House Teams on the second and third Sunday, and you can see me in the FREE student festival on March 25th!), go to americanstage.org/improv.

Kody


 

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Courtney_Ane_McLaren_headshot_SmShop Call!; February 16th, 2018:
By Kody Hopkins & Courtney McLaren
One of the best things about being an American Stage Apprentice is the variety. One week you’ll be in rehearsal, the next the office, and then the next you’re putting together the set for the upcoming show. We get an all around learning experience about theater making, not just a pigeon holed version of it.

I’m a person who likes to know everything that goes into creating a production. As an actor, it makes me feel more knowledgeable and humble knowing how much work is done outside of the rehearsal room. During THE ROYALE, I got to learn so much about electrics and programming. For the past month and a half, I’ve really been digging into the set building side of theater, and it’s been a blast! There’s definitely something magical about putting together the set the actors will walk around on with your own hands. You get to sit in the audience and go, “hey! I made that piece!” It also goes to show you just how much gets done before even the first coat of paint or finishing touches of trim and lights go onto a set.

I’ve learned a lot — and there’s plenty more for me to learn — but how about we give you a little taste of what a typical day in the shop looks like? Check out our first vlog below!

Learn more about the Apprenticeship Program – and all of the pillars in our Young Americans Initiative – by visiting americanstage.org/YA.

 


 

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!
Click Here!

 


 

 

 

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!​