Arden Professional Apprentices, A View from the Trenches: Episode Five

June 11, 2009

A View from the Trenches: Class 16 reflects on their year as apprentices.

The six members of APA Class 16 are in their final days of the apprenticeship. For the last four weeks, Bobby, Katherine, Hillary, Maura, Richard and Gary have been knee deep in producing, designing, building, and acting in Slightly Irregular – an evening of four ten-minute plays with comic interludes.

Performances take place Saturday June 13 at 8pm and Sunday June 14 at 7pm on the Arcadia Stage. Tickets are free but reservations are strongly encouraged. To reserve your tickets please call the Arden Box Office 215.922.1222.


When ever people ask me what I’ve learned this year, I’ve found myself at a loss for words. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, but that I’ve experienced so much that it’s hard to articulate exactly what. I settle for telling them that I don’t think I’ll realize what I’ve learned until the apprenticeship is over, when everything sinks in. I was surprised to find through working on this showcase that it has already sunk in, it has just become such an inextricable part of the way I operate and think about my life in theatre that I didn’t realize the change had occurred. I have the confidence to know that I can create and produce theatre, in my newfound Philadelphia community and elsewhere, because of who this program has shaped me to be. I love the creative process of making this show, and it is exhilarating to use my administrative skills to make it a reality, but the most satisfying thing about it is seeing the person I have become as a result.


While I consciously know that my days at the Arden can be counted on one hand, it’s not a thought I really can process at the moment! Our last few days have been filled with preparations for the showcase – and in my case, it feels really, really nice to be back in the costume shop after a year of trying out everything else. And although a large part of me is so happy to be back designing costumes again, I have to say that the additional challenges of the showcase duties (in my case, learning how to use graphic design softwares such as Photoshop and Quark to produce the postcard and additional printed materials) have been incredibly useful and wonderful. How lucky to end my tenure at the Arden by both returning to a long-loved passion as well as being challenged to try new things!


All season long I have been dreaming up the perfect apprentice survival kit. It started out as tiny jokes during Facilities Maintenance or an Opening Night party. “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a door stopper that could shoot out of our sneakers?” I exclaimed on several occasions. As the season went on, more and more ideas popped up for imaginative ways to go “above and beyond” during the apprenticeship. Maura came up with the “Hydration Station” – a contraption that would fit on our heads and allow us to have both coffee and water at all times. All six members of Class 16 have come up with perfect solutions for solving Arden problems with the little help of an extra arm, leg, zip cord, utility belt, etc. During our last couple of weeks working on the showcase we have collaborated on every aspect of building our own production, Slightly Irregular, from start to finish. In addition we have created the ultimate APA survival tool which we have coined The Apprendage. (Katherine created a mock-up of our genius invention for the Slightly Irregular program.) I truly believe that The Apprendage is a culmination of our great success of working as a team and that even though we are all truly different, we somehow meld together to create something great…yet slightly irregular.


On Monday night the six apprentices had a meeting at the end of another long day. We were all at the end of a shift that had lasted anywhere between 12 and 16 hours (even for those who had the day off). Our muscles ached, our brains were frazzled, and our stomachs were empty. As we inhaled pizza from Soho and sipped on the case of beer that was given to us earlier in the year (listed on our budget under assets: “a case of beer”), we began to chip away at the long list of things that still need to be figured out and finished before opening this Saturday. As I looked around the table, I could hardly believe that we are here in the week that every apprentice is warned about: the deadly final week before the showcase. This week is infamous for sleepless nights, stress, tears, fights, and even trips to the hospital. This is the week that we have been preparing for all year: the last lap of our marathon, the consummate workweek, the final countdown. Yet, sitting in the meeting, I realized that if we put aside all of the painting, sewing, building, marketing, and fundraising that we’ve been so consumed with in order to prove what we’ve learned this year, we are still left with something unique and special: each other. It is corny, I know, but as we teased and laughed and loopily attempted to have a serious meeting, I realized that coming out of this year I am now blessed with five people who I would never have met otherwise, who now know me better than most people, and who I will truly consider to be great friends. Maybe we’ll fight this week, maybe we’ll cry…but in the end I know we’ll be there for each other. And in that realization, I suddenly knew that this isn’t all about the show…it is also about us.


Wow! It’s the last week of our apprenticeship! A funny thing about this week is how I seem to be taking note of our final apprenticeship duties as we complete them. For example, I was scheduled for Facilities Maintenance this week, something I’ve done many times before, and it was kind of relieving and satisfying to realize that this is the last time I would have to replace toilet paper in the bathrooms or change the liners of coffee soaked garbage bins while spilling it all over my shoes. It also made me want to do an extra good job while doing it. I’ve found myself taking an unusual amount of pride in these little things. I’m realizing that they all add up to make the whole of what the Arden is: one large group project. Everybody in this building contributes something every day. It all amasses into a largely successful theatre company. It’s cool to be a part of that. A slightly smaller (but still big!) group project is the APA Class 16 Showcase, Slightly Irregular, which will be happening this weekend. I’m taking an especially large amount of pride in that. I think the pride I’m feeling has swelled from knowing that it’s bundled with something else. Knowing that everything I’ve done here has contributed both to me as an individual and to the company. Everything I do here helps us both to grow. Thank you to everyone at Arden Theatre Company for a wonderful experience!


For the showcase, I am acting as technical director and lighting designer. Over the course of the year I have spent much time working with the production department on various projects, however what makes the showcase special is how I will able to work on a project from start to finish. The demanding nature of the apprentice schedule does not allow working in the same place too long. We work in several different departments daily. One may see step 1 and step 3, but never have the opportunity to see step 2. Fortunately, the production staff has been a great help over the last month. This whole process I have found very empowering. Now that I have spent the last year learning how the Arden operates, it is a wonderful feeling to implement everything I have learned.

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