The Playhouse Apprentice

Jamie and John were interviewed about their experience with the Theatre Tech Apprenticeship Program (TTAP). Jamie is a senior apprentice in the area of a general technician, and John is a first year apprentice just beginning his experience. Both are Metro Community College freshmen enrolled in the TTAP Playhouse program.

Tell me what your typical day is here at the Playhouse.

Jamie: I usually come in about 2 PM, and find Don and figure out what is going on today. (what are we working on, ed). Typically, I will be assigned my own project, or be assigned to work with one of the craftsmen. Sometimes I will get a set of drawings, and Don will go over them with me in detail and see if I understand what he is asking me to do. Then he will typically say: “Go do what you can!” He spends a lot of time making sure I understand what I need to do.

How is this different than your high school setting?

It is more professional. It is a work environment—you are expected to do things right, and if you make mistakes you are sure to spend some time figuring out why it is not right so you do not make the same mistake twice, and so you can do it by yourself alone later. This is a collaborative work environment just like high school, but at a much higher level.

John: I get here about 2:30 and find Darrin or Don, and find out what to do today. Ethan or Ryan may help me with a project. They will explain in detail how to do a project, and will check back frequently to see if we are doing it the correct way. We did something the other day and Darrin came back and told us to do it again, but he lets us know it is ok that we have to re-do it, because we learn from this.

How is this different than high school? In our high school the parents built the set, so for us building was not an important part of the process. I went to Lincoln for school one year, and there they always bought a lot of extra materials because they expect you to screw up. Here you might, but that is not the expectation. In an educational setting you might have 400 people see your show, but here there are 600 per night. Your work takes on a different level of expectation, because it is important to a lot more people. This is not produced as educational theatre, so it has to work.

Jamie: In high school, each show was a different beast, and so we had to do a lot of experimenting to figure out the best way of doing things for that set—there was a lot of trial and error. Here you have people who know the best way to do it, so you can get down to work and do it the best way immediately, as we have people with lots of experience to help us determine a best practice.

Jamie, how do you work in the shop? You are somewhere between a craftsman and the new junior apprentice, as you know more than the junior, but not as much as the journeyman or master craftsman, right?

Yes, I am like the middle person. I learn a lot about working with others. Sometimes I focus on learning from the craftsmen for myself, and then other times I focus on teaching the new apprentices and then be sure they know why we are doing something a certain way. Sometimes it is frustrating because I don’t know the answers they look for either. Then, we all learn together.

John: It is kind of like the senior apprentices can translate into our language what the craftsmen are telling us. Senior apprentices keep a watchful eye on us, as they know where they messed up last year, and want to keep us from having the same problem. They are like mother birds making sure we don’t get into deep “do do”.

Jamie: This is the best learning experience I have ever had. It is hands on, and then you learn about yourself. I am finding out how I learn easiest and best learning that about myself is pretty amazing. It is a fantastic learning experience. I come to learn a trade, and I also learn about myself. Who would believe that?

John: This is a great program structure. You get an assignment, then people check back with you frequently to see what you did. This is great for someone who has ADD like me, as I could be off in some other tangent, but I get brought right back and corrected if I make a mistake. It is great that we have 5 full time people checking in with us all the time. This is different than a university situation where you have one or two faculty working with you. You don’t get that level of correction and help. Here you have lots of supervision, and they know what they are doing.

Jamie: They teach you the skills, and then prepare us for the real work world. I make great connections with people in the business, and it sets you up for the real world when you get out of here. I know it has helped me figure my future out.

John: It sets you up for the real world because it IS the real world. This is a commercial theatre that has to make things work, so the real world is here!

And it is fun.

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