Wednesday, December 3, 2014

BU Theatre Grad Leaps from Academics to Professional Work through an Apprenticeship

Though I only just graduated from Bloomsburg this past May, I am lucky enough to be working in my field of study, especially a field as competitive as theatre.  I am currently employed as a Stage Management Apprentice at the People's Light and Theatre in Malvern, PA.  I am honored to be a part of their 40th anniversary season.

My main role as an apprentice is to serve as the assistant stage manager for half of the shows in this season.  However, in the downtime between shows, I am expected to put in time as a Production Assistant.  So far, I've assisted the carpenters, the scenic artist, and the props master.  Being able to transition seamlessly into the different departments is definitely a big asset and, I am sure, helped me to earn this position.

Becca Kestel (second from right) with the cast and stage management team
on the set of Row After Row at People's Light and Theat
I was able to gain these multi-disciplined skills during my time at Bloomsburg University.  While in school, I was fueled with a constant yearning to learn about every aspect of theatre, and I made a point of seizing any opportunity for a new experience. All of my professors supported my yearning and provided me with new challenges and guidance. I was blessed with incredible professors who not only guided me, but serve as examples of great theatre artists.

I took nearly every theatre production class offered (some more than once at an advanced level) and once I gained the basic knowledge I was able to use it through practical experience.  I was offered leadership roles in the form of stage managing or designing for the Bloomsburg University Players' (BUP) main stage productions. In addition, I held a work study job in the scene shop from my sophomore year until I graduated.

In my senior year, I was offered the role of stage manager of the BUP production of 30 Plays in 60 Minutes.  I accepted, not fully realizing the personal impact the show would have on me.  This show provided new challenges that appealed to me: working with a guest director from New York (Kevin R. Free), a collection of completely student-written pieces that were constantly being edited, and a staging that changed for each performance.  Though the work was intense at times, I loved every second I spent on this show.  It highlighted the beauty of theatre to me.  With my group of peers, underneath the fabulous guidance of Kevin R. Free, we created this truly unique theatre experience that was able to move the audience each night.  It was during this show that I made the decision to pursue stage management fully.  Also, my work on this show was honored with a Certificate of Merit from the Kennedy Center for American College Theatre.

It is so exciting to be able to put all that I've learned to use in the professional theatre world. I am so grateful to have my position here at People's Light and Theatre. To add to the excitement, I was surprised and delighted to see a familiar face during my first week of work here.  It turns out that my counterpart for the season is none other than Liz Nugent, another alumna from Bloomsburg University, whom I've had the fortune to work with during school. Clearly, Bloomsburg is doing something right in their training of stage managers.

—Becca Kestel, Theatre and Anthropology, BU Class of ‘14

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