“This wasn’t the plan”

The Mill Mountain entourage pulls up to the touring venue as the sky unleashes it’s best monsoon impression. Costumes soggy, and equipment slippery, we unload our production of “The Jungle Book.” “This was not the plan”, we think. Apprentices pick their way through a field as grassy dust swirls around 3 lawn mowers plowing right through our play space. “Couldn’t have planned for THIS”, we say to one another. We enter a room full of overflow furniture, no bigger than a New York cracker box apartment, where we are to perform in mere minutes. “Contingency plan, ready, set, GO!”

My name’s Claire, and I’m not exactly what you’d call a “conventional” apprentice here at Mill Mountain Theatre. I’ve been lovingly deemed the “sage sister”/”grandma Claire” of our group, having graduated from college a few years ago now. Right out of school I had a distinct vision for what my life would be: move to a big city, audition every single day, and be breezily living out my favorite F*R*I*E*N*D*S episode by the time I was 25. But when life took center stage, my dreams and plans were left waiting in the wings. This summer, I was looking to dive back in full force. I auditioned for the Mill Mountain Apprentice program with the hopes of being challenged, and to flex my acting muscles before I make the next career step. At the very least, I thought, I’d have another musical and play to paste on the resume…

What I’ve gotten? A reawakening of why I love doing what I do, a family of the most talented individuals I could ever meet, and a thirst for learning more about my craft in top notch master classes. Individually I am challenged by playing completely different roles in repertoire. I am learning about the importance of managing time, and the “good tired” that comes from a 10 hour rehearsal day. As a team, we’ve worked together to fully stage two shows now, troubleshoot when things on tour go awry, and are learning to dance in the chaos. And it’s only week 3…

An apprentice, just a few days shy of turning 25, begins to tear up with gratitude and joy as she sings the opening number of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” “No, this certainly wasn’t the plan. It’s SO MUCH BETTER.”



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