Keeping it Together

13607000_10100802896311333_5087224674677908839_nHello friends!  My name is Meg Morrill and I’m the Stage Management/ Company Manager Apprentice for the 2016 summer!  Well..I was, I’m writing this just as we’ve finished up our final week here at MMT.  So many emotions are going through my mind right now as I say goodbye to so many new friends.  But I’ll touch more on that later, first a little bit of background.  I’m a rising senior at Christopher Newport University where I’m a theater major with a concentration in directing and dramatic literature. Yes, I do both.  I love Stage Management and Directing equally.  I think they have many similar qualities to them, and I couldn’t choose.  So, as you can imagine, my life is a little hectic.

“Mom…mom…mom!”  I hear this as Alex needs me to run sound so he can check the speakers. “Hey Mom!”, Drew calls me because he needs safety pins for the curtains.  “Moooom” Tres calls me because his suspenders snapped off.  All things I can’t go do yet because I’m taping a mic to Jillian’s face.  This is basically what happens everyday, I’m the problem solver, I’m there to pick up the pieces when things get crazy, I’m mom.  I always knew that being the stage manager was like being a mom, but add the company manager title to that and now I’m mom times two.  Every aspect of the show from travel, to set up, to starting on time, is on my shoulders.  It’s a lot of pressure for one person, especially since I had never done anything like this before.  My idea of a stage manager was in a dark booth on a headset calling cues.  Now here I was running between loading mic batteries and cutting a melting prop cake in 90 degree heat.  One day, I came back from a show that started off running late. Someone’s mic belt was missing, an actor got hit in the face with a cord and had to perform with a swollen lip, a few sound cues were missed, a mic went out, and everyone left tired and angry.  I felt like a terrible stage manager, I laid down on my bed for a good 30 minutes wondering what the heck I was doing with my life.  But took as a lesson and I moved on, I woke up the next morning and did another show and everything went fine.

This has been the most challenging but rewarding experience I’ve had with my theater career thus far.  Some days were more challenging than others, but I asked for this…literally.  When I took this job Anna and Jay both told me I had the hardest job, and I told them “great!”.  I wanted the challenge, the field I have chosen is not easy and I don’t want it to be.  I don’t start at the bottom like most people do in office jobs to work my way up.  On day one, I walk into the rehearsal room and I’m the manager, the leader that everyone looks to for help when they don’t know what to do. It’s scary, and exciting, and requires the person to have themselves together.  I have to stay organized and alert at all times.  But I also have to remember to take a moment and breathe.  This job can drive you mad if let it take over your life, but you haveto remember to keep calm and not cry over spilled milk.  Little mishaps will happen here and there, and happen to even the best stage managers.  Your job is to be the voice of reason, and calm the chaos that ensues with every show.  If you lose control, the rest of the show does too.This job has forced me to step up my game and take control of situations with confidence. I have learned so much over the past few weeks about myself and my craft.

Now I’m preparing to say goodbye to some great friends and performers.  Such strong connections that I never thought I would make in six weeks.  They are off to other things as I remain here at MMT to work on Into the W
oods Jr. Another adventure that I feel very prepared for after this experience. My advice to the future stage management/ company management apprentice; take care of yourself as much as you take care of the company, stay organized if you ever ask yourself “should I write this down?” the answer is yes, and stay calm, the company feeds off of your energy if you keep it together, they will too.

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Knowing a Little Bit of Everything

 

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Hey friends! My name is Maddy Mojallali and I am a rising junior at James Madison University. I am the education intern here at Mill Mountain this summer. I am a musical theatre major and I am currently in the process of creating my second major, which will focus on using the arts for education and healing. I am from Long Island but am spending the summer far away from home, because right when the apprenticeship ends I am traveling to Russia to teach kids about the arts! Since this is our last week here, I have been doing a lot of reflection, and I’ve realized that the Mill Mountain Apprenticeship has confirmed my beliefs about how important it is to be a truly versatile theatre artist.

Here at Mill Mountain I have been fortunate enough to do a little bit of everything. I’ve had the privilege to perform, assistant direct, and swing in productions, as well as the opportunity to teach kids in camps, choreograph, and take a ton of dance classes and master classes. You are so much more valuable as an artist if you can do a little bit of everything! Wow. It has been such a wonderful and liberating realization that your major is not your what defines you. Yes, I am a musical theatre major, but no, that does not mean my whole career will consist of belting it out on the big stage. Theatre artists do so much more than just perform.

The staff at Mill Mountain are all theatre artists that can wear many hats; weather it be performing, directing, teaching, choreographing, etc., I have seen every member of the staff help in multiple ways in the theatre at some point in time. If you want your art to reach a good number of people, you need to take many different approaches to the art. The staff at Mill Mountain does a great job of community outreach that makes it possible for tons of kids to see their children’s shows each week. They teach camps that focus on acting, technical theatre, musical theatre, and dance. They teach master classes that cover topics of marketing, viewpoints, Shakespeare, song study, and more. All of these things had impacts on different members of the Roanoke community. Not everything you do will reach everyone, but everything you do will reach someone. It has been very inspiring this summer to see the staff of Mill Mountain reach out to educate and entertain members of the community in a number of different ways this summer. 

The apprenticeship at Mill Mountain has not failed to make all of us theatre artists who wear many hats. I am so thankful that after a long day of rehearsal, we still got to go to a master class or learn about how to network. After performing in a show, we went to The West End center to teach children. We worked on sets and we worked in the offices, we devised theatre and we studied Shakespeare. Do it all, because theatre is not just about one thing. If you are going to make art about the world, you need to know about the world. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can. Wear many hats and wear them well. I am thankful that this apprenticeship has helped me on my journey to becoming a well rounded artist.

Cheesy rant over. Go do good things.

 

Meaningful Connections

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Written by apprentice Casey Daniel

What is meaningful to you? That is a question that has been on my mind a lot since I began my Apprenticeship. Recently the Apprentice Company was given the opportunity to take a masterclass on Networking and Marketing taught by Jason D. Johnson. Personally I thought the class was a great learning experience, but there was one thing that really stuck with me through the class, Jason spoke a lot about making meaningful connections with the people you meet because it’s those people who will help you in the future. This really stuck with me because it made me think a lot about the people I have met, and how they have impacted my life. It also made me realize that making those strong relationships was the thing in my life that I care most about.

The thing I have loved so much about my time as an Apprentice is meeting so many people. I had an old teacher tell me that the people I’d meet here would be some of the friends I’d have for the rest of my life. I think after my four and a half weeks here I can safely say that I really have made some lifelong friends. These people I have had the pleasure to work and live with are so of the best people I have ever met. They are people I will constantly keep in contact with because I have made such meaningful connections with them. I think the thing that sticks out in my mind where I knew these people would be very important in my life was when they surprised me for my birthday. They stayed up with me all night until midnight and then surprised me with a ginormous birthday card and it was just one of those moments I’ll never forget. I appreciated what they did so much and it was their generosity and kindness that I will appreciate forever.

The last thing I want to touch on is how these people I have met have really shifted my views as a person. They have really showed me the meaningful things in their lives, and as a person who is just now realizing those things, it means a lot to me that they have opened up to me so much. They’ve really showed me how important the connections you make with people are because you never know when or if you’ll ever see them again. I’m so lucky to have met these amazing people and I can’t wait to keep these relationships strong as well as building new connections with new people I meet in my life. I’m happy to answer that the people I meet and the relationships I build have become the things most meaningful in my life. It’s those things that make me excited about theatre and life in general. I really do love these people I have gotten to know over the past month and I wish them the best in their careers and lives and I hope we will stay in contact after our time here has ended.

The Traditions You Make

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My name is Jillian Hannah and I am a recent graduate of Elon University. I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada and somehow I have found myself in Roanoke, VA for the first 6 weeks of the rest of my life. There are so many things that I could write about, from the people to all the different restaurants we’ve eaten at, but what I’m going to focus on are the traditions that we have made. I think the fact that we have traditions after only 4 weeks together says a lot about how close we are as a company.

First we have our Monday night tradition. There is a Mexican restaurant across the street from us called Alejandro’s, and every Monday night we go there as a fun way to start out the new work week. This started the very first Monday when it was Kennedy’s birthday and even though we didn’t really know each other that well by that point, we still wanted to do something special for her. We decided that we would just go try out the Mexican restaurant across the street because we still hadn’t found our bearings around Roanoke yet and it looked like a pretty decent place! The next week Monday came around, and since not everyone had come the week before, we decided to go again. Fast forward to now and it has become a weekly tradition for us to head to Alejandro’s after we finish our day on Monday.

Now this next tradition is kind of bizarre, but bear with me. Our dear friend Drew adopted the nickname “Dad” on about the 3rd day here. It just so happens that Father’s Day was this past weekend. We all decided that we would do a surprise for him, like breakfast in bed. But it turns out our plan was going to be a lot more elaborate than that. We ended up buying him a Father’s Day card that said he was “Juan in a melon,” a magnet with a picture of a macaroni that said “Mac-Daddy” on it. Then we told him that we were going to a Chinese restaurant for dinner on Saturday night. Well it just so happens that we kidnapped him instead, and drove him all the way to South Boston, VA to go see a production of Carousel at The Prizery. Drew’s reaction was priceless and I have never seen him so happy. The funniest part of this whole excursion was that, with the 3 birthdays that have happened while we’ve all been together, we went more full out for Father’s Day for not our real father, than any of the birthdays that have happened.

A more recent tradition for us is going to Jack Brown’s on Sunday afternoons. Let me tell you. This place has the BEST burgers I have ever tasted. Not to mention their fries. I could probably eat here everyday, except for the small issue that I would probably gain 20 pounds. Did I mention they also have deep fried Oreos? Because they do. And they are to die for. Jack Brown’s might just be my favourite place to eat here in Roanoke.

I could go on and on about the rest of the things we do here together, but I’ve hit my top three. I believe that having community traditions as a company is very important. It’s great to bond over the work your do on a daily basis, but having those special places that you can go to after work to cool down and make more memories is just as important. It gives us different places to go and it even allows us to interact with the people who live in Roanoke and make connections with the community outside of our own. It’s hard to believe that there are only 2 weeks left here, but I plan to make the most of them! Thanks for sticking with me to the end, and if you’re ever in Roanoke, I’m serious. You have to go to Jack Brown’s. I hope you enjoyed reading about our traditions, now go out and make some of your own!

A Day in the Life…

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Above: (left to right) Apprentices Jillian Hannah, Drew Whitley, and technical intern Justin Howell work on the set for our upcoming show Into the Woods, Jr.

The apprentices are able to experience several different parts of the industry during their time at Mill Mountain Theatre. This includes technical and educational theatre, as well as seeing the inner-workings of a professional theatre’s administrative office.