Becoming an IStage Apprentice: A Q&A with Former Imagination Stage Apprentices

With the Professional Theatre Apprenticeship application deadline fast approaching, we decided to sit down with some former apprentices to share their experiences. Katy Beth Cassell, Krystle Seit, and Taylor Kidd were happy to answer a few questions about their respective years as Imagination Stage apprentices, and how their positions helped them become the professionals they are today!

Here's Taylor working at our Annual Gala!

What was your focus when you were an apprentice?

 Katy Beth: I was the Institutional Development apprentice from August 2011-August 2012. I focused on all aspects of marketing and development.

Krystle: I was an Education apprentice.

Taylor: I was the Theatre Management Apprentice during my time at Imagination Stage, and I worked under both the Artistic Director and the Production Manager. My main focus at the start was casting, and under the Artistic Department, I did an awful lot of it. About midway through, I decided to that I wanted to switch and go the production route, and focused most of my energy in that field.

What do you do now? In what ways did your apprenticeship prepare you to get to this point?

Katy Beth: I am currently the Development Manager for First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 150 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. Other full-time jobs post-apprenticeship have included working in development for the Folger Shakespeare Library and Imagination Stage.

My apprenticeship 100% prepared me for my career as a fundraiser. I was given so many opportunities—from planning events, writing and created fundraising emails, interacting with the Board of Directors, planning fundraising campaigns, writing compelling appeals, etc. These are all things that I do on a day-to-day basis in my current position.

Krystle: I am the Education Program Coordinator at Imagination Stage. As an apprentice, there were differing responsibilities and tasks that I had the opportunity to work on and I thrived off of that. In my professional life today, I still rely on the ability to multitask, build community, and interact with so many people.

Taylor: The easy answer to this question is that I work in production. Really, I am a freelance stage manager, but I’ve also worked on national tours as an assistant tour manager and production assistant. Having to communicate with designers and artists, create schedules and manage budgets during my apprenticeship helped me immensely. That’s basically what I do on the day to day, and having a year of that nonstop prior, was the best experience I could have received.

Pictured above is Krystle working at a craft table during one of our Summer events.

What about the apprenticeship program prompted your initial interest? Why did you ultimately decide to apply?

Katy Beth: I was initially interested in the apprenticeship because a) it was in a larger market (I’m originally from South Carolina and wanted to test the waters in a big city) and b) because it combined marketing and development – two areas where I wanted to further develop my skills. I ultimately applied because I loved the idea of honing these skills at a children’s theatre—I owe a lot to the wonderful arts education experiences that I received as a child and I wanted to give back in that way while also forging my career path.

Krystle: A mentor of mine sent me the link to Imagination Stage’s apprenticeship program and I thought it looked like a great, and different, way to spend a year while still immersed in the inner workings of theatre and education. Plus, it never hurts to apply to something and learn more about it through an interview process!

Taylor: You get to dip your hands into so many different things, and get pulled into so many different projects that you really get a full and overall experience of what it takes to run a theatre company. I think a lot of people at our age have a general idea of what they want to do, but are still trying to figure out the specifics and with this apprenticeship you get the opportunity to explore multiple sides of the business and really see what interests you the most.  When I applied, I was still a little unsure of what I wanted to do, so being able to explore different departments really helped me narrow down my thought process, and contemplate my path.  It’s also the highest paid apprenticeship in the area, that’s a major plus!

What did you learn during the apprenticeship that surprised you or was unexpected?

Katy Beth: I learned that fundraising is my niche! I had worked as a Marketing Associate previous to my apprenticeship and knew that I was a good copywriter, but I did not know how much I would enjoy the writing, research, planning, and interactions involved in fundraising. I learned that development isn’t just asking for money—it is developing relationships. I had the most amazing mentors during my apprenticeship (many of whom are still my mentors today, five years later!)

Krystle: The majority of my theatre teaching experience before I moved down here was with high school students in a public school setting, or teenagers during a summer program. However, during my apprentice year, I learned that I really enjoyed working with a much wider variety of ages including toddlers and elementary students! I also discovered that I enjoyed being a part of the inner workings of programs whose mission aligns with my passions. Even the tasks that may seem less than exciting were enjoyable since I knew they were contributing to a larger picture.

Taylor: I learned a lot about the technical aspects of theatre that I didn’t know before. I’ve never been much of a manual labor girl, so having to be in production meetings and follow the technical terms and lingo’s used by designers, I learned a lot about scenic and lighting design and what it takes to build and put up sets.  I feel a lot handier now, even recently purchased my first power tool!

Katy Beth as Sister Bear at Whole Foods 5% Day!

What is your favorite memory from your apprenticeship?

Katy Beth: A favorite memory was when I was given the opportunity to plan—from start to finish—a 5% day at Whole Foods benefitting Imagination Stage. From working with partners at Whole Foods to writing the initial press release to coordinating performances and staffing throughout the day, I loved every minute of it. Was it tiring? Sure (as most days during the apprenticeship are!) but the experience was one that helped me develop so many skills that I still use today.

Choosing just one is very, very difficult. I would say that Opening Nights and any other “all apprentice hands on deck” events were some of my favorite moments. Not only did I get to interact with so many families in various ways, but my fellow apprentices and I truly loved working together. We would make any task fun, even if it was setting up tables, giving tours, or cleaning up afterwards.

What a difficult question!  One of the best things about Imagination Stage is that all you have to do is walk through the front doors and you by default have a smile on your face! I would have to say my favorite memory is stage managing a student production. It was my first shot at stage management, and really helped me decide to take this path. I also got to work with an amazing group of teenagers and a director that always kept it interesting.  It really pushed me to work harder than I ever have before, and being able to pull off the show was really rewarding.

What was your favorite part of your day when you were an apprentice?

Katy Beth: My favorite part of my day was interacting with my fellow apprentices! We all loved the work we were doing, and we were able to learn SO MUCH from each other. We all brought unique skill sets and different interests, and when we put all of our brains together, we were unstoppable.

Krystle: I don’t know that there was a “typical every day” for me as an apprentice. However, one of my favorite parts, when I wasn’t working directly with students or teaching artists, was working reception. Seeing everyone walk through the doors and hearing their reactions to a show or program on the way out always brightened my day.

Taylor: Any apprentice will tell you that any type of alone time at your desk was the best part of the day.  We had our hands in so many other things that didn’t involve our day to day responsibilities, so to have a moment at your desk, were you can be candid and free with your peers and actually get some work done was golden.

The 2016-2017 Apprentice Class at Opening Night of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering applying this apprenticeship?

Katy Beth: I actually applied for the apprenticeship twice. I interviewed in 2009 but didn’t receive an offer. I was still interested two years later in 2011, applied again, and received an offer. I would encourage applicants to not get discouraged if they hear “no” the first time they’re applying for apprenticeships/internships/jobs. Keep at it, and the right opportunity will come up at the right time!

I would encourage them to take a look at the website and, if they are even a bit interested, to apply. You learn so much through that process and if you receive an interview have the opportunity to ask questions that may help you recognize if this would be a good opportunity for you.

I said this in my exit interview and totally believe it, there is no way to really prepare yourself for the amount of work, time and devotion it takes to be an apprentice at Imagination Stage. I’ve never been more exhausted, stressed, or pushed to my limit more times than I was the year of my apprenticeship. So if you’re in that part of the year (and you will encounter this part of the year multiple times) where you have three projects due by the end of the week, meetings all day, two box office shifts an a day in the gift shop please, please just remember, it’s completely worth it and by the end you’ll KNOW you can tackle anything that comes your way.

The deadline to apply for an apprenticeship is March 1! Learn more here

About Imagination Stage

Imagination Stage is a non-profit, professional children's theatre and arts education center located in Bethesda, MD. It is the Washington, DC region's leading theatre dedicated to children.
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