Theatre Aspen Blog
June 15, 2018
Education Apprentice Abaigeal O'Donnell poses with students in Theatre Aspen's summer educaiton programs.
Splinters, Snacks, and Seatbelts at Theatre Camp
by Abaigeal O’Donnell, Education Apprentice
My experience in theatre started at camp. Since I typically hid in the corner during dodgeball and my friendship bracelet making skills were iffy, a switch to a new theatre camp offered by the park district was the perfect opportunity for me to get out of the sticky heat and into a sweaty gymnasium.
While I don’t remember much about the camp play, I do remember playing a guard and wearing a metal helmet that fell off on stage. This was the start of many “whoops” moments I would have in my young theatrical career. The embarrassing onstage catastrophes ranged from falling on my face onstage to performing in Cinderella with pink eye. Despite the fiascos, I kept coming back for more. And here I am, back at theatre camp, for the 14th summer. This time I’m working as a teacher for Theatre Aspen’s summer education programs.
As we wrap up our first week of programming, I feel so grateful for the excellent teaching artists I have had in my life. With limited resources and lots of caffeine, they inspired me to strive to be an excellent artist and educator. On a day when our students were feeling tired, a student asked me how I have so much energy. I said, “because I work at it,” and it’s true. I do not magically wake up throwing handfuls of glitter and radiating sunshine. If I did that would be awesome, but instead I drink coffee and try to do my best.
I am absolutely delighted to be teaching at Theatre Aspen this summer. Crafting engaging, fun, and silly experiences for these students has been a blast. Throughout this first week, we have all been tested, but the small moments of companionship and collaboration the students have built make every challenge worth it. The “tiny humans” I have met so far are incredible and hilarious. Providing the spark for their outstanding creative voices means the world to me.
This first week has been full of challenges I never could have anticipated. In just five days, I have removed splinters, fixed someone’s braces wires, and put on band aids. I have opened food wrappers, put on seatbelts, and distributed Goldfish. More importantly I have taught, I have learned, and I am growing.
We have had ups and downs, turn it all arounds, zip zap zops, and bop to the tops. And now we’re going to do it all over again. Let’s get ready for week 2!
June 12, 2018
The Apprentice Class of 2018 (plus some staffers) get ready to take on the rapids!
Seventeen Theater Kids Get in a Raft
By Kimberly Sears, Content Development Apprentice
Theatre and athleticism don’t always go hand-in-hand. When the Theatre Aspen Apprentice Class of 2018 embarked on the annual rafting trip on Sunday, June 10, all bets were off. Nerves were high as we donned astronaut-esque wetsuits, life jackets, and helmets and took mental notes during the safety talk. Before we knew it, we were piling into yellow rafts, trying to find a group of four new friends with whom to go on this journey. We were ready to paddle our way down the Roaring Fork River (and praying not to be the one who would fall out of the raft and into the rapids)! Our guides, however, prepared us well - no one fell out of their rafts and we are all now unofficially certified "Great Paddlers".
Just like our rafting adventure, our first two weeks in Aspen have been an adventure. Upon arrival, no one knew quite what to expect - always taking notes, whether mentally or scribbled down on a Post-It or a script. We are learning where to go and how to “paddle through” confidently, largely thanks to guidance from the Theatre Aspen company and staff. Beyond the guidance provided to us by our mentors and supervisors, the Apprentices are learning from each other and learning how to work together, just like we did on our rafting trip.
Only two weeks in and our Apprentice Class is already forming strong #TAfamily bonds. Seventeen Apprentices comprise the largest class Theatre Aspen has ever seen: Markcus Blair (performance), Blake Bojewski (performance), Caitlyn Davis (production management), Savannah Fisher (performance), Amelia Freo (wardrobe), William Harris (performance), Karlie Kohler (education), Rachel Moffatt (company management), Blake Moran (musical direction), Abaigeal O’Donnell (education), Malyssa Quiles (sound), Macy Rupp (lighting), Eric Schell (performance), Kimberly Sears (content development), Nicholas Villemarette (lighting), Ali Whitwell (performance), and Meghan Winter (stage management).
As students and recent graduates, we hail from all over the United States, from California to Texas to Mississippi to New York. While we know this summer will present us with many challenges--much like the Class 3 rapids we paddled through on Sunday--we can depend on each other and our mentors to support us and provide us with valuable learning experiences. Ultimately, we will find ourselves “down river” in August, wondering how we got there so quickly and looking back on an amazing adventure.
July 27, 2017
I’ve been alive for 20 summers, and I can say without a doubt that this has been my best summer yet (That’s 2 decades of summers!!!) Theatre Aspen wins this summer because it has given me incredible relationships, growth in countless ways, and inspiration for my future in the performing arts.
In one month, I’ll be a junior at Kansas State University. I’m majoring in Vocal Performance with minors in Theatre and Non-Profit Leadership Studies. Just like most college students, I was having occasional doubts in my career choices this past spring. I’ve performed in shows at my school and learned lots from every production, but was unsure if a job in performing arts would be sustainable.
I applied for the Theatre Aspen Apprenticeship Program wanting to expand my horizons as a versatile individual in the industry, and was selected as the Arts Administration Apprentice. Within the first two weeks in Aspen, my fears about my life choices were eliminated. I was doing REAL work in the office from the very beginning, making true friendships with all of my fellow apprentices and cast members, and interacting daily with professionals who had even been through the same things I was worried about. Needless to say,
it. was. AWESOME.
I knew from the start it was going to be a fantastic summer, but I really had no idea the types I was transformations I was to undergo.
My weight is a challenge that has been ahead of me since I can remember—it was a challenge that seemed so huge, I thought I could never really do anything about it. But something was different this summer. I am so fortunate to have been in Aspen where the atmosphere and the people have beckoned me to leave my old habits. In 8 weeks here I lost over 20 pounds to get to my target weight, then began working on converting my fat into muscle (aka tryna get YOKED). All of this progress has been made just by eating healthier and going to the gym/getting some significant physical activity every day. This is a major life improvement that I will keep with me forever.
I will always cherish and benefit from the friendships and experiences that have been made in Aspen. I’ve loved my time as an administrator, but also learned that I want to be onstage for a little while before I return to administration. Though it will be hard to leave in several weeks, part of me is also excited—I cannot wait to return to college a new person who is always ready to live for the moment and embrace the future. Theatre Aspen has led caused me to think of my aspirations in greater ways. While I want to perform hope to be successful in my musical endeavors, my impact as an administrator is something I am incredibly excited for. If I can eventually give aspiring young artists the type of experience I’ve had this summer, I can consider my life well spent.
July 26, 2017
I’m an artist– which I won’t take back, because those words naturally imply always seeking without ever fully finding. It’s the exact opposite of saying, ‘I know it already, I’ve already found it’. To the best of my knowledge, those words mean ‘I seek, I pursue, my heart is in it’.
– Vincent Van Gogh
I am an artist.
You will not hear my voice, I am only seen in the soft glow of transitional light. Moving slowly across the stage in dark clothing carrying an armful of props. Yet here at Theatre Aspen I am able to make my mark and gladly say ‘I am an artist.”
An apprentice program like this one is rare. Through our last month of hard work and long hours, our class has been made to feel a part of this company, no less than the people we are working alongside. The professionals of this company represent the people that we aspire to become in our career. We have been shown our true potential; this business is a feasible career.
Stage management has been a part of my life for many years now. The crazy, uncertain years of high school to college to adult life were always supported by my work in theater. It is cliché but theater is where I found my home. My love of organizing and paperwork had a concrete purpose; my enjoyment of the creation of art was allowed to flourish; my focus on small details was considered a useful skill; so, I stayed in stage management.
Through Theatre Aspen’s Apprentice Program I have found mentors and friends that will last beyond this summer. I have been made to feel a part of the team and have in turn pulled my weight to assist those around me. I get to see my fellow apprentices shine through their own work all while remaining a genuinely kind group of artists.
Theatre Aspen lends itself to grand poetical statements to the point where people sometimes forget the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a season at our tent. It is important to acknowledge the hard days and the minute details that have to be remembered are a part of this business. Learning to keep up with the pace and problems that come from this type of process is imperative. With three shows up, working in a variety of roles, I have learned so much about just how much is needed to perform at the quality of Theatre Aspen and how to bring that quality to the rest of my work.
There is so much more to this apprenticeship than just booking it and learning from mentors. I have been encouraged to grow, to challenge my work, and to understand the paths of other people. Every day I wake up surrounded by mountains and at the end each day staring up at the span of stars overhead. Great bookends to days filled with the work that I consider my career.
I am a stage manager. I am a technician. I am an artist. “I seek, I pursue, my heart is in it.”
July 13, 2017
I am so grateful for this summer's adventures. Theatre Aspen is teaching me so many things about life and happiness. Being here in Aspen, I've been presented with opportunities to perform, rehearse with professionals in the theatre world, learn from veteran actors, learn from professional directors and managers, and to have fun being around people who do the same thing that I do!
It has been over a month since I touched down in the most beautiful place I've ever been! Aside from the opportunities to perform and work with great people, Aspen is gorgeous. For this to be a summer job, I feel extremely blessed to be able to leave work and look out into the mountains! I've been on 3 hikes, and yoga has become a big part of my time here. With the gym membership they are freely giving us, I can work out on my time off!
I know that opportunities like this do not come along all of the time. Understanding that fact, I cannot help but that God for allowing this to be something I experience! This is my first summer stock job, and to God be the glory that it is a well-known Regional/Equity theatre! I've met beautiful people inside and out. And I continue to learn from my co-workers! There is love in my heart for Theatre Aspen, and I am so ready to marvel in each show! I am ready to begin teaching assisting next Monday! I am NOT ready to leave! I am ready for my family to come and experience the beauty of this place and the good shows they have to offer!
Thank you Theatre Aspen! (Paige Price, Markus Potter, Kaitlin Hopkins, Jessie Douglas) Great theatre can be done as long as everyone believes in it! Thank you for allowing artists to share art! Thank you for creating a safe, fun, and exciting environment for young people like me to thrive!!
July 12, 2017
There comes a time (or multiple instances, really) that you feel the stars aligning for you for whatever reason; you try to look back and see everything you could’ve possibly done to lead you to this moment in time, but you draw a complete blank and suppose it must be fate or some otherworldly moving mechanism in this giant machine called ‘life’; but in reality, it’s because it was meant to happen.
This opportunity with Theatre Aspen has been the most ‘stars aligning’ moment I’ve had thus far in the beginning stages of my career as a performer, and I can’t help but think everyday, “I’m here. I was chosen for a reason. There must be a reason why I’m here in this gorgeous place working with fantastic people. It must be fate or destiny, or both!” I find myself constantly pinching various parts of my body in hopes of waking myself up from this dream, and I’m always completely elated to realize this is no dream, I just happen to be in OZ 24/7.
My audition for Theatre Aspen has been my most memorable yet: I auditioned in New York and naturally in ‘Important Audition Day Fashion” I had a dress malfunction and my dress zipper imploded, exploded, and practically disintegrated literally minutes before my audition, so I whip on my Nancy Drew thinking cap together and fashion the most absurd, hilarious and poorly constructed dress clasper known to mankind. The lovely girl behind the desk at Pearl Studios offered her sweater to me, and I walked into the room hoping for the absolute best because clearly it was ‘all up from here!’
Flash forward to a few days later having my callback, and I’ll never forget hearing the wonderful Mark Martino say “Ewwwww” on one of my bizarre acting choices, and Paige Price remembering my Apprentice audition video and telling me in the room, “OH MY GOD YOU’RE HIRED!” Little did I know that a job offer would truly be sent my way (just as Paige had said!) in just two short weeks. Is that destiny, or what? Yes there was crying. Yes there was jumping up and down. Yes there was the ‘They like me. They really really like me’ moment. This was supposed to happen.
The rest is history!
Each day has little hidden joys: from waking up and hearing birds chirping outside my window, to chatting it up with our fantastic staff behind the scenes, to having the most wonderful time in a dream show of mine and having the most hysterical partner in crime, Michael Gorman, who always puts the biggest smile on my face, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with joy on the daily. How lucky am I to say that?
I truly feel overwhelmed with joy every single day. Each and every member of this team and community have opened their arms, hearts, and homes to us, and I truly can’t think of a more welcoming place for young artists to feel safe to explore, grow, fail, and learn. Magic is made here. Maybe it’s in the water, or maybe, just maybe… it’s Theatre Aspen.
To each and every person who has made Theatre Aspen magic over the years, and will continue doing so, I can’t help but thank you for including me in your legacy. It means more than you know.
All my love and then some,
Kayla Ryan Walsh
“Just remember you had an ‘and,’ when you’re back to ‘or,’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more than it did before.
Now I understand—
And it’s time to leave the woods” - Stephen Sondheim
July 6, 2017
A year ago, I never would have guessed that I would be spending my summer in Aspen, but when I was told about the TAAP program by one of the faculty members at my university, I knew the Music Direction position was the perfect fit for me. I still remember sitting in the student lounge in the music building when I got the fateful email telling me I was accepted into this amazing program. Coming from Long Island, which is very flat and urban, I was blown away by the beautiful sights here, from the mountains to the rivers. In my first week I went hiking and white water rafting, which are two things I never thought I’d do! I’ve had so much fun getting to know my fellow apprentices both in leisure time and in the rehearsal process on our shows.
So far, we have successfully opened Hairspray and are in rehearsals for The World According to Snoopy, which opens next week. We have also started planning our Apprentice Showcase for the end of the summer. My job has consisted of observing our Music Director, being an extra set of ears during rehearsals, teaching music to the casts and helping to reinforce vocal parts, playing in choreography rehearsals, and of course performing in the pit orchestra for both musicals! I have enjoyed working on all of these skills in both shows, and I look forward to taking more leadership in the Apprentice Showcase by teaching songs and possibly composing some music as well!
I am so pleased with how both shows I am working on are coming, and I can’t wait for even more audiences to see them! I’m particularly excited for some upcoming visits from family and friends to see me and the productions I am working on. When I’m not in rehearsals, I enjoy watching movies, walking around town, and finding new restaurants to try.
Everyone here at Theatre Aspen, whether they are fellow apprentices, talented actors, tech crew, or production staff, are so welcoming and encouraging. I am excited to take what I have learned back to SUNY Fredonia for my final two years and work on more productions!
July 5, 2017
Theatre Aspen and I stumbled upon each other like meeting your favorite musician at a bar: unexpectedly and surprisingly. I had spoken to Paige Price at an event in Chicago months after I had graduated college at The Theatre School at DePaul University, where I studied directing and theatre for young audiences. I always knew I wanted to work with children, but I couldn’t leave my passion for theatre at the door. After much discussion of life and career goals (summarized now to save you the time of my existential crisis) with Paige, she asked me, “Why don’t you consider the Education Apprenticeship at Theatre Aspen next summer?”
… The what? I had hardly heard of it!
I continued my many jobs and projects in Chicago, but never forgot about that night for months to come. Finally, it was application time and I decided to try my luck at an opportunity that I knew [deep-down] I would regret if I passed it up.
I was so right.
I packed up my apartment and traveled out west to a brand new state I had never been to … it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Theatre Aspen has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have even dreamed about in Chicago or anywhere else. I’m so lucky to be a part of this dedicated and passionate TA family!
Immediately, I was taken under the wings of Graham Northrup (Director of Education), Britney Kuehm (Education Associate), Allison Lloyd (Summer Programs Coordinator) and Amber Julian (Production Manager). They are the best of the best without a doubt; they’ve taught me so much about life and teaching, and I’m not even halfway done with my summer here! While some days are harder than others, it is definitely the most satisfying and gratifying job, especially when you see the joy and sparked imagination within each student. They threw me right in after a couple weeks of observing and learning administrative aspects of a theatre’s educational department, allowing me to teach my own courses within each summer program. Currently, I am working as an assistant director in our Musical Theatre Workshop, Alice in Wonderland Jr. Not only do I get to teach, but I also get to be back in a rehearsal room again, which I have called a comfortable “home” my whole life. It’s the best of both worlds I was looking so hard for at the beginning of my journey.
With all that being said, I get to have fun in Aspen, as well! The other apprentices and I have created our own supportive family. We love going hiking, trying new restaurants and bars in town (especially during brunchtime), watching free concerts on Thursdays in Snowmass, having movie nights in our apartment-styled living, checking out the weekly farmer’s market and shopping at the wonderful local stores in the city. We recently created a Fourth of July float in honor of our mainstage show, Hairspray, and got to sing and dance for the whole city of Aspen in the parade! I was spoiled with hugs from my many students on the parade route and realized exactly why Theatre Aspen is aspiring me to pursue my career in theatre education: because I get the opportunity to inspire and insight the future generation of theatre artists in hopes that they chase their own dreams and become good people for tomorrow’s world.
October 17, 2016
In the heat of a stressful election year, our goal this summer season was to entertain and inspire by delivering outstanding theatre to all of our patrons; and we are proud to announce that this season was everything we hoped it would be and more. In fact, it was one for the record books!
Mamma Mia! sold-out a record 19 shows, while we hit yet another milestone when a record number of brand new patrons came to TA last summer. In total, over 12,000 patrons passed through the Hurst Theatre this summer and we are so grateful for the opportunity to introduce our vibrant productions to new audiences.
Dear Edwina, directed by our own Paige Price, enchanted audiences of all ages and proved we are never too old for great advice. Andrew Travers of the Aspen Times had this to say, "Mamma Mia! may have been the good-time hit of the summer at Theatre Aspen, but the one-man show Buyer & Cellar was the play of the season thanks to Jeffrey Correia’s bittersweet turn as the shopkeeper in Barbra Streisand’s basement."
In August, the second annual Aspen Theatre Festival delivered the promising new musical The Museum of Broken Relationships. Stay tuned for exciting news about the 2017 Third Annual Aspen Theatre Festival! Theatre Aspen's commitment to new work has put us on course to be an important incubator for the artists and art that will be the future of theatre!
This season was made possible through the generous support of season sponsors ANB Bank, Nancy Wall & Chuck Wall, Soledad & Bob Hurst, Darlynn & Tom Fellman, Jim & Brenda Grusecki, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Allison & Warren Kanders, Steven Shane - Compass Real Estate, Terri & Tony Caine, Melanie Sturm & Marc Zachary, and and the Aspen Club & Spa.
Thanks to everyone who supported Theatre Aspen this summer. We are busily planning our 2017 season!
August 26, 2016
If I could pick one word to describe this summer, it would would be ‘spontaneity’. Coming out to Aspen was both the hardest and most rewarding decision I have made in a long time, and that includes picking where to go to college!
My summer here took many turns: I learned the importance of professionalism, being calm under pressure, learning to work with the people you have looked up to, and just generally going with the flow. My flight into Aspen was a little rocky, but it once I landed I realized I was spending me summer in one of the most beautiful parts of the US. It got quite distracting at times... but that's okay too!
The first couple weeks were a huge learning curve, as I had never worked in a tent theatre where you need to load in all your equipment at the top of the season. These two weeks taught me so much, like the fact that my height is not the easiest thing to work with, but with the help of some friends and a contraption called “the danger stick” I can do anything! I also had the opportunity to work with Oliver [Freeman], our technical director, to expand my knowledge of tools and building techniques, as it is all hands on deck when the set needs to be put together. It was during all of this where I finally met Em [Gustason], our A1 and Sound Engineer for the summer. Em was a fantastic mentor and showed me the type of human I want to grow up to be, both professionally and personally. We worked together so well, and I learned new ways to do my job better, which is all one can ask for in an assistantship.
Once we were in the run of shows, my job as the A2 was to mic up the actors and generally be hands on deck if anything went awry! With Mamma Mia! in particular, my job was quite involved and I had the chance to get to know my cast quite well. I also did this job for our production of Dear Edwina, which was a much more fast paced show. Most unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to be the A1 for our one man show, Buyer and Cellar; it was another quick study of how to use new equipment. Working with our designer David Thomas taught me a great amount about professionalism and stepping into another's shoes when things go sideways, as they sometimes do. Working with the console and DT turned out to be useful when I had the chance to be the designer for our Apprentice Showcase!
The design opportunities I received this summer were more fun than I could have imagined. Working with the other two production apprentices [Shaye and Ana] to collaborate and design with the Theatre Aspen School’s production of Bye Bye Birdie was a blast. Getting to teach kids about theatre and help to make them feel successful was incredibly rewarding! Another very collaborative project was our Apprentice Showcase which proved to all of us just how talented and impressive our apprentice was (the answer is very very very talented)!
I can say for sure that the takeaway from this summer is much more than I ever imagined: the friendships I've made, the experiences I've had, and the lessons I've learned from my time in Aspen have made me a better collaborator and human. I can't wait to finish my senior year at Webster and get out into that big wide world.
Thank you Theatre Aspen!
2016 Sound Apprentice