Theatre Aspen Blog

TAAP Class 2016: Marion Ayers, Sound Design Apprentice

August 26, 2016

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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!

Yours Truly,
Marion Ayers
2016 Sound Apprentice

TAAP Class 2016: Shaye Evans, Lighting Design Apprentice

August 23, 2016

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When I started this summer, I really questioned my choice to spend my summer working for Theatre Aspen. Not because it was a bad place to work or bad work to be doing, but because I was not at all prepared for the summer. Being the youngest person in the technical theatre staff, my experience in this world was definitely lacking. I had no idea what I was doing as an electrician, what is required of me in the professional world, or even how to use a screw gun well. I did not feel like I belonged here. Don't worry, this feeling of “not belonging” subsided very quickly! With help from some of the best supervisors ever, I quickly learned how to feel like I was a part of this company. 

My Technical Director, Oliver Freeman, always helped me with anything I needed, and never judged me while also having fun every day. Sara Hildy, [Wardrobe Supervisor], was always a great person to ask questions about wardrobe (and always get an answer!), as well as just have wonderful conversations with. “Remember that time I guessed your collar size perfectly?” Yes Sara, I do. Though Colin Riebel [Box Office Manager/Lighting Designer for Dear Edwina/Assistant Lighting Designer for the season] spends much of his time in the box office, he was as much of a mentor as everyone else. He always came to see everything I was working on, and gave me his advice and input, which was a huge help. Last but most certainly not least, Michael Cochrane [Master Electrician, and alumnus of the first TAAP Apprentice Class] was my personal supervisor for the summer, and he became a really great friend. No matter what we were doing, he'd clarify, and make sure I know exactly what and why we were doing what we did. He was such a wonderful mentor and teacher and friend. He always looked out for me, and made sure I was taken care of constantly. When it comes to Theatre Aspen staff, it doesn't matter who they are, or what world they supervise, they were always there to come to the rescue and help, no matter what. These people have become some of my favorite humans in the whole world, and I hope they always keep in touch with me so we can continue to work together in the future.

All of my feelings of self-doubt that I had at the start of the summer were suddenly flipped upside down, to the point where this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I did never stopped learning, no matter what I did. As the summer went on, I saw and felt myself get much better as an electrician, and a designer. Through working in the [Hurst Theatre] on all the mainstage productions, to the [Aspen District] Black Box Theatre at the high school and designing Bye Bye Birdie [for Theatre Aspen School], the fun never ended. Theatre Aspen will always be one of my favorite places I have ever worked at, and I will never forget the people, and experiences I had here. If you are an apprentice, and considering this theatre, just say yes. You will not be let down.

Shaye Evans

TAAP Class 2016: Victoria Heikenfeld, Stage Management Apprentice

August 22, 2016


Theatre Aspen: Adventure is Calling

As the summer winds down and I begin to pack to go home, I have been reflecting on my summer here in Aspen. I distinctly remember that just a few months ago I was sitting at one of the computers at my university and staring at pictures of Aspen and the Hurst Theatre. Before class started every day I would turn on my computer and look up Aspen and hope that I would be accepted into the apprentice program. When I was accepted and arrived in Aspen it was seriously a dream come true. I had hoped and wished that I could spend the summer here, and I blinked my eyes and I was in this new, incredible place.

My summer at Theatre Aspen turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed. I had the opportunity to explore Aspen, meet wonderful people in my field, and learn so many valuable lessons about life and theatre. As the stage management apprentice, I saw and experienced various aspects of stage management. I worked as a production assistant for Mamma Mia!, an assistant stage manager for Dear Edwina and stage managed the Apprentice Showcase. Working various productions allowed me to work with different teams and gain a well-rounded experience and education as a stage manager.

The opportunity to work in a repertory theatre taught me the importance of balancing not only the various productions, but also life in general. So many things can be thrown your way and it is important to be able to handle them in the best way possible. Theatre Aspen gave me the means and experience to be able to balance all of the various aspects of theatre and life.

As I move forward in my career, I will remember the experiences and lessons I’ve learned at Theatre Aspen and the people who helped me learn those lessons.

Victoria Heikenfeld, Stage Management Apprentice

TAAP Class 2016: Cristina Oeschger, Performance Apprentice

August 22, 2016

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This summer has been a fantastic learning experience for me, especially coming out of my freshman year of college. I had so much information thrown at me this year, and I was able to put it to use and make some sense of it all. I got to spend my summer doing what I love most with wonderful people. Here’s a very condensed recap: 

We started rehearsals for Mamma Mia! in early June, in which I play Sophie, and only had two weeks of rehearsal and one week in the theater before we opened. I have never put up a show so quickly, so it was a challenge to learn and retain information at such a rapid pace, but it was thrilling to know that each day we were making leaps and bounds to get to the next stage in the process. I learned so much from the other actors in the cast, who are seasoned professionals and have loads of advice to give. In rehearsal I got to observe the work of people like Anne Brummel and Mark Price – it was like a free master class every day. My favorite part of my experience in Mamma Mia! is the relationships I have created with my cast members. There is so much beauty in what the audience doesn’t get to see: goofing around backstage, inside jokes that are hinted at on stage, seeing how many times we can “dab” during the show and get away with it (yes, that really happened). Those are the moments I cherish the most, and the people I get to share those moments with make them even more special.  

I have made friends here that I know will last a lifetime. Together, we have gone white water rafting, ice skating, hiking, tried lots of great restaurants (Creperie du Village is the best – and the donut cart is the perfect late night treat), gone dancing, star gazed, played video games and watched countless great movies, rode the gondola up Aspen mountain, and eaten way too much Paradise ice cream. I have gotten the best of both worlds. How did I get so lucky to work somewhere that produces high quality theatre and has a view this spectacular? 

Between the beautiful nature, lovely new friends, and getting to work at a fabulous company, this summer is one I definitely won't forget. 

Cristina Oeschger

TAAP Class 2016: Veronica Fiaoni, Performance Apprentice

August 22, 2016

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Finding the words to describe this summer is truly a challenge. From the moment the plane landed, I knew the next three months were going to be something to remember.

Initially, my plan for the summer was going to be that any time I was not in rehearsals, I wanted to be out exploring all that is Aspen. As rehearsals began to pile on and shows finally began, I realized the plan was not going to be as practical as I had hoped. Although I found that Aspen is full of gorgeous views, expensive foods, and many other exciting ventures, I quickly learned that sometimes it is nice to just lay around on a day off and have breakfast for dinner with your roommates. Of course, we all found the time to explore, but some of my favorite moments were spent just sitting around the kitchen table laughing with everyone for what felt like hours.

I remember one of the first things Paige [Price, Executive Artistic Director] ever said to us, which was “we only hire nice people here at Theatre Aspen.” It did not take very long to realize that her statement was no lie. Not only did I realize it in our rehearsals, but also while spending time with individuals out around town.

In the short amount of rehearsal time we had for Mamma Mia!, we managed to piece the entire show together at a speedy pace. Even the director, Mark Martino, made a couple comments to the cast about how well we all worked together and how easily we were flying through all the material. It takes a certain group of people to put a big show like Mamma Mia! up on its feet in only three weeks, and have it be as successful as it has been.

From the very beginning of this contract until now, it has been a blast!

It has truly been a joy and an honor to work with such an incredible group of people, and I can only hope to get the opportunity to work with them again in the near future.

Veronica Fiaoni

PS- The photos I attached to this have absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote about. The first photo is of Spencer Hansen (a 2015 performance apprentice) and I hiking Lost Man Loop for the first time. (Which, as you can see from the photo, its blow your mind beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone!) The second is a photo of [2016 apprentices] Ryne Nardecchia, Cristina Oeschger, Kyle Weiler, and I after showcase. And the third photo is a picture of one of our first hikes we did up here in Aspen as a group, Crater Lake. It is one of the many hikes at the Maroon Bells.

I chose those images because they were a couple of my favorite moments of the summer, and I feel that they sum up all that Aspen has been for me these past three months!

TAAP Class 2016: Juliette Redden, Performance Apprentice

August 19, 2016


Being an apprentice at Theatre Aspen teaches you a myriad of skills. It teaches you to collaborate and work well with others in your field. It teaches you to be fast at picking up new things. It also teaches you how to work in a professional environment, and gives you the chance to observe professionals in your field at work. It makes you grow as an artist. But the most incredible thing about being a Theatre Aspen apprentice is that it teaches you how to grow as a person. Being at this amazing theatre, you learn how to be considerate of other people's needs. You learn how to communicate in better ways to your superiors, and the people you look up to. You learn how to create a routine for yourself, and from that, how to take better care of yourself as a human being and working artist.

One can discover so much about themselves in one summer, and it is absolutely ridiculous that I got to do it in a place as beautiful as Aspen, Colorado. Being an apprentice her has made me appreciate much more than just the field I love. It has made me take a second for every moment that I am living, and stop to look around and see where I am. Whether I am in a studio rehearsing, and I feel the cool breeze of the mountain air come through the windows, or I am in this amazing tent that the members of this company constructed from the ground up in order for us to do what we love in, or whether I am in a bright pink tutu doing a performance of a show I completely and utterly adore... It is the little things that matter, the little things you notice that make you wake up and look around and truly appreciate what you are a part of.

Coming to Theatre Aspen for the summer is one of the most amazing and enriching experiences you can give yourself in your career and the life in the industry you are trying to build. The people in this community treat you like you are family. I cannot even fathom the amount of hospitality and generosity that our Theatre Aspen community have shown. They take care of you, they have you over to their homes, they come support the work that is being done throughout the summer, and provide the means for our organization to thrive in such a beautiful place.

I cannot even describe what gratitude I feel for this experience, and for the people who have made it possible for me to be here. This has been an incredible summer, and though this might sound cliché., it is a summer that will stay with me throughout the rest of my life.

Juliette Redden

TAAP Class 2016: Ryne Nardecchia, Performance Apprentice

August 19, 2016

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I never would have imagined how quickly this summer would come to an end.  It feels like only yesterday that I was getting off of the smallest plane known to man after landing in between literal mountains, stepping into a place that felt much like heaven (with a dose of altitude sickness!). Hours later, I was thrown into a group of people who I knew nothing about at first, but very shortly formed into friendships with that I will want to keep with me forever. This summer was one of my first professional theatre experiences and was everything I could have ever wished for.

I was a performance apprentice in the 2016 Theatre Aspen summer season and had the chance to be a part of two shows; Mamma Mia! and Dear Edwina. The first week we arrived was spent assimilating to the town of Aspen. We were given time to explore, hike, raft, and get basic bearings of where the grocery store and pharmacy was located. This was especially valuable to me because I was able to form closer relationships with the other apprentices before jumping into rehearsals for one of my first summer stock experiences, something that gave me a healthy dose of fear in the back of my mind.

A week later, rehearsals began for Mamma Mia! Not fully understanding the way the bus systems around town worked, the entire apprentice class arrived 5 minutes late… not a great start on our part. The beautiful thing is that the situation was handled as if we were professionals. It was recommended strongly that it not happen again, and then we moved on. (Word to the wise: figure out public transit ahead of time!) We were all scared witless by the situation, so naturally, we were twenty minutes early for the next month! After preliminary introductions and housekeeping, we began blocking the show. The staging process was faster than I had been used to, never having had only three weeks to put up an entire show (at school, rehearsal processes can last up to two months). This process, however, never felt too fast. Everyone zeroed in and listened closely so as not to miss anything, and we actually got the whole thing up on its feet in only two weeks with an entire week left for cleaning. To be quite honest, I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to the long drawn out rehearsal period of a school show. I so prefer the accelerated rate of rehearsing. It forces you to make bold decisions and stand by them. Quality work was coming forward in a shorter time with this new restriction. Once we started performing, a new challenge for me in Mamma Mia! was the number of performances ahead of us--a whopping 38! It was a blast and extremely easy to keep fresh for the first month, but after a while, it became slightly more difficult to revitalize each night. It was a good taste of what doing a full run of a professional show would feel like for years. I was given advice from Mark Price, who played our Harry, to make choices some nights that were just out there, in order to force myself to live in the moment and listen to the other actors on stage. It was fascinating and so wonderful to see all the actors at Theatre Aspen bring this show to life.

The other show I had the pleasure of working on this summer was the children’s musical, Dear Edwina. My god, was this show fun to work on! I was one of a six-person cast putting on this play about a girl whose sole purpose in life was to give a bit of good advice. I played Bobby Newsome, Edwina’s new next door neighbor, who is convinced to join Edwina’s crew of advice givers after moving to town from St. Louis. He’s reluctant at first, but decides to place his fears to the side when he sees how important the whole thing is to Edwina. Playing Bobby was a huge treat for me, because in many ways, it reminded me of how I felt when I first began performing. Theatre was a place for me where I was fully accepted and given permission to go as far in the direction of me as I wanted, just as Edwina accepted Bobby with open arms. This shy kid blossomed into a person he could have never imagined, and later would never be able to live without. This kid's shows got very deep! The true gift of working on this show, however, was getting the chance to work under the direction of Paige Price (Executive Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen). I don’t think I can recall a time that Paige said “no” in the rehearsal space. Anytime an idea was offered or a bold choice was made, Paige saw it though to the end, and really let it be realized before making a decision about whether or not it would work and tossing it. This mentality of “yes” made every actor in the room so comfortable, and nurtured an incredibly creative environment when building this power-packed hour-long show. Dear Edwina is a show that relies so heavily on the minds that are working on it and I will forever cherish the version of the show we all had a hand in creating. I will miss it dearly. Almost as much as I’ll miss Bacchus (the official "production assistant" golden retriever of TA!). I’m not usually an early riser, but I loved waking up early every weekend to perform that show.

The last project we all had a hand in creating was our Apprentice Showcase, [title of showcase]. Every year the entire apprentice class is responsible for putting up an hour and a half-long production that reflects where we all stand at this point in our artistic life.  This was a project that took hours of preparation, rehearsal, cleaning, collaboration, and listening, and was one of the most exciting and rewarding performance opportunities I have ever had. Our Musical Director Apprentice, Jeff Ball, ran all music rehearsals. Kyle Weiler, a performance apprentice, created all choreography. Apprentices headed all the production, stage management, lighting design, and sound design positions. It was up to us to create the entirety of the piece. At times tensions were high, and about an hour before the show we were all pooping our pants, but we realized we were surrounded by our company--some of the most generous artists--who all came to support us the night of the show. Who could be afraid surrounded by all that love? We all felt like we said what we needed to with the show. If anyone’s interested in seeing it, we are all given physical copies as parting gifts. Just hunt one of us down!

If someone asked me to share my favorite part about this summer, it would be the people I had the privilege of working with. I was working alongside some incredibly talented artists this summer, but that's not the big takeaway. Along with being incredibly talented, these people were incredibly kind, generous, and humble. They wouldn’t rattle off all their credits or make their importance known. They would treat me, a student with a year of school left without a credit to my name, the same way they would treat anyone else. We would go out together, swap stories and laugh until we’d forget what we were laughing about. The people I worked with at Theatre Aspen were decent humans first. I was talking to my mom about this whole experience and I told her “I was spoiled this summer.” I don’t know when I’ll have an experience that fit everything I could have hoped for as closely as the Theatre Aspen experience did. Thank you to everyone that made this possible. I hope to cross paths with you all many times over in the future.

Until then,


TAAP Class 2016: Brianna Barnes, Performance Apprentice

August 18, 2016


As someone who is wound up pretty tight, I can happily say that Aspen…despite the altitude…has taught me to breathe. The vast majesty and beauty of this place has incredible power over the way you think. It causes an immediate humility of the heart—that although important and special, you are so finite and small compared to the universe God created around you. This has helped me realize that fear and anxiety aren’t worth the effort. Just look around—the mountains are still standing. Whatever your worry is—you’ll keep standing too. Aspen also stimulates a sense of reckless abandonment in the soul. The spirit of adventure reigns supreme here, and rubs off on you quickly! Whether it's hiking up 14,000 feet or white water rafting, or trying new and exciting culinary flavors—Aspen asks you to take a chance.

Mamma Mia! at Theatre Aspen was my first professional job after graduating from The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music (CCM) this May. And it was without a doubt the best decision I could have made. My summer here encompasses the things I love most about being actor—seeing incredible parts of the world, working with high-caliber professionals and talent, and gaining new experience in unknown or untapped performance areas. Our rehearsal period was short and fast, but we accomplished it all with our fearless leader, Mark Martino. This was my first time putting a show up on its feet in 2 weeks, and I learned a TON! How to pick up choreography quickly, how to swiftly make acting choices and stick to them, and how to create chemistry with a group of extremely talented strangers. But it was all worth it when our Aspen audience came into the equation. Mamma Mia! certainly brings joy and fun and laughter into people’s hearts! What a great energy that is to be a part of. When you have businessmen and 80-year-old ladies and teenaged boys all up on their feet dancing at the end—you know you’ve done your job right.

As my time here in Aspen comes to an end, I am left feeling more grateful than anything else. Grateful to have gotten hired right out of school and stayed employed as an actor for 4 months (can’t ever take that for granted!). Grateful to have worked with such high caliber talent in an incredibly professional company. Grateful to have experienced nature in a way I never have before. Grateful to have grown as an artist while simultaneously growing as an adult. Grateful to have been inspired by actors with decades of experience and knowledge—who still love what they do. And grateful to leave with new friendships and connections made. I feel I have the tools now to go to my next adventure—New York City—with confidence and strength. Hopefully my summer of breathing will translate into the busy streets of NYC and I can bring the sense of joy and freedom I have found here in the mountains to the concrete jungle. 

Brianna Barnes

TAAP Class 2016: Ana Langmead, Costume Design Apprentice

August 16, 2016

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If you told me earlier this year that I would be spending this summer in Aspen working as a Wardrobe Apprentice, I would have thought you were nuts. Theatre Aspen was not even on my radar as a possibility, but when I started communicating with some of the wonderful staff here, I was thrilled. I am constantly awestruck by how outstanding the people at Theatre Aspen are. Since I have been here, there has not been a single person that has not made this experience more enriching. Working with such genuinely kind and caring people has been an inspiration. The concern people have for one another is a heartwarming sight.

This summer has been filled with countless experiences that have had a deep impact on me. The most recent of which is my work as the costume designer for the Theatre Aspen School’s production of Bye Bye Birdie. This project has provided me with the full spectrum of emotions. For a time, I was consumed with how stressed the work made me. I am grateful for my much-needed wake up call to remind me that I am doing this because it’s what I am passionate about. It was when I finally started working face-to-face with the kids involved that my work took on a different meaning for me. Yes, I was overwhelmed when I had fifteen girls throwing poodle skirts and leotards at me during fittings. Yes, the constant screaming about Conrad Birdie got to be a bit much at times, but it was all worth it. I was taught many important lessons about theater in general, but specifically about doing theater with young people. The emphasis is placed on how the kids feel and making it the best possible experience for them. I was able to contribute to that by making them feel special with their costumes. Having all of the actors coming up to me throughout tech and performances exclaiming about their costumes and how grateful they were for my work made the related anxiety worthwhile.

I came into this summer with very specific goals about what I wanted to improve upon. At the beginning of the summer, it was essential for me to get to a place where I was more comfortable in who I was and what I could do. With the help of the people around me, I can confidently say that I met each of my goals. I am immensely grateful to all the amazing people I work with who have helped me have such an incredible summer. 

TAAP Class 2016: Madison Pugh, Performance Apprentice

August 16, 2016

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When I first met Paige Price, I was singing a disco song for her – “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. That was the first time I was introduced to Theatre Aspen. Since then, I’ve been hiking mountains, eating every new food I’ve encountered, grooving to ABBA music, and running around a stage in the most sophisticated children’s show I’ve ever been introduced to. The University of Oklahoma is great, but its beauty is nothing compared to the incredible valley I find myself in now.

My summer began with rehearsals for Mamma Mia. I am a pit singer for the show – for those who don’t know (I didn’t when I started!) a pit singer is a person who is part of the ensemble of a show and sings backstage. Sometimes pit singers are required when the music of a show is especially difficult. This is definitely the case for Mamma Mia. The music of ABBA is an incredible rock marathon, and I love jamming with my fellow two pit singers backstage. We dance and groove together and we always get to hang out with the crew backstage.

Dear Edwina has definitely been one of my favorite experiences throughout the summer. I play Annie Smith Meenahan Johnson, a twelve-year-old girl scout. She loves cookies and is great at selling them. Annie is an excellent entrepreneur and I believe that, if she were a real person, she would go on to be the CEO of a great company. The show is ridiculously active and the entire cast has been so much fun, what with us running around and throwing things over each other’s heads constantly. Not only is it incredibly fun to perform, but it’s also funny for both kids and parents to watch. While Dear Edwina is our “kids show” for this season, many parents and grandparents have approached me and told me that they loved it because it was so clever. For an actor in a kids show, there is no higher compliment!

We just finished our Apprentice Showcase, which we presented in the Hurst Theatre on August 14th! It’s thrilling to work with such talented and positive people! I sincerely hope everyone who reads this blog post will join Theatre Aspen for a show before the season closes!

Thank you for sharing your city with me!

Madison, Senior at the University of Oklahoma, Performance Apprentice 2016

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