Learning on the job: Sierra Stages apprenticeship program gives students the opportunity to run the show | TheUnion.com

Learning on the job: Sierra Stages apprenticeship program gives students the opportunity to run the show

Sam Corey
Staff Writer


What: “Cabaret” show. Find tickets online at sierrastages.org or call (530) 346-3210

When: The show runs July 11 to August 3

Where: 401 Broad Street, Nevada City

Bear River High School student Erin Beatie received an unexpected opportunity.

She became a summer apprentice for the Foothills Theatre Company, helping put together a community show.

The experience changed her life.

“Someone gave me a chance at a young age,” said Beatie, “and I never forgot that.”

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Now the theater manager and technical theater teacher at Bear River, in addition working for Sierra Stages, Beatie has remained enmeshed in all things theater, and is trying to pass on that spirit to others.

Beatie helps run the Sierra Stages summer apprenticeship program, recruiting about seven college and high school students from the area to work backstage, assisting in the production of the company’s summer production.

This year, four Bear River, one Nevada Union and two college students are in backstage positions like sound board operator, light board operator, electrician and more to help put together this year’s show of “Cabaret,” said Beatie. In these positions, students are paid a small stipend to work directly under backstage theater professionals, some of whom are involved in Broadway productions.

“You’re averaging 15 or 16 years old,” said Beatie, “and that’s what you’re trusting your show to run under.”

Despite their age, the theater teacher said students constantly reflect on their work, taking notes during rehearsals, and review everything with professionals by day’s end.

“We don’t treat them any different than how we treat anyone else on the professional level,” said Beatie.

Emilie McCall, a rising junior at the University of California-Merced, is in her fourth year in the apprenticeship program, and is the current show’s spotlight operator.

“It gives you such a visual excitement,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Beatie helped formalize the application process for the local apprenticeship program two summers ago, she said, when the theater company was low on human capital.

“It was clear we needed help,” she said, “but it was unclear of where we could get it.”

Since then, Beatie said the audience often doesn’t realize the company’s summer shows are essentially run by students because of their high quality.

“We push them hard,” she said, “and they rise to the opportunity.”

For students like McCall, the program doesn’t just offer a chance to learn, but also provides a space for camaraderie.

“I feel like we’re a bit of a family.”

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 at scorey@theunion.com.

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