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Monday, June 5, 2017

Next Wave of Stagecraft

Joshua Leon, Michelle Aguda, and Victoria Inguanta.
Photo: Adriana Leshko
By David Hsieh & Adriana Leshko

One came from Washington State after deciding a career in social sciences was not for her. Another got a wake-up call when she entered the carpentry shop of MoMA PS1 to encounter machines she didn’t know how to operate. Yet another was told by a mentor that it might be a good way to channel his penchant for public speaking. What they now have in common is their participation in the inaugural BAM Apprentice in Stagecraft (BAS) program. Thanks to a grant from the New York City Theater Subdistrict Council, BAS allows BAM to train young people from under-represented communities as stagehands and production managers in four-month periods. As Victoria Inguanta, one of this highly selective and enthusiastic group of trailblazers, put it: “I get paid to get an education and then hands-on experience? Are you kidding me?” Here, she and fellow apprentices Michelle Aguda and Joshua Leon talk about their experiences at BAM after a month in the program.

What is your earliest and/or most powerful memory of the performing arts?

Michelle Aguda: My earliest memory of performing arts is when I chose to learn to play the trumpet at 11 years old. 

Joshua Leon: My first experience with theater was in the second grade. I played John Henry.

Victoria Inguanta: When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to see The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center several times. It definitely was a formative part of my childhood. When I grew older, my family would get tickets to Broadway shows for special occasions, so I was privileged enough to see a lot of theater growing up.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship and what drew you to apply?

MA: I found out about the apprenticeship through Playbill. What drew me to apply was the opportunity to work in theater for the first time. A stage manager once told me that it’s beneficial to understand all aspects of stagecraft, and my long-term goal is to be a producer.

VI: My girlfriend found the apprenticeship on NYFA. I was stoked to see that a prestigious institution like BAM was offering such a program. Not only would I be learning in class, but I would have access to BAM theaters where I would gain hands-on experience and knowledge passed down from experts in the field. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

The apprentices worked on the set for Poetry 2017 in the BAM Fisher.
Photo: Victoria Inguanta
Give us a short overview of your school and work life to date.

MA: I was born and raised in Hawaii and attended Washington State University. I received my BA in social sciences. In my senior year I took an acting class and began to gain interest in entertainment. And now I’m here at BAM.

JL: I studied theater at LaGuardia Community College before home life knocked me off course. I was just feeling around until this opportunity came around.

VI: I attended Marymount where I studied communication arts with minors in art history and studio art. After graduating, I worked at Blick Art Materials while studying on scholarship at Art Students League. Later I worked as a gallery attendant and transitioned into installing briefly, thinking eventually I’d work on a film set as a carpenter or something along those lines.

What do you hope to get out the apprenticeship program?

MA: To expand my knowledge of the theater, especially in stagecraft, and to build a strong, trusted network in the industry.

JL: I hope to get as much knowledge as I can. All while making connections to help guide me to where I want to be.

VI: I’d love to get out of the program a career as a stagehand. I’d like to take these hard skills I learn at BAM and be able to apply them in all different sections of life.

Describe a typical day at BAM.

Our day usually consists of observing a specific group work and classroom time with Phil (Philip Naudé, head instructor of BAS, former BAM production supervisor, and a founder of Anchor Watch Production Management). Most of the time we get some hands-on experience and feel like part of the crew. It’s a learning experience.

VI: The first month was mostly observing, with some hands-on work more towards the end. April is the start of our second month at BAM and we’ll be taking more responsibility from here. Huzzah!

What has been the most rewarding/surprising part of the apprentice program so far?

The most rewarding part of the apprenticeship is the comfort I’ve developed in and around theaters. They’re no longer foreign spaces to me. I can happily say as a person who hasn’t seen much theater in his life that I now know more than the average Joe.

VI: The most rewarding part of the program is seeing the formal education I’m receiving in the classroom come to life in the theater. It’s been incredible working with such dedicated and knowledgeable staff. I am really happy with my experiences thus far and I hope to be as great as my teachers one day with lots of due diligence, patience, and effort.

David Hsieh is a publicity manager, and Adriana Leshko senior publicity manager, at BAM; interviews edited by Merisa Sahin, publicity intern.

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