Meet Our Scenic Painting Apprentices

Here at Endstation, an enormous component of our work every year is mentoring and teaching college students who travel many miles in order to work for the company and who get to study with Endstation’s professional theatre artists, managers, designers, and technicians. Every year, our apprentices build scenery, assist with the box office, paint flats, design properties, pull costumes, stage manage shows, and focus lighting equipment. These young men and women are an integral and beloved part of Endstation’s work. This year, we want to make sure our audiences get to know our apprentices even more usual by showcasing them and their stories through the Endstation blog. We have six different apprenticeships, and so we will be posting a discussion with each group of apprentices over the coming weeks. We hope you like them as much as we do, and if you see one of them at a show, go up and say hello!

Aaron: Hi guys, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from?

Sarah: I am from King George, Virginia, and I’m double-degree student at James Madison University (in Harrisonburg, Virginia) in studio art (art education and painting and drawing) and technical theater (scenic art). I first heard about Endstation when I came to Sweet Briar college as part of the BLUR summer arts program a few summers ago. I had applied as an art student, but because my portfolio had a lot of stuff that I’d painted for my high school’s theater program, I got stuck into the theater performance track. I was so nervous about that – I had no desire to do any performance at all! I ended up being very lucky, though – I had the opportunity to work with some really great people from Endstation (including Michael Stablein, who is working with the Playwrights Initiative and BLUR this year), and was allowed to shadow Endstation’s scenic designer/production manager/ co-founder Krista Franco in the paint shop for a couple of weeks. I learned a lot about performance and just being comfortable with myself, and I fell in love with scenic art. I think, too, that it was the first time that I realized what theatre was and could be – not just lines and paper moons and curtain call – but something real people can connect with on a personal level. I kept up with Krista when I was working on my senior culminating project on scenic art for Commonwealth Governor’s School, and now I’m here! I’m so excited to be apprenticing with Endstation this summer!

Pedro: I’m from San Antonio, Texas and go to school at Texas State University. I heard about Endstation Theatre from our new lighting supervisor Scott Vandenberg. He actually handed me Krista’s card and I was able to meet with her while at USITT.

Sarah & Pedro

Aaron: Are there any professors or anyone else to whom you’d like to give a shout-out?

Pedro: I would love to give a shout-out to Scott for introducing me to Krista and Sara Lee Hughes and Tara A. Houston for making me a better scenic artist and designer.

Sarah: I’m very grateful to John Burgess, my professor and advisor, for encouraging me to get out and try things this year, and to Krista for helping me find my way!

Aaron: How did you each get started in the theatre, and why did you choose scenic painting as a field of interest?

Sarah: My first real memory of theatre is when my family went to Theatre IV in Richmond to see The Wizard of Oz. I was around seven or eight years old, and I just thought it was the most dazzling thing in the world – I remember that I covered my ears all the way home from the show so I wouldn’t have to hear the radio and forget a single line or song from the show. I was completely in love! My family continued to go to the theatre throughout my childhood – whenever I’m home, we still manage to see a show or two! – and I still loved it, but I knew I wasn’t meant to be onstage. In high school, I ran cross country, but then I got hurt and couldn’t really run competitively anymore. That same year, though, my youth pastor – who was also the high school theatre teacher (small town!) had a Bible study session every morning before school that I attended, and I was taking an art class. I’d always come in in the mornings carrying five or six new paintings for class, and I guess they were short on labor for their children’s show (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown), so he asked me if I’d come in and start helping with paint. I remember that I called my mom that day to tell her I was staying after to paint for the show, and she said, “Okay, but this can’t become an every-day thing!” So much for that! I’m not sure there’s been a day since that I haven’t painted.

Pedro: I started working in theatre during my sophomore year of high school. My school offered technical theatre, and one of my friends had already taken it and got into the upper tech class. I realized that I loved theatre once I got into college. I entered as a business major and realized I wouldn’t be happy if I stayed a business major. So I changed it to theatre and haven’t looked back since.

Aaron: Do you have a favorite show you’ve worked on?

Pedro: The favorite show I’ve ever worked on would have to be our university’s production of Hair. While I was able to paint for that show, it was also an awesome opportunity to crew that show as well. I was able to work with an amazing, professional stage manager who just made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Sarah: I love all of the shows I work on! I think I involuntarily fall in love with whatever I’m working on – you invest so much time in what you’re doing, it’s hard not to feel connected to your work! As far as experience goes, though, I think that the show that was a big turning point for me was my last show my senior year of high school, The Music Man. It’s when I made two big decisions – that technical theatre is something that I want to do for a really long time, and that I could be brave and do something different. Someone had said to me before the show started that I must “only do backstage stuff because I’m too afraid to actually be onstage”. There’s nothing like a challenge to get me going! I practiced for my audition for months and months before they were scheduled – I sang in my car (okay, I still do that) and ran lines in my room – I was off book for the part I wanted before auditions even happened because I knew that if I was going to be in the show and be the charge artist for the show and be responsible for designing the t-shirt, the playbill cover, and the poster that I’d have to be super prepared! So I was. I did get the part – Amaryllis (although, in all actuality, It might have had more to with the fact I was one of the only people small enough be a little kid…) and every day was hard. I still had all of my normal tech responsibilities and then some, and I was so overwhelmed all of the time! I think it was really great getting to “un-pigeon-hole” myself for a little while, though, and to learn just what I’m capable of!

Aaron: What has it been like working at Endstation so far?

Sarah: I absolutely love working for Endstation!  It’s just a really great environment to create theatre!  I’m really, really excited to get to work here this summer!

Pedro: Since arriving at Endstation in late May, it has been such a great experience. It is definitely a change of scenery that is much enjoyed. I love working with Krista; she is such a talented designer and painter. It’s so nice to work in another shop and see how theatre is done in other parts of the country. Everyone in the company has been really great to work with and is like a huge family, which made it a great environment to move into.

Aaron: Tell us about one of your favorite things to do.

Pedro: One of my favorite pastimes is hanging out with friends. Back home my friends and I get together and play games, make dinner, or just go out to a movie or something. It’s great to have that same relationship with apprentices here.

Sarah: Hmm… I’m really not all that exciting. I really just love to paint, and I always like to be in the middle of something! When I’m not at work, I do a lot of fine art painting for fun. I keep canvas stretcher bars in my trunk, but when I’m at JMU sometimes I like to actually build the canvases myself. I’m learning to sew, too! I’m working on piecing together a couple of patterns that a friend found from the early sixties, which is hard but kind of neat, too! I’ve been trying to play around with photography lately. We’re in such a beautiful place to practice! I really just love being in the “making” process, which is why I love theatre!

A big thank-you to our Assistant Production Manager Cassie Kris for the photos.

Aaron C. Thomas has been the Resident Dramaturg at Endstation Theatre since 2010. He is also a contributing scholar for the Brooklyn-based American Laboratory and will be working in the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College. You can connect with him via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or his blog Tea to Pour.

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