Neiry Rojo is one of four Artistic Engagement Apprentices, or TAEAs, here at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley- an elite group of emerging theatre artists learning from multiple departments within the company. Performing in JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA served as the capstone to their experience. As the show approaches closing night, Neiry reflects on her experience as a TAEA as a guest blogger:
My name is Neiry and I was fortunate enough to have been chosen as one of four Artistic Engagement Apprentices for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Our apprenticeship was broken down into four blocks: participating in TheatreWorks’ 14th Annual New Works Festival in August, assisting the Education Department with their new show, Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes, working on individualized projects with the Marketing Department, and, last but not least, participating in the holiday show, Jane Austen’s Emma.
The 14th Annual New Works Festival was a lovely way to start the apprenticeship. I assisted as the stage reader for Lynn Rosen’s play, Man and Beast, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, Director of New Works. What a hoot! From the moment this two week experience began, I could not stop laughing. There was plenty of work, but there was also plenty of joy sandwiched in between moments of analysis. It was thrilling to have the playwright in the room. Watching Lynn Rosen work, listening so freely, openly, and intently to the actors traipsing through her language was a delight. Observing what she chose to cut, add, or change (“maybe I should add an extra ‘Oh’…”), was incredibly interesting. I am a fan of language and word play, and this experience heightened my love of what I call “the small.” The small words, details, sounds, and pauses that carve your experience as an audience member, the details that creep under your skin without you realizing, preparing you for what will come in the end. Ms. Sardelli’s energy is infectious and buoyant– the two weeks passed in the blink of an eye.
After the go-go-go energy of the festival we shifted gears to working with the Education Department. Our main task was to get the word out about Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes to elementary schools in the Bay Area. We made phone calls, left voicemails, faxed posters, and wrote follow-up emails. The focus of the show is presenting the idea of gender identity to a young audience. This portion of the apprenticeship was surprisingly challenging. It opened my eyes to how my own childhood was molded by what one person decided was acceptable for me to view in assemblies. I still remember a couple of assemblies: the people that participated, their energy, message, and how different I felt at the end versus the beginning. One can only wonder how different a person I would be now had I had access to more stories. The importance of providing theatre to a young audience was brought to my attention in a way I had not witnessed before and I am grateful.
Following Oskar and the Countless Costume Changes, we took a ride through the Marketing Department. I was most looking forward to this portion of the apprenticeship. As performers we are so often drilled solely about the happenings on stage and are not made privy to all of the work that gets people into those seats to watch us perform in the first place. Our first task of the day was to rifle through mounds of programs and develop our eye for the evocative. The other 3 apprentices were left in the office for a couple of hours to decide what was evocative, what was not, and why. This is right up my alley. I am endlessly curious about people and why they do what they do, and so to have a task in which all I had to do was analyze those decisions was heaven.
We were invited to participate in a Marketing & Brainstorming Meeting after The Great Rifling of Programs. This meeting was fantastic. Every idea was put up on a board and built upon. I love watching brains buzzing and this room was ABUZZ. We were asked to find images to inspire a poster for a past production of our choice. My choice was Harold & Maude: The Musical; I ended up having so many ideas I came up with three designs rather than just one. I am a visual creature, what can I say? Lastly, we were tasked with completing and presenting marketing research projects for the department. I particularly enjoyed my project, analyzing generational differences in marketing approaches. I found it invaluable as an actor to know how to best present myself to different groups.
At last, we have come to Emma. What to say about Emma other than that it has been a joy? The cast has been kind and patient with us, as well as constantly making us laugh backstage. Listening to the audience react so positively to everyone’s hard work has been incredibly exciting and reaffirming of the power of theatre to enhance lives.
There have been multiple times when I am onstage and cannot believe my life. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world when I am standing on that stage surrounded by amazing people who love to do what they do. We apprentices have given our all to Emma, but I do believe Emma has given us so much more in return.
by Neiry Rojo