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I’ve been running our Apprenticeship program for over five years now. You’d think by now I’d have it all figured out. But I don’t. We’re still tweaking recruiting, overhauling how we train our mentors, and rolling out a new class schedule. There are a series of competing priorities that we all have to juggle when it comes to training our apprentices:

  1. How do we foster the best environment for a productive mentoring relationship between apprentice and staff member?
  2. How do we schedule the most useful classes for the apprentices at the most opportune times within the rhythms of the industry’s hiring cycle?
  3. How do we ensure that all departments deliver their scenery/costumes/etc on time even though I keep pulling away their apprentices for classes?

I’ll probably write future blogs post about Questions 1 & 3, but for now my mind has really been dwelling on the middle one: scheduling the most useful classes at the most useful times. And I’m thinking about this a lot right now because there are two major events on the horizon for our apprentices: applying for their first post-apprentice job and filing taxes.

Here in the DC market, January to April is the key time that theatre folks repeatedly hit the refresh button on or are signing up for the DC Technician Cattle Call. So we need to get folks prepped on crafting great resumes, drafting smart cover letters, and building or rehabbing a professional digital presence.

Additionally, for many of our apprentices this spring will be the first year they file taxes on their own--and many without access to a CPA knowledgeable in the unique job field of the theatre. So we spend a bit of time with them to help them understand how to prepare for accurate tax filing--from reminding them to check with their parents to see if they are being claimed as a dependent to helping them understand the differences between a W-2 and a 1099. And we’re doing this while also marching towards tech for Once on our Main Stage, a first rehearsal for Oil in our Mulitz-Gudelsky Lab, and more shows and special events on the horizon.

Yes, it’s a lot for these apprentices to manage. And yes, it’s stressful to focus full-time on your craft while also hustling for the next opportunity and simultaneously looking back to make sure you’re square with the IRS for money you made over a year ago. What we hope our apprentices realize during these peak months is (1) these challenge aren’t unique to our field, and (2) if they build these practical skills early in their 20s, it will provide them a greater capacity to do more of the creative work they love as they mature as artists and young professionals.

Sometimes our classes can be more artistic, more inspirational.  Sometimes, they just need to be practical. As Chris Youstra says: “They don’t call it ‘Show Fun.’”

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