Education Apprentice Alumnus:
Alan Gonzalez Bisnes
Which Apprentice Class were you a part of?
2017-2018! (Or, the best apprentice class to date.)
What is your current job?
Community Engagement Assistant, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater
What drew you to the Imagination Stage Apprentice Program?
One of my best friends was applying and suggested that I look into the program! I had been out of school for a year and was working at a Target, so the idea of a pre-professional training program for careers in theatre really spoke to me. I was floored when I read the description and saw the sheer amount of experience that an apprentice would gain from Imagination Stage’s program. I loved knowing that while I would be focusing on one specific aspect of the theatre (Education, in my case) that I would also be involved in other areas like Production and Patron Services. I have always liked to think of myself as a jack-of-all-trades and the idea that there was a program (at a very reputable children’s theatre) that offered me the opportunity to learn various new skills was very exciting to me.
What was your favorite aspect of being an apprentice?
It has to be the people. My co-workers were so lovely and welcoming that I felt right at ease when I first stepped into my position. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and support there that I think is hard to find in other workplaces. I knew everyone’s name and would regularly have conversations with people who were working in entirely different areas than myself. Not to mention that I gained six new family members in my apprentice class! I truly believe that the connections I forged as an apprentice at Imagination Stage have been invaluable.
What was the most exciting project you worked on as an apprentice?
I think stage managing the Acting Conservatory’s show (Twelfth Night) was the most exciting project I tackled. It demanded that I wear many different hats. I had to think as a stage manager in rehearsals, as an educator when talking to the students, as an administrator when facilitating communication between director and parents, as a props coordinator when I had to pull or order props to be used in the show, etc. It was both really exhausting and completely exhilarating. It was exactly the kind of experience that I had hoped to gain when I applied!
What was the most important lesson you learned as an apprentice?
Probably that I need to approach everything with an open mind and an open heart. As an apprentice, you have to be ready to problem-solve at the drop of a hat and the only way to be prepared for that is if you have no prior expectations. You have to listen to the problem, think about what needs to happen, and then apply the best solution you can think of. Sometimes the solution is to say, “I don’t know enough about this to have an answer for you, but I know who might!” and that is okay! All you can do is be present and do the best you can. It’s a lesson that has served me countless times since my time as an apprentice.
What have you been up to since your apprenticeship ended?
I have been working with Arena Stage’s Community Engagement Division! I manage the bulk of the administrative side: scheduling, drafting teaching artist contracts, ordering supplies, preparing materials, emailing teachers, mailing study guides, managing our archive of materials, etc. The majority of that work has to do with Arena Stage’s Voices of Now program, which is an autobiographical, devised theatre program for middle school to college-age students. The artists (as students are called) collaborate on creating an original devised play that is showcased at the Voices of Now Festival every May at Arena Stage. It is an exciting program and I love being able to bring it to life with the administrative skills that I gained from my time at Imagination Stage.
How did the apprenticeship help you get to where you are now?
In many ways, I believe. Firstly, the apprenticeship program is pretty well-known in the DC area, so being able to put that on a resume immediately catches the eyes of many potential employers. Secondly, my connections at Imagination Stage really helped pave a way for me in my current position. My supervisor at IStage (Claire Bancroft Loos) was a former Arena employee and so I was able to list her as a reference who had a solid understanding of my abilities and how they might fit in with Arena Stage. Lastly, and probably most obviously, is that my doing the apprenticeship really equipped me with a ton of skills that gave me the confidence to know that I can do well in any position I apply to.
Any advice to those applying?
Come with an open mind and an open heart! The skills and connections you gain from this program are priceless, but it’s a lot of hard work. Familiarize yourself with the program, look over the website, and ask any and all questions you may have. The best advice I got while I was an apprentice was “You get out of it what you put into it,” and I think that applies here.
Join us for Imagination Stage’s 2020-2021 Professional Apprenticeship Program!
Application materials are due March 1, 2020.