Meet the Apprentices
by Alex Woody, Marketing Apprentice
With the 2019/2020 season underway, a new group of apprentices has settled in and begun making their mark on Hartford Stage! Hartford Stage is entering its 15th year of the apprentice program, maintaining its longstanding commitment to education. Every year, a group of early-career theatre professionals are selected to spend a season learning and training with a department at Hartford Stage. Each apprentice gets one-on-one time with staff members and hands-on experience working in their chosen field of the theatre industry. The nine-month program leaves apprentices equipped with the skills, training and confidence to thrive in the theatre industry.
This season’s apprentices come from all over but maintain the same passions of theatre and upholding the arts for future generations. In welcoming this year’s apprentices, we spoke with them about how their love for theatre began, what led them to Hartford Stage, and why they’ve chosen the career path they pursue.
Jess Black – Education
Jess remembers falling in love with theatre was when she was 10 years old. Her parents took her to see a touring production of Disney’s The Lion King and from that moment on she knew that she wanted to work within the world of theatre. Jess loves being an arts educator because it combines two of her biggest passions: theatre and education. Her mission is to bring the arts to all students. Being an Education Apprentice at Hartford Stage allows Jess to gain first-hand teaching artist experience in a variety of different settings due to the diverse educational programming that Hartford Stage offers students. She loves it at Hartford Stage and can’t wait to learn more!
Sierra Fritz – Production and Company Management
Sierra got her start in theatre in high school with a show called Moby Dick! The Musical. She then went on to perform in the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she became interested in the inner workings of how theatre and theatre festivals are run. Sierra went to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY where she graduated with a B.S. in Theatre and Arts Administration. Since graduating, Sierra has completed internships with Wolf Trap, the Kennedy Center and Ford’s Theatre. At each of these performing arts organizations, she had the opportunity to learn how each company functioned and what makes them successful. Sierra hopes that she can learn more about regional theatre from Hartford Stage.
Malena Gordo – Education
Malena grew up in a family of artists and fell in love with theatre at a young age. She attended her first theatrical performance when she was just six years old and recalls being mesmerized by the performers. Malena started acting classes while she was in high school. After a few weeks, she was hooked. Originally from Argentina, Malena’s love for acting led her to move to the United States to pursue a B.A. in Theatre and an M.F.A. in Acting at Purdue University. During her three years at Purdue, she discovered a love for teaching, which is why she became an Education Apprentice at Hartford Stage. During her apprenticeship, Malena hopes to further her skills as a teaching artist, inspire students, and stay involved in the theatre world.
Jasmine Gunter – Artistic (Directing)
As a child, Jasmine and her cousin would create stories together and act them out. They were superheroes, conjoined twins, or famous violinists. Anything they wanted to be. As they grew older, Jasmine’s cousin outgrew their make-believe stories. Jasmine, however, did not. She sought other ways to tell stories until she eventually found her way to the theatre, and looking back, it should have been obvious that Jasmine would become a director. She was the bossy one. Jasmine possesses a deep desire to cultivate new plays. Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson’s career and Hartford Stage’s dedication to new plays and adaptions inspired Jasmine to work for the theatre.
Sally Lobel – Artistic (Dramaturgy)
Sally’s love of theatre started at age five, when her mom signed her up for acting classes and took her to a community production of Peter Pan. While Sally never learned how to fly, she did develop a lifelong passion for exploring the ways that stories impact and reflect our lives, values, and ideas. Dramaturgy was the natural choice because it combines these big questions with hands-on creation and play. Sally hopes that her time at Hartford Stage will allow her a deep dive into all the varied work of a successful artistic department so she can leave the nest well-prepared to contribute to the theatre world.
Erin Sagnelli – Props
Erin’s love for theatre started in 5th grade when her tragic lack of acting talent led her to painting the set and making props for You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Since then, she has been constantly working on shows – from school, to community theatre, and now professionally. The transition from school and community events to a career path was a simple one. Erin loved the art and did not want to stop making theatre, so she enrolled in Central Connecticut State University’s BFA program for Theatre Technology and Design. Being a lifelong Connecticut resident, Erin looked up to Hartford Stage’s productions for many years. She is elated to be learning from the Properties team!
Ethan Sepa – Electrics
Ethan has been involved in the arts from a young age but began to foster a love for theatre after he saw a touring production of Wicked for his tenth birthday. He developed a passion for lighting because of its unique synthesis of technology and art that touches every aspect of a production. A Connecticut native, Ethan has always admired the quality of the productions at Hartford Stage and felt it would be a great opportunity to make connections and build a solid foundation of skills.
Claire Stermer – Development
Claire has always expressed a passion for theatre, crediting her parents for exposing her to live music and Broadway shows as a young girl. Claire earned her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, double majoring in Theatre Arts and Human Resource Management. She was a dancer with Rutgers Performing Dance Company and was also involved in numerous student/alumni philanthropy organizations on campus, which is where she realized she could tie her passions of performing arts and philanthropic engagement into one – Theatre Development. Claire became an apprentice because she was eager to have a hands-on educational experience working with professionals in the industry.
Kirsten Walsh – Costuming
Kirsten’s love for theatre began in high school, but her passion turned into a desired career path during her first year of college when she first took costume design and technology courses. Theatrical costuming has allowed her to combine her interests of visual design, fabrication, and history which all lend to storytelling. While at Hartford Stage, Kirsten hopes to gain more experience with professional productions and improve her skills in costume technology.
Alex Woody – Marketing
Alex recalls his love of theatre began when his parents were sick of him wearing out his VHS copy of f and wanted to take him to see something live. He graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. degree in Media Management. Alex spent three years of his undergraduate career working as an intern at Wharton Center for Performing Arts. During his senior year, he was promoted to Sensory-Friendly Performance Administrator, where he assisted with the development of the marketing plan for Wharton Center’s SFP of Disney’s The Lion King. This experience cemented his passion for the theatre industry. Alex became an apprentice because it would allow him to develop new marketing techniques in a new community.