Meet the Apprentices


Meet the Apprentices

By Melinda Graber, Marketing Apprentice

The 2018/2019 season has begun – and so have the new apprentices.

Every year, Hartford Stage brings in a class of apprentices across all departments. This year, there are 11 early career professionals from all over—from as nearby as Connecticut and all the way to China. Throughout the course of the nine-month season, each apprentice gains hands-on experience learning new skills and working closely with professionals in their chosen areas.

The program emphasizes education, with seminars from different departments, networking opportunities, and individual apprentice projects. Apprentices will leave Hartford Stage well-equipped to begin their careers in the world of professional theatre.

Let’s welcome this year’s apprentices! Find out how they discovered theatre and what led them to Hartford Stage.

Katie BrownKatie Brown

Electrics Apprentice

Wallingford, Connecticut

Katie’s mother encouraged her to sign up for stage crew her freshman year of high school. She fell in love with it immediately and has been involved ever since. Katie is fascinated with how lighting can completely change how the audience perceives the action on stage. Katie has been dancing since she was two years old. She also loves video games and declared computer programming as a minor while in college.

Yan ChenYan Chen

Artistic Apprentice – Dramaturgy

Nanjing, China

Yan stumbled into a sold-out student production of Chicago while she was in college at Nanjing University in China. The show drew her in with its pure magic and sheer adrenaline. Throughout college, Yan acted in Rent, adapted Shakespeare and translated musicals and plays from English to Chinese. While studying abroad in London and Moscow, she took every opportunity to see theatre. Yan loves being in the rehearsal room to help bring productions together. Working in the Artistic department at Hartford Stage allows her to read and discuss plays and interact with some of the most exciting and interesting artists in the field today. In her spare time, Yan writes theatre criticism and edits the Transcultural Collaborations section for, a news platform about theatre from around the world.

Alex CoddingtonAlexander Coddington

Artistic Apprentice – Directing

Olympia, Washington

Alexander recalls what “sealed the deal” on his passion for theatre was playing a donkey in a first grade musical about farm animals. During the course of his apprenticeship, Alexander is looking forward to assisting the diverse directors helming shows at Hartford Stage this season. Alexander has spent most of his life on the West Coast, the Midwest, and Europe. Now, he’s excited to spend time exploring New England and all it has to offer.

Aida GarridoAida Garrido

Development Apprentice

San Diego, CA

Aida’s interest in theatre grew from a playwriting class in college, Samuel Beckett’s radio dramas and stagey old Hollywood movies. Her quest for knowledge about everything theatre-related led her to the Development department at Hartford Stage where she will enhance her skills in grant writing, event planning and donor relations. As an apprentice, Aida is specifically interested in learning how theatre remains financially viable.

Melinda GraberMelinda Graber

Marketing & Communications Apprentice

Tenafly, NJ

Melinda’s love of theatre sparked after seeing Cats– her first Broadway musical after moving to New Jersey when she was young. Although initially frightened by the junkyard set, she was hooked immediately and would spend all her weekends watching the Cats VHS (which still floats around her house somewhere). While studying communications in college, Melinda found that theatre marketing truly combines the work she wants to do with the area she’s passionate about. Marketing is all about bringing the company and the audience together and creating connections. Outside of work, Melinda is slowly working her way through reading the entire “Harry Potter” series in French. She started about three years ago and is currently in the middle of Goblet of Fire. 

Emma LipsonEmma Lipson

Company/Production Management Apprentice

Norwalk, CT

Emma’s first experience with theatre was seeing Beauty and the Beast when she was just four years old. After the show, her mother asked what her favorite part was and Emma said it was the chocolate-covered raisins she got from concessions. Theatre has been a part of her life ever since. When she discovered that she could work behind the  scenes, Emma realized that she wanted it to be part of her life forever. She loves getting to support the creative process; her work in company/production management allows her to assist actors and designers with outside-of-rehearsal needs so they can stay focused on the production. A fun fact about Emma: she played the trumpet and French horn in pit orchestra in high school. 

Rose MustoRose Musto

Technical/Scenic Apprentice

Cleveland, OH

Rose developed a taste for musicals early on when her mother would play old movie musicals. She attended theatre camp for several years and took up carpentry as a freshman in high school. Rose believes the most special thing about theatre is that it brings people from all backgrounds together for a shared experience yet each individual experiences it differently. Rose enjoys working on the scenic/technical side of theatre because she likes finding out how things are made and enjoys creating the onstage environment for the actors to live in. 

Carly OliverCarly Oliver

Education Apprentice

Clovis, CA

Carly’s first performance experience was as an audience volunteer at a local production of The Trojan Horse when she was four years old, where she was able to go onstage and learn some of the tricks and backstage magic involved in the production. After college, Carly moved to France to teach English at a vocational high school. She realized she loved the connections you can form with students as a teacher. Carly is passionate about arts education because of everything students can learn about life through the arts: empathy, teamwork, confidence…the list goes on! Carly recently moved back to the United States after several years teaching English in Spain, where she started a bilingual after-school drama program with her high school students.

Cathleen PayneCathleen Payne

Arts Administration Apprentice

Louisville, KY

In the summer of 2004 Cathleen saw an outdoor production of Oklahoma (in Oklahoma!) and immediately became hooked on theatre. She fondly remembers “Ado Annie” signing her souvenir cowboy hat-shaped fan. Although Cathleen discovers the fan each year while cleaning her childhood bedroom, she can’t bring herself to get rid of it. Although she used to act, she knew the world of theatre was much bigger than performing. Cathleen discovered that general management combines all the work she loves – spreadsheets, budgeting, problem-solving, and communicating with all the players and departments of an office, production or company. During her apprenticeship at Hartford Stage, Cathleen will celebrate 13 years of vegetarianism.

A’lura-Celeste StewartA’lura-Celeste Stewart

Costumes Apprentice

Hartford, CT

A’lura-Celeste started out as a dancer with dreams of becoming a choreographer. In high school she joined the show choir and studied at Hartford’s School of the Performing Arts. A’lura has always had a passion for creating and enjoys making things with her hands. Although her passion for building costumes comes naturally, costume technology is not a craft many individuals can truly master. A’lura says that you must be a great problem-solver, a mathematician, and understand the person you’re building a costume for. She adds that in order to succeed at costume craft, you have to also understand fabric types, how a body moves, and alteration techniques. A’lura says that she couldn’t imagine herself doing anything else. A’lura eats at the same restaurant, at the same time, on the same days, every week to the point where it’s become something of a ritual. But she won’t tell you where – it’s her secret! 

Dani WermedalDani Wermedal

Properties Apprentice

Volga, SD

A production of A Christmas Carol Dani saw when she was in second grade ignited her interest in theatre. Some of Dani’s favorite theatre memories are creating her first puppet from scratch, performing on stilts, and attending a Broadway show for the first time. Dani fell into the properties department while in college and is so thankful that she did. Props work includes everything she loves – crafting, painting, sewing – and it offers fun and varied challenges. Dani loves deconstructing items and finding different ways to use them. Dani has over 45 specialty coffee mugs which, she says, are too many for any one person to have.