Wakefield Alumni Discuss the Impact of Signature in the Schools Program

Blog: Wakefield Alumni Discuss the Impact of Signature in the Schools Program

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Every year Arlington Country Public High School students are given the opportunity to be a part of a world premiere production as part of the Signature in the Schools program. The production is specifically tailored to the student performers and focuses on themes from the Arlington Public Schools social studies’ curriculum. We reached out to Signature in the Schools alumni Karl Green (Wakefield HS Class of 2015), Max Rosenberg (Wakefield HS Class of 2013), and Emily Hambridge (Wakefield HS Class of 2014) to see how this unique program influenced their lives and careers after graduation.

Karl Green

(NYU Student and current star of Eve’s Song at the Public Theater in New York City)

How did Signature in the Schools help develop your craft?
Being a part of Signature in the Schools taught me the importance of professionalism, as well as the impact theater, can have on a community.

Now you are working on a show at the Public Theater and take classes at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Do you think having been involved in this program during school helped teach you the balancing act between being on stage and life’s other obligations?
I’ve learned to listen to what my body needs and ask, ask, ask for help.

Since high school, I’ve had to balance academics with my work on stage and in the rehearsal room, along with my responsibilities at home. Heading off to college presented a new level of academic rigor accompanied with a professional BFA acting training curriculum.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that the more I can mesh the two worlds of acting and academics the easier it all becomes. At NYU, I found joy in knowing that what I was learning in my Theater of War or Modern Asian Drama class, for example, could be used tomorrow in the rehearsal room or in my preparation at home.

At this point in my life, I don’t really consider it a balancing act. As an artist, I approach everything with a certain level of curiosity and exploration. When it comes to handling “life’s other obligations,” I don’t really see them as that. Instead, I see them more as opportunities to examine life and grow more as an artist. During my first year of training at the Stella Adler Studio, I was introduced to the quote, “Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous.” (Stella Adler) This encapsulates how I feel.

Word of advice for high schoolers interested in theater performance?
Always remain curious. Ask questions. Go to the ballet, opera, and dance. See theater. Read poetry. Find out what moves you.

Max Rosenberg

(Professional Theatrical Technician – Santa Fe Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and more)

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Signature in the Schools?

I started Signature in the Schools in 2009, when I was lucky enough to be chosen to be the stage manager for that year. I went into the interview thinking that I would be a board op or something like that, but then Marcia, the director at the time, asked me, “Would you like to be the stage manager?” and at the time I had no idea what that job was. Thankfully, I accepted and flash forward 3 years later and I was able to do it every year I was in high school, getting to work with talented students and amazing professionals. Signature felt like a second home to me, and the program was able to teach me things I didn’t know and set me up for the future. We had the opportunity to rehearse in a professional environment, interact with professional designers, and have a professional actor in the show to mentor the student actors. I got to make a prompt book for every show I worked on and continued to refine how I worked in the rehearsal room, how I ran a tech and how I ran performances. It was an experience I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else.

Do you think stage managing for Signature in the Schools helped you prepare to work as a professional stage manager?

I had the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals. Not many programs I know of let you do that, and let you put up a show on their main stage. I was lucky enough to be mentored by the fantastic Kerry Epstein-Hayes, Signature’s Resident Production Stage Manager, who showed me the ropes and by the end of my time in the program, gave me the opportunity to shadow a full rehearsal process, start to finish. She taught me how to be a stage manager and gave me the tools I needed to succeed. I was able to do a lot of hands-on learning by making mistakes and having help to learn from them. Signature gave me the experience I needed to get into college for Stage Management and now because of that program, I have been able to work in theater, dance and opera around the country. Many of the professionals I have met know Signature and someone there, so they know that the program I came from is top notch. Theater is a small community and it always helps to come from such an amazing place.

Word of advice for high schoolers interested in theater tech?
If you are interested even a little bit in what technical theater is, take any opportunity you can to learn about it. Take classes at your local high school if they have it, sign up to work on a show, apply for programs like Signature in the Schools. Anything so that you can learn about the craft and find an area that you are interested in. Ask people questions and even send emails to people that work in the industry to ask about their experiences. Many professionals I have worked with love to talk about their experiences and would be happy to speak with an interested student, and sometimes if you get lucky, can offer to let you shadow them during a show or during their work day. It is hard work, but very rewarding and if you keep trying and taking those opportunities, nothing will stop you in your hopes to work in the industry one day.

Emily Hambridge

(Professional Stage Manager at The John F. Kennedy Center)

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Signature in the Schools?
My first Signature in the Schools production was Image Is Everything during my freshman year. I served as the assistant stage manager, which was my first experience working on a stage management team. Learning about the process in which a professional production is put together was such a unique and valuable experience. Something very distinctive about the program is how much they truly trust and listen to the students and allow them to be such a major part of creating the production. I continued to be involved in the program for three more years. Each year I learned more and built my stage management skills. There really is nothing that compares to this kind hands-on experience for students in theater.

Assistant stage managing for Signature in the Schools was your first experience in a management role. Do you think Signature provided a good foundation for what you have been able to accomplish today?
Signature in the Schools provided me with an excellent foundation, which allowed me to pursue a career in theater. After Signature in the Schools, I was able to easily transition into an intensive BFA program, graduate early, and start working in my field. The opportunities that Signature provided helped me gain confidence and improve my organization and communication skills. This left me well prepared for college and beyond. I owe so much to the Signature in the Schools program. Without this program I would have never discovered my passion for stage management and I would not be where I am today.

Word of advice for high schoolers interested in theater tech?
Audition for the Signature in the Schools program if you can. Reach out to working professionals and do everything to learn as much as possible. In this career field there is always more to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.