James Maxim, a junior theatre studies performance major with a minor in design and production from Corning, N.Y., completed a stage operations apprenticeship with the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York this summer.

This summer provided junior Sebastian Newell with an opportunity he has dreamed about since his sophomore year in high school. The East Aurora, N.Y., native, who is majoring in theatre design/production and art history/museum studies, was one of 86 exceptional young artists from around the world chosen to participate in the prestigious Santa Fe Opera apprentice program for theatre technicians.


Sebastian Newell was a dressing apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera this summer.

As a dressing apprentice, Newell worked behind the scenes during the day to build costumes with the costume shop staff and ran wardrobe backstage for mainstage opera presentations in the evenings. He also assisted in the production of two Apprentice Scenes performances, an opportunity for both the technical apprentices and the singing apprentices to showcase their skills.

“The technical apprentices got to do everything from stage managing, costume designing, wardrobe supervision, and prop run crew,” he said. “I learned a lot of practical sewing skills in addition to gaining a better understanding of how a professional costume shop is run, and which roles I may want to occupy in the future.”


Jackie Renaud loaded sets in and out, did set sweeps, and ran shows for the Des Moines Metro Opera.

Jackie Renaud, a theatre design/production senior from Carthage, N.Y., completed a show operations internship at Des Moines Metro Opera. She worked alongside staff and design members from professional theatre and production companies loading in and loading out sets, doing set sweeps, and running the shows for the performing arts organization, which produces three operas in repertory for 15 mainstage performances during the summer festival season.

“Summer stock theatre is a great gateway into touring and tour life, especially the backstage work,” she said, noting that she plans to tour with summer stock theatres after graduation doing either lighting or backstage work, and paint for theatre and film. Ultimately, she hopes to become a technical director at a theatre or college. “The carpentry and rigging skills I learned will help me,” she said.

James Maxim, a junior theatre studies performance major with a minor in design and production from Corning, N.Y., completed a stage operations apprenticeship with the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York. He was part of a crew that was responsible for assembly of scenic elements, running backstage deck crew for performances, and participating in changeovers, a particularly important aspect of the repertoire opera company, he noted.  

“The Glimmerglass Festival runs four to six productions all at the same time throughout the summer,” he explained. “Changeover is the name they give to the act of loading out the set of one opera and loading an entirely different show into the space. So, a large part of my job was learning how to efficiently and effectively load in and out every scenic element for all of the operas.”

Maxim said that, in addition to the practical technical theatre skills he honed, such as hanging and folding a drop, making bolt connections, properly lifting, pushing, and moving scenery, he also gained valuable soft skills, including how to work efficiently on a team, how to communicate effectively, and how to work under and around time constraints and stressful situations.

“Every single skill that I learned at the Glimmerglass Festival this summer I will take with me and apply practically in my career,” he said, which he hopes will include working as both a performer and a technician at regional theatres. “Glimmerglass provided me with an invaluable network of connections with people in the industry and was one of the best things I could have done with my summer to help launch me into a technical theatre career.”

Newell, whose interests include both historical and theatrical costuming, hopes to return to the Santa Fe Opera, which was recognized as “Festival of the Year” at the International Opera Awards in November 2022, after graduation as a stitcher or wardrobe assistant. Eventually, he wants to pursue a career on touring shows and at museum sites like Colonial Williamsburg.

“I really appreciate how much Niagara was able to prepare me for this opportunity, despite being a small school,” he said. “I was working alongside apprentices studying at Carnegie Mellon and big state schools. Having the individualized attention that I have at Niagara gave me the space during the past two years to develop my skills and work alongside industry professionals, and fully prepared me to work professionally.”


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