Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Cristiana Barbatelli was excited about her role as Aunt Eller in the university’s recent musical Oklahoma! Having just returned from an apprenticeship at the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival, Barbatelli was eager share her new skills with an audience.
The Mequon, Wisconsin, native spent her summer in Williamstown, Massachusetts, at an acting apprenticeship that provided her immeasurable experience. Each summer the Tony award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival offers esteemed apprenticeships for theatre artists. The apprenticeship program actively engages participants while offering a glimpse into professional theatre.
Barbatelli applied for the apprenticeship last spring and was one of 70 selected from a pool of 300 applicants. The apprenticeship program is not just limited to college students.
“Some of the apprentices were 25- and 26-years-old and had already been in New York City for a few years,” said Barbatelli.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival performed eight shows in two short summer months — a hectice schedule that she was already somewhat familiar with.
“Wesleyan prepared me for the fast pace of professional theatre,” she said. “The schedules were sporadic and I was ready for the pace.”
Apprentices assisted with nearly every aspect of the program including set building, lighting, costumes, and administrative duties. They also attended classes. Resident artists assisted with classes that featured improvisation, dance choreography, fight choreography, pantomiming, and other areas.
One highlight for Barbatelli was a class titled, “How I Got To Where I Am.” The class was led by Williamstown Theatre Festival actors and allowed apprentices the opportunity to ask questions and learn from the actors’ first-hand experiences. On the set, Barbatelli said she valued watching actors who truly enjoyed what they were doing, and she observed small ways the actors worked to keep shows fresh.
“One of the greatest experiences of the program was the networking opportunities,” she said.
A production party followed each show, which provided an opportunity to meet other actors with the same drive.
“I needed to be immersed in the go-get-it atmosphere.” said Barbatelli.
Barbatelli will graduate next May and plans to move to New York City for acting auditions. She hopes to ultimately build a solid theatre career.
“This program was the best experience I could have done at this point in my life,” she said.
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