Meet the 2019-20 Apprentice Team!
Fall has always been a season of transitions. With leaves beginning to wither and sunrise arriving later than before, we’re stepping into a time of uncertainty, of change, and of goodbye to the past. Fall also marks the arrival of something new, a new journey, a new job perhaps.
This fall, The Lark welcomed the arrival of a new cohort of apprentices. As the Communications Apprentice, I interviewed the rest of the team to help you, our community, get to know us a little better, and to reflect on our journey at The Lark and beyond!
Who are we?
WENXUAN XUE: I am the Communications Apprentice. I manage social media accounts, decorate the gallery walls, and find various ways to advocate for playwrights.
NIA FARRELL: I'm the Artistic Programs Apprentice and I am here to support all the artistic programs at The Lark, especially what Lloyd, Andrea, Krista, and Nissy are working on.
CARA CINCIONE: I'm the Theater Management Apprentice. I support The Lark’s programs through the administrative end. I work reception and organize a volunteer program, and I’ll hopefully be able to help implement some greener office practices.
ADAM A. ELSAYIGH: I'm the Roundtables and Casting Apprentice. I help with organizing the Roundtables program where artists come in to share their works and hear them out loud with actors, and get feedback from these actors. I also help with organizing the database of actors and playwrights.
How did we get here? (SPOILER ALERT!!! GLEE IS THE ANSWER!)
ADAM: I got into theater through Glee, but then there was no Theater Department in my high school. So I started one. Then I went to college and I wasn't planning on studying theater, but I did an acting class with Catherine Coray and then I got into other types of theater. As I got later into my undergraduate time, I became a playwright, and I got into dramaturgy and became particularly interested in play development and play development of stories from the Global South and migration. So that brought me naturally to The Lark.
CARA: So you started the theater program at your school?!
ADAM: It was literally like we were going to do a musical every year, we wanted funding, they gave us funding and then I organized. In my last two years of high school, we did Grease and Hairspray.
CARA: Similarly, I started through my high school theater program and was also a fan of Glee. I auditioned for my school play as a freshman, and then continued participating in school productions as an actor. During school breaks, the Artistic Director of my school theater program put me in contact with a couple of local theater companies where I started working as a PA and an ASM on their summer productions. Then, I went into college to train to be an actor but realized it wasn’t something I really enjoyed. So when I was offered a stage management position on a student production, I took it thinking it could be worth trying, and I liked it and people kept asking me to do it, so I continued stage managing throughout college and I’ve made it into a career.
NIA: My dad has all these home videos of me as a child telling (rambling) stories, so I think there was always something in me that wanted to share stories with an audience -- even if it was just for my loving and oh so patient father. My parents got me involved in theater productions when I was younger, but it wasn't until I went to California State Summer School for the Arts as a senior that I fully embraced the idea of committing to being an artist. So I went to NYU and trained as an actor, found my way into writing, and now I consider myself as a multifaceted creator in theater and film.
WENXUAN: I also started with watching Glee. I had no idea what theater was until high school. I was at a public high school in Beijing, China. They had never done a musical production before nor had a drama department until my year when the teachers finally decided to do a musical. The first thing that we did was Fiddler on the Roof, with an all-Chinese cast. The school was very confused about what we were doing, but still they supported us with more funding to do the next one, which was Beauty and the Beast. Then I came to college, with a music and sociology double major in mind, not really planning on studying theater. But then when I performed my very first monologue at a Students of Color theater showcase, I found a sense of belonging. As an international/ESL student, I soon realized how stressful an acting career can be. Later I moved on to playwriting and directing because I need to tell my own stories.
What are we doing outside of The Lark (and outside of theater)?
WENXUAN: Outside of The Lark, I’m a Playwright and Director. I work as a part-time Usher at the Guggenheim. I’m writing a full-length play right now. I’m looking for more projects to work on and more connections to build because I just moved into New York.
ADAM: Other than working on my charcuterie boards (favorite hobby of mine), I’m doing a PhD and I’m writing a couple of plays. I’m a Playwright and Dramaturg. What do I do outside of theater? (To himself) That’s such a crisis… Work/life balance doesn’t exist.
(The other apprentices jumped in and agreed!)
NIA: There’s this notion that “work stays at the workplace; you clock in and you clock out,”... but for me, it’s more of a fluid exchange between my life and the work that I do because it’s a conversation between the two.
Sometimes it doesn't even happen intentionally. There was a point when my Blackness started to really inform the art I was making, and then the research I put into Black theater makings informed my perception of myself. Essentially, I ended up surrounding myself with the things that helped me grow and I don’t want to clock out of that conversation.
CARA: Outside of the Lark, I’m stage managing a couple of different independently produced shows that I rehearse for in the evenings. That being said, it's important for me to step out of theater to put things in perspective and take my mind off of props lists, scheduling, and all that. It can also get really draining to do theater all the time, and taking a step back and exploring other mediums can inform more well-rounded and, in my opinion, more interesting art.
Where are we going next, in the next 10 years?
ADAM: I’d like to continue to produce my own work and work with theaters that produce my work as a playwright, to interrogate the questions about migration and queerness and the intersections of that and race in the U.S.
I do want to be a teacher. I see myself helping people who have a similar vision to what I think the world and theater scene should be, helping them realize that in different ways, whether that's mentorship, or teaching a playwriting workshop.
CARA: I hope in 10 years I’ll still be supporting theater and other arts programs, whether that’s as a consumer or as a manager within the arts industry.
But also I could just drop it all, move to Wyoming and work at a national park. That's just a pipe dream, but something I might consider. I just really enjoy being in nature, and I want to do my part to help preserve it. But for now and for the next, at least, five years, I would really love to continue working in this industry and supporting the art that I enjoy.
NIA: I hope to continually learn and grow as an artist and whole human. I hope to wear more jumpsuits, overalls, and coveralls. And ultimately, I hope to really come into my Afrofuturist self and start to see the future that I dream about in my work actualize in the real world.
ADAM: We all should be wearing more jumpsuits.
NIA: Yes, the airflow is significantly better.
WENXUAN: For me, I want to become a teaching artist, to share my passion in creating arts to other students, kids, and people in places that lack resources for them to reach their full potentials. I also want to travel to different places, of course, if visa allows. I’d love to stay in New York City, or London, or somewhere else, but I think traveling among cultures and countries helps me continue to learn and grow as both a writer and a storyteller. So in ten years, I will probably travel across the world and look for a new home in the life-long journey.
A version of this article also appeared in The Lark's October 2019 Newsletter. To receive more posts like this one, as well as other Lark news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to our mailing list!