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As a stage management student at Syracuse University, one of the first things I learned was that performing arts production is a collaborative process. Every class that I took, from basic rehearsal techniques to budgeting, steered back to the concept of collaboration. I was fortunate enough to stage manage productions across a spectrum of genres during my time at school, but it was through my work with Syracuse’s opera workshop that I learned the true meaning of collaboration.
Syracuse University’s School of Music offers voice majors the opportunity to perform in a full-length opera at the start of each spring semester. As a result of my desire to be involved, I reached out to the workshop director and was invited to join the project. This would be the first time that the workshop had a stage manager on board. In the past, the workshop director had sporadically reached out to the Drama Department for support, but over time the relationship faded. I jumped at the opportunity to help make the best possible production and create a new relationship between the two departments.
Acting on my own, with my advisor’s guidance, I was able to recruit a student lighting designer, a student technical director, two freshmen assistant stage mangers and a backstage crew to the project. I arranged costume rentals for the workshop through the university’s costume shop and equipment rental with Syracuse Scenery & Stage Lighting. The performance weekend ran more smoothly than the workshop director and students had experienced in the past. The School of Music and the Drama Department, recognizing talent from singing to technical/production to stage management, established a new professional and educational relationship.
My efforts led to a new, collaborative relationship between the departments offering theater students the chance to work in a different art form on campus and provided the music department with new resources for the opera workshop. The most important question I have been asked by underclassmen is how I discovered the opera workshop opportunity. That was an easy question to answer: seek out those opportunities. At OPERA America, you can find resources you need to create your own networking and collaboration opportunities. The Career Guide features a list of opera companies offering technical and production internships in the summer and throughout the year. Additionally, OPERA America’s website features job listings, which are posted throughout the year. There is also a Technical/Production Forum available to organizational members where individuals can view and share technical information, read up on the best practices and interact with colleagues.
What can you do to create opportunities? Along with the resources provided by OPERA America, you can reach out at your school for something that interests you. If you want to try to design a dance show, go and find one. If you want to work backstage on an opera, offer your services. It is also important to communicate with your mentors and get as much advice as necessary. Be active: always ask questions rather than sitting around waiting for the next available opportunity. Take advantage of what’s around you and create your own artistic collaboration.
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