Confident smile, steady eye contact and a firm handshake—Dustin West brought all these things and more to his interview about his experiences this summer as a paid apprentice technician with the Santa Fe Opera.
West is a William Woods University junior who traveled to Santa Fe, N.M., from his home in Kansas City, Mo., to work behind the scenes on such productions as Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
The apprenticeship gave the 20-year-old musical theatre performance major the opportunity to use skills and knowledge he had acquired from his theatre experience, while learning the unique aspects of opera and working alongside professional technicians.
Joe Potter, WWU assistant professor of performing arts, says West “has been an integral member of the WWU production staff pretty much since he arrived. His management skills and attention to detail were immediately recognized.”
These attributes were also recognized by officials of the opera when they met West at the American College Theater Festival. He was invited to apply for the opportunity, and was selected from among hundreds of applicants.
West said the experience was beyond his expectations: “I had the chance to work with great people and do what I love every day in a beautiful outdoor theatre.”
The Santa Fe Opera, recognized as one of the world’s leading cultural festivals, is housed in an open-air theatre located between the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. West loved watching the stunning New Mexico sunset every evening through the back of the opera house.
He also enjoyed serving as an assistant stage manager for Apprentice Scenes—two weeks during which apprentices work together to stage full productions.
He recommends this apprenticeship to others. “It’s a professional job, and requires a lot of experience, but it is well worth the work.”
He said he feels more prepared than ever for a career in the world of theater, and Potter agrees.
“His management skills, including organization and paperwork, were enhanced by his experiences this summer, and his sense of professionalism has improved This internship helped him to recognize and define his professional future in theatre management and directing.”
West was a standout apprentice, receiving the Albuquerque Guild Technician Apprentice Award for his work on the crew. Potter believes West will also make an exceptional professional technician.
“Dustin has the experience and drive that it takes to be a working professional and we are very proud of all he has accomplished.”