February 1, 2024 – After graduating with an acting degree during the COVID-19 pandemic, Devon McCarron found it impossible to find work in theatre. Performing arts venues were closed and she felt disconnected from the industry – but a backstage training program at Confederation Centre of the Arts led her to new career opportunities in stage management.
Back for its fourth iteration, the Centre’s backstage training program is a paid opportunity that gives participants hands-on training from highly accomplished industry professionals across six production departments – video, lighting, props, sound, stage management, and wardrobe. The program is funded through Skills PEI and Innovation PEI.
“This program is a launching pad for people who have a love of theatre and are interested in working behind the scenes,” says Andrea Surich, general manager of theatre at the Centre. “Participants will get hands-on training that will teach them skills for working in theatre that are also transferable to other industries like film or music.”
Prior to the program, McCarron had no experience working backstage. “I was a complete beginner, but I wanted to try something new and meet people in the theatre community,” she says. She took the opportunity to participate in three training sessions in stage management, lighting, and audio.
McCarron appreciated the opportunity to learn from professionals. “The mentors shared not only their wealth of knowledge but held open discussions on their experiences within the industry, how they shaped their careers, and offered many resources to get involved with the local theatre community,” she says.
After the backstage training program, she was offered an apprenticeship in stage management at Watermark Theatre in North Rustico. She found the role daunting at first, but her training at the Centre made her feel confident in taking on the new challenge. She noted that, “by the end of the season, I had a new sense of confidence in my abilities and what a path forward might look like”.
After a summer with Watermark Theatre, McCarron worked as an apprentice stage manager at The 2023 Charlottetown Festival. “I once again worked with an amazing mentor who was so generous with her knowledge,” she says. “I got to shadow several stage managers to learn about their responsibilities and am so grateful for that experience.”
Other participants in the backstage training program have gone on to work at organizations such as Victoria Playhouse, Watermark Theatre, The Guild, River Clyde Pageant, and Art in the Open.
McCarron continues to work in theatre and has felt more connected to the industry after taking the backstage training program. She encourages anyone who is interested in the program to apply. “Being a beginner can be intimidating, but the great thing about the backstage training program is that it is designed for those with a desire to learn.”
Applications for the 2024 backstage training program are open until Friday, February 16. No previous experience is required. The training sessions will run between late March and early April. More information can be found at confederationcentre.com/backstagetraining.
Emily McMahon, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
[email protected] | 902-628-6135