Since the beginning of 2021, the W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship Program has provided some 90 students with the opportunity to earn while they learn from professional theater artists. With the program’s third cohort comes some new changes. Program founder Harold Mills, who along with his wife Rosy started the program in memory of their 16-year-old son Daniel, announces that the program is expanding to include a performing arts agency and theater company.
“Daniel wanted to make sure the theater was a safe, inclusive space for everyone. We are excited to be able to continue his legacy by branching out,” Harold says.
The goal of all three—the apprenticeship, agency, and theatre group—is to make the performing arts accessible to a diverse group of students from local schools and neighborhoods without theater programs to those with performing arts magnet programs.
According to Harold, the agency is already working to place apprentices and the theater group is expected to premiere its first production by spring of next year.
Nick Bazo, the program’s director of education, is thrilled about the growth. “These changes will open the door for us to offer even more opportunities to performing arts students,” Bazo says. “We’ll be able to place apprentices in theaters all over Central Florida.”
While Florida may be the birthplace of the W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship, Agency and Theater Company, Harold is open to extending the program beyond the Sunshine State.
“We’ve started to get some attention and inquiries from other theaters and programs around the country,” Harold says. “First, we want to develop a strong base here in Central Florida. But when the time comes, we’re open to helping grow the program and share what we’ve learned.”
Harold, who is a CEO at a venture firm, is getting the word out that the agency arm of the W. Daniels Mills Apprenticeship Program can offer apprentice theater techs, directors, lighting designers, actors, singers, and dancers to other local productions for free. Since they are paid by the program, it’s a win-win for the apprentices and the productions.
This year’s cohort includes 27 students of which a majority are meeting weekly to attend masterclasses. Bazo says the apprentices can expect a great lineup of professional artists to work with this season. Harold says he looks forward to the future of the program as it increases its reach and scope.
“I’d say about 50 percent of the apprentices in the program in the program are students of color. Being from a particular race or ethnicity is not a requirement to receive an apprenticeship, but it’s great to see so much inclusivity,” Harold says. “I think we have an obligation to include all people in the performing arts. People need to see people who look like themselves. It’s inspirational.”