New Hopes in New Hampshire

William Daniel Mills apprentices Justine So and Milo Cruz.

As some of the first William Daniel Mills apprentices to work out of state, incoming Rollins sophomore Justine So and incoming Boone High School Senior Milo Cruz are excited to start their summer off in New Hampshire working at the Weathervane Theatre.

The Weathervane, an award-winning professional theatre in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, has operated since 1966. Recently adding the Weathervane Theatre and Rollins College Department of Theatre and Dance to its list of professional theaters apprentices work at, the program allows students to earn while they learn.

At 18 years old, So is thrilled and a little nervous to pursue her passion for performing on stage at the Weathervane. The theater uses an alternating repertory during the summer, which means So will be working on different productions – Broadway classics and contemporary, plus family-friendly children’s shows and day camps for youth all at the same time. 

“It’s a lot, but it’s also a great way to build my performance muscles,” So says. “In a span of about four months, I’ll have five or more shows under my belt. I’m excited to see how much I can expand.” 

Although So started her performance career as a ballerina when she was very young, she was sidelined a few years ago due to an ankle injury. She has since broadened her horizons by learning singing and acting. And while she enjoys performing, she wants to follow in her late grandmother’s footsteps and start her own theater company someday.

“I love to perform, but the apprenticeship also gives me access to masterclasses that teach the business of theater,” So says. “That’s not something that you can get just anywhere. I want to learn all about that and how a professional theater company runs.” 

So, who is double majoring in theater and communications, says one of the great things about theater is that there’s a place for everyone. As a Filipino American, she sometimes feels like there needs to be a more positive representation of Filipino culture in entertainment. But just like her grandmother, she hopes to mix more Filipino storytelling and dance into the productions she develops in the future.

Sixteen-year-old Cruz is on the tech track with a special interest in set construction and design. So enamored is he with sets and their creation that when a friend brought him to the Broadway musical Hadestown at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, they excitedly observed Cruz’s eyes light up at the sight of Rachel Hauck’s Tony-winning set in action. In theatrical terms, this set is a triple revolve, or three-tiered and asymmetrical semi-circle set.

“There is something kind of magical to thinking something up and then making it,” Cruz says. “It’s like you have an idea and then bring it to life in 3D.”

Cruz says he may pursue theater construction and design in college and beyond, but he is still considering architecture and carpentry.

“When I started in theater, I quickly found out that I’m not a performer,” Cruz says. “I don’t really like being the center of attention. But I like building things with my hands.”

Cruz auditioned for the apprenticeship at the recommendation of a friend from Orlando Shakes Young Theatre Company (YTC), thinking little about possibly going out of state for the summer. When he got the call he’d got the job, he was surprised and a little concerned. When he first auditioned, he had yet to tell his family the apprenticeship could be in New Hampshire. Even though it meant being away from family for the first time, his family was behind him every step of the way. 

The apprentices will reside in one of two houses owned by Weathervane near the theatre, ensuring Cruz will live with others. There is plenty of structure and support from the program’s leadership and some downtime built in, too. But Cruz says he likes to stay busy. He says he relishes the opportunity to work hard and adapts to change well.

“In theater, you have to always be on your toes. There is plenty that can go wrong, and you need to be able to fix things on the fly,” Cruz says. “I kind of like working like that.” 


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Written by Tarre Beach

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