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New Apprenticeship Program at the Garden Theatre Honors Daniel Mills

Garden Theatre Associate Artistic Director Roberta Emerson says that the newly created memorial W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship Program is unique to the Central Florida community because it allows a young person (age 13-22) the opportunity to work alongside professional theater artists and be paid.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about equitability,” Emerson says. “Having a program with paid opportunities allows those who can’t afford to not work the ability to learn their craft,” Emerson says.

According to Garden Theatre Education Director Nick Bazo, the inaugural Daniel Mills Apprenticeship Program garnered 96 applicants, scores more than the theater’s administration expected. This was partially due to the theater’s excellent communication with Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake counties, but it says a lot about how rare this type of program is, too.

“I think there are a number of reasons why we saw the amazing response we did,” Bazo says. “It shows just how close the Central Florida professional and school theater community is, and it also shows how much of a need there is for something like this.”

Apprenticeship Overview

One of the goals of the Daniel Mills Apprenticeship is to honor Daniel Mills’ extraordinary spirit.

“Daniel was loving, kind and wise-beyond his years,” Emerson says. She taught Daniel at Monteverde Academy in its high school theater program. “You could see it in his talent on the stage, but also in the way he was with others. You could tell he cared. He cared deeply,” she says.

Likening creating the program during the pandemic to trying to build a car while it’s moving, Garden Theatre Artistic Director Joseph Walsh says it was Daniel’s passion for life and the performing arts that inspired everyone involved to ensure all the pieces came together for the 2021-22 school year.

The Daniel Mills Apprenticeship offers paid on-the-job learning and classroom or workshop instruction and is open to those interested in apprenticing in performance, theater direction, design, technical work, and performing arts education.

The Daniel Mills Apprenticeship recipient will attend weekly professional development workshops, take part in an education production and have the ability to take Garden Theatre Education masterclasses, camps, and classes at no cost, as well as attending rehearsals, performances, and other events for free.

What it Means

Emerson says supporting young people grows everyone’s future – not just those in the theater community. According to her, unity and connectivity are created when young people are given the opportunity to be paid for their creative work and when professionals are given the chance to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

Likewise, Walsh explains how thankful the community is for the generosity of the Mills family to put all of this into action.

“We are grateful to Harold and Rosy Mills,” he says. “We understand the considerable trust they have put in the Garden Theatre and we are honored to be given such a meaningful responsibility in sustaining Daniel’s legacy.”

Keep Up to Date: In next month’s issue, Central Florida Lifestyle will include a profile on the 2021-22 W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship Program recipient.

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Written by Tarre Beach

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