Safe and Confident: A Tale of Two Apprentices

Two Daniel Mills Apprentices share how their experience has helped them find their confidence and want to create a safe place on stage for others.

Recent University of Central Florida graduate Jonathan Gardon and Bishop Moore High School ascending senior Lilly Gonzalez both love the theater arts. However, they are on two different paths as they learn and earn their way through production after production as part of the Daniel Mills Apprenticeship program.


From Performer to Manager

Gonzalez started her theater journey performing in elementary school when she was Timon in the Lion King. But she soon found that she enjoyed doing behind the stage work better. “When I performed, I got very nervous. I felt like everyone else was so good,” Gonzalez says. “Once I got to do some tech work, I felt a lot less stressful and had way more enjoyable.” But stage management and tech work isn’t all fun and games either. Gonzalez says the challenge is that now she’s made so many friends in tech it can be difficult to focus on the work when she’s having such a good time. That’s not to say she’s goofing off. More often it feels like there’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done. She says another test for her was feeling confident enough to manage others, especially friends and adults. With help from the professionals she’s apprenticed with, she’s feeling more assured in her abilities to stage manage when she’s called upon to do so. This year, Gonzalez recently assisted with stage managing the Daniel Mills Theatre Company’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time at Fringe ArtSpace.


Give it a Try

Gonzalez advises other theater tech hopefuls to not be so self-conscious and try everything. “Don’t be worried about what other people think about you,” she says. “We all have to start somewhere. No one is going to think less of you when you first start out.”


Experience, Experience, Experience

For Gardon, who majored in acting, being on the performance track in the Daniel Mills Apprenticeship program allowed him to work with both local and national talent. Last
year, he performed in Metamorphoses at UCF Black Box Theatre as Phaeton and other roles. “The prose was so beautiful and getting to work with director Julia Listengarten was a special experience,” Gardon says. Performing with young actors also inspired him to want to teach the next generation of theater artists. “It’s been so encouraging to see the creative minds of children being unlocked through performing and storytelling,” Gardon says.


Supporting Safe Spaces

Gardon will continue acting whether in stage productions, in the theme parks or while teaching. He says he is also excited by the idea of making the performing arts accessible to more young people and keeping the stage a safe place for all. To ensure that, Gardon became certified by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) in unarmed combat and stage fighting choreography. He also has experience as a theater arts intimacy coordinator. According to Gardon, the entertainment industry is making a move toward, and may even mandate, intimacy support for actors. He says he wants to be a part of facilitating comfortable and artistic exchanges between performers. “Actors are often told you have to be OK with everything. It’s part of the ‘Yes, and..’ philosophy so many have come to expect. But as society and also the industry grows and evolves, we’ll see more and more actors requesting and maybe even demanding support in these areas, which I see as a good thing.”


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Written by Tarre Beach

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