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1C BOX Young actors take the stage at Commonweal

By Tom Weber

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Sarah Kathryn Hawkins’ introduction to Lanesboro came as she drove down the scenic valley and into town for the first time last year.

"The first thing I noticed is my cell phone didn’t work," she said. "I thought, ‘What am I getting myself into?’"

What she got herself into was the first Commonweal Theatre Apprentice Company for young actors — an opportunity to watch, listen, learn and be mentored by the Commonweal’s professional actors.

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For the past 10 months, the five apprentices, who came to the Commonweal literally from coast-to-coast, have performed onstage and offstage at the theater. Starting tonight, they take the stage in an all-apprentice production of "Private Eyes."

Hawkins, who is originally from Indiana and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College, and David Harmann, a Viterbo University graduate, talked about their experiences in Lanesboro.

How did you get into this program?

Hawkins: When Hal (Cropp, Commonweal artistic director) approached me at an audition in the Cities, my first reaction was ‘I’m trying to be a real actor, not an apprentice.’ I wasn’t sure I wanted this. I had never been here. Lanesboro was not on my radar.

Harmann: I had just graduated from college and I was just looking for work, actually. I had been here as an intern, so I knew the people.

What are the most important things you’ve learned in this program?

Harmann: When I was in college, I didn’t learn the business side of a theater, I just learned acting. Now I see how much administrative work a theater is. I can do things other than act.

Hawkins: This gave me a step up on the competition. At auditions now, I know what they’re looking for.

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What did you learn about yourself?

Hawkins: It gave me a stronger knowledge of myself as an artist, and what I’m looking for as a career. I’m walking out of here with a full portfolio. If acting doesn’t work out, I can do a lot of things.

Harmann: Working here has given me trust in myself. I realized that when I went to auditions in Memphis. Last year I was so nervous. This year, I said, ‘It’s a business and I’ve got a job to do.’

What’s next for you?

Hawkins: My mom would like to know that as well. I went to auditions in Memphis and the Twin Cities. As long as people keep hiring me, I’ll keep acting.

For more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

If you go

"Private Eyes," by Steven Dietz, is presented by the Apprentice Company of the Commonweal Theatre at 7:30 tonight through Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The Commonweal is at 208 Parkway Ave. N. in Lanesboro. Tickets are $15; (800) 657-7025.

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Members of the Apprentice Company are Mike Davidovich, David Harmann, Sarah Kathryn Hawkins, Bradley Kastendick and Kimberly Maas.

The next group of apprentices will start at the Commonweal on April 20.

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Commonweal Apprentices

http://www.commonwealtheatre.org/apprentice.html

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