Students get on-the-job training in 'the show before the show' (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 04:08 PM.

It's about the kids

"Student crews run this place. It's all about them," Mattie Kelly Arts Center Technical Director Bob Whittaker says. "They have opportunities to observe and watch, and that's when it hits home.

"You can tell them all you want in the classroom, but until they actually do it, it doesn't really hit home."

First-time student crew members team up with professionals. Many techies who travel with the shows patiently guide students through the load-in process, becoming valuable professional contacts in the process.

Many NWFSC students who graduate with a two-year fine arts degree and head off to other schools to complete their theatre studies say their experiences on Mattie Kelly stage crews gave them an advantage over their classmates.

"This and Clint's acting class helped prepare me for the University of Tampa," Long says. "I was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone in my class."

"We want everybody to be successful," Whittaker says. "We also do it to train the kids. You're not only learning; you're (also) getting paid to learn.

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