Apprentice Theater preparing Wilmington’s next generation of professional artists


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — There’s a new youth-run theatre group in Wilmington this summer and its goal is to prepare the next generation of professional artists.

Opera House Theatre Company’s Apprentice Theatre (AT) program provides young people with an opportunity to learn about theatre while gaining experience from all aspects of production including sets, lights, costuming and more.

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“Everything on stage and behind the scenes is run by high school and college-aged students,” said Wilker Ballantine who has been involved in the Wilmington theatre community for years. “The director, choreographer, lighting designer, props person and all the actors are in our age range so its really a great opportunity for them to expand their skills.”

Jason Aycock, AT’s youth theatre coordinator, supervises the activities of the youth participants who range in age from 14 to 24. They will be working on two productions annually including one play and one musical. Both will be presented at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center Studio Theatre.

Students actually came up with the idea for the group.

“It was pitched by Wilker and another Opera House Theatre Company baby, Emilia Torello, who thought it would be a great thing to have a theatre niche for this age group that maybe we don’t have a lot of in this town, and now this summer its finally come to fruition,” said Heather Setzler, an adult mentor with AT.

The group’s first production, Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, is a classic tale of small-town American life and the effects of a dozen years time on the small town of Grover’s Corners. Our Town will be presented Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

The play is under the direction of Ballantine who is a student at UNC Chapel Hill double majoring in Political Science and Biology.

So far, Ballantine says the experience has been extremely rewarding.

“We had a really short rehearsal process, we started last Monday, so two weeks before they open and from the first read through until today, I’ve seen so much growth and development and I’m so proud of all of them,” said Ballantine. “We’ve worked so hard and it really shows.”

The group’s next production will be Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical about Millie the Modern and her journey to find love and marriage in New York City in the roaring 20’s. Thoroughly Modern Millie will be presented from July 19-21.