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Students from the NEO Theatre Experience were invited to assist a professional crew for the Broadway tour, “An American in Paris” in early March. The production was part of the “Best of Broadway” series at the Bicknell Center for the Arts in Pittsburg, Kansas. “You never really understand how much work goes into something like this until you are part of it,” said Dustin Warner, a sophomore Music major. “Making sure everything was connected properly, secure, ready to be hoisted.” In assisting the professional crew, NEO students helped unload semi-trucks transporting the touring production and then split into teams focusing on lighting, sound, and stage. Following the conclusion of the show on March 4, the NEO team helped break the show down and load the trucks for the next venue. “I am very proud of our students and the process we use here at NEO,” said Aaron Smith, NEO Theatre Experience Coordinator. “Students were thrown in with professionals and never missed a beat. They were doing things they have done before, just at a higher level.”

Not only was the experience beneficial for current NEO students, but incoming students had a chance to participate as well. Aaron Bishop, an incoming freshman from Ketchum High School said the experience was eye-opening. “It made me realize how hard tech crews work behind the scenes, and as an actor, I am extremely grateful.” Incredibly, setup, performance, and breakdown all occurred in a single day. This allowed NEO students a chance to see how professionals streamline their effort. “As props that were not in use for the remainder of the show came off the stage, we packed them up to be loaded on the truck,” said Anna Seat, a freshman Music major. “It was refreshing to see union pros having fun backstage during the show like we do at NEO,” added Warner. “It was a long, exhausting seventeen-hour day, but I would gladly do it again.” While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of the remainder of the NEO Theatre Experience season, the program is currently recruiting for the fall semester and season passes can be pre-purchased by contacting Aaron Smith at aaron.k.smith@neo.edu. (Photo: Dustin Warner aids professional crew in the setup of “An American in Paris.)

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