New theater program to train next generation of behind-the-scenes workers

ByCandace McCowan WABC logo
Monday, March 6, 2017
New theater program to train next generation of behind-the-scenes workers
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Candace McCowan has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A wrench in one hand, and a light in the other, last year Aaliyah Stewart was working retail. Now, she is gearing up to light up a Broadway play.

"Theatre is my only option," Stewart says.

Ajalon Glover knew exactly what he wanted to do, and college wasn't getting him there quickly enough.

"I want to be the guy who sets up the microphone and runs the program board," says Glover.

Stewart and Glover are both now training to work backstage at Manhattan's Roundabout Theatre in their workplace development program. The goal is to add more diversity to the workforce behind the curtain.

"The backstage industry tends to be more male-dominated, so we've been looking for a way to invite folks from under-represented communities to join our workforce," says Jen DiBella.

The workplace development program is a three-year program, and the fellows receive a slew of training from sound engineers to wardrobe workers. The program isn't just about training the students, they want to make sure they have jobs to go to - finding a job in this industry has been a hard thing to do.

"The trick is the pathways into this career are often hidden. There's sort of an old saying in show business - it's who you know. You got to know somebody," says Pat White.

"A big part of this program is to make sure the fellows are building a network," DiBella adds.

It's setting the stage for these fellows to have a long career backstage.

"It should be no other way. There aren't any more black girls, black young men, doing what I'm doing," says Stewart.