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Anna Hansen-Robitschek pretty much grew up in the theatre at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.
Her dad, Roy Hansen-Robitschek, is an assistant professor in the technical theatre stream of Grenfell’s fine arts program and her mom, Krista Hansen-Robitschek, the manager of the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre, also taught there. Roy’s specialty is in set, costume, and lighting design and Krista’s is stage management.
So, it’s no surprise that Anna has decided to study technical theatre.
She’s about to enter her third year in the technical theatre production stream at Grenfell’s fine arts school. Roy is one of her instructors.
“I kind of grew up in it and it was something that I have been interested in and I think I’m good at it,” she said.
“I love creating. Every time I walk into the building there’s talk of creating something, whether it’s props or set pieces in the carpentry shop, or building costumes or creating the lighting design for a show, it’s all creation. It’s so fun.”
This summer Anna is learning more about her chosen field as an intern with the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico, Prince Edward Island. And she’s doing it all from home.
Now in its fifth year, Watermark Theatre’s mentorship program selects five current theatre students and recent graduates from across the country per year to train backstage at the theatre all summer. Anna’s specialty is stage management.
Anna saw the posting for the program on Facebook and it was her mom who suggested she apply.
Krista worked at the theatre in 2009 and 2010 when it was known as the Montgomery Theatre. She spent a year as stage manager and another year staging managing and working on renovations for the community theatre.
Anna remembers the family renting a farmhouse there one summer. “And it was so fun, I figured why not.”
The internship was supposed to be an in-person program, but then COVID-19 happened and Watermark cancelled its 2020 season. Anna was somewhat worried that would mean the internship wouldn’t happen.
So, she was pretty excited when she learned Watermark, through a grant from RBC, would be moving the mentorship program online.
"It was probably the best option, I didn’t even consider just taking out the theatre part and just making it workshops,” said Anna, who is enjoying the opportunity.
“Rather than paying to learn like I do in the school year, I’m getting paid to learn.”
The program started with a virtual tour of the theatre through Zoom and so far Anna has participated in a blood making workshop with props master Natalie Kearns and a session on planning a season with creative director Robert Tsonos.
She’ll do a total of 11 workshops between now and the first week of September.
“There are so many different components and ways to think about theatre, so a lot of the information I’m learning here are from people with totally different perspectives than my profs at Grenfell.”
She’s looking forward to putting some of what she’s learned to use at Grenfell.
As for what area of technical theatre she’ll pursue, Anna is not making any decisions yet.
“Every day I go into class I learn more and change my opinion on what I want to do. The more I learn the less I know (what I want to do). I love everything.”
Watching Anna follow in her and Roy’s footsteps is something that makes Krista extremely proud. She’s the only one of their three children to do so.
“I’m thrilled that she’s chosen this path, because, obviously, I chose it and Roy chose it because we both have a passion for theatre and a passion for what we do. So, as a parent, I’m thrilled that she’s found her passion and that it’s something that she wants to pursue herself.”
As for working for Watermark, Krista thinks that’s really nice. “And I hope that she’ll go on to work in many theatres that I worked in or her dad worked in.”
She said much of what Anna is learning with Watermark is the nuts and bolts of it. It's stuff she learned on the job and that Anna is learning virtually.
“It’s all about putting things in your toolbox, so she’s still adding to her toolbox.”
Krista said it is challenging to have to do it virtually.
“As a theatre professional our raison d'être is to bring a group of people together and share what we do. We’re having to sort or readjust and adapt. And I’m hoping that what it’s doing is just laying the groundwork for next year when they can be in person and share everything together.”
Anna has already been invited back to Watermark Theatre for its 2021 season.