Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Apprentice Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Mazur

The New 42 Apprentice Program creates paid employment opportunities for a diverse group of college and graduate students across the city. Apprentices are assigned to a department depending on their personal fields of interest and work alongside theater staff and technicians throughout their tenure. They gain first-hand experience in performing arts administration and meet weekly with members of the New Victory Education Department to review the program’s curriculum.

Today, we're catching up with Matthew Mazur, a former apprentice with the New Vic Operations Department! Matthew is a graduate of New York University and spent time working at The New Victory while he was pursuing a Master's degree in Theater Education/Theater Studies from Montclair State University.

Originally from New Jersey, Matthew landed at our organization after having spent time working as a theater educator at his local YMCA. He worked alongside staff members to see "the big picture" of how our theater operates financially and technically and has since moved onto some great things! See what Matt had to say about his time at the New Vic and hear about what he's been up to since:

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at The New Victory? What were some of your biggest learning moments?
I loved seeing the show White. I saw it six or seven times. I loved that the show was visually enjoyable, but it also left the audience with images and ideas to think about after the show. It captured what The New Victory does well - offering challenging and interesting theater for kids and families. I also loved The Book Of Everything which, like White, was risky and enjoyable theater for families. I also loved being introduced to Oily Cart. Their work with children and teens with special needs is incredible.

That was just the art. In the office, I worked really hard and asked a ton of questions because I wanted my department to know I was reliable - but I also wanted to show my personality. So, on Halloween, I wore a penguin costume into the office. When the head of our department walked in that morning, I pretended to be talking on the phone as a penguin. She dropped all of her books and fell over laughing. I consider that to be a major achievement in my life and career.

What lessons/skills have you translated to your life/career since being at New 42?
This program helped me develop a vision for what I was most passionate about. I want to be professional and reliable. I always want to be learning. I approached every task that I took on at The New Victory Theater with an open mind and the feeling that I was going to learn something from the experience. It challenged me to be outgoing and to ask questions of people in other departments. I treated the experience as an exploration of who I wanted to be. I also really loved learning about how the renovation of the theater helped transform 42nd Street. I saw with my own eyes how transforming the abandoned, run-down movie theater into a children's theater and education center really helped change the area. I think that's profound. Using business, culture and children's theater as a tool for developing something positive in the community is absolutely fantastic.

What have you been up to since your time at The New Victory?
The apprenticeship program led to an incredible working experience with Making Books Sing as a Teaching Artist. I create original theater and music with students based on popular literature. I work in schools all over the five-boroughs, including District 75 schools for kids with special needs. I finished a graduate program in Autism Intervention and Early Childhood Development at Montclair State University.

I also started a small-business with some friends called Turtle Dance Music. Our job is to help kids "come out of their shells." We create original, interactive and inclusive music programs for all children, including children with special needs. We travel and perform at libraries, pre-schools and elementary schools all over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We also work with Hartford Performs in Connecticut and teach science and math concepts through theater and music.

How did The New Victory shape your journey?
It made me feel confident again. I lost confidence in myself after college, and I didn't know where the opportunities were or what opportunities were available to me. Before my apprenticeship, it felt like all of these doors were closed. The New 42nd Street and The New Victory Theater really helped me move on to the next step in my journey. And everyone who works at the theater was really wonderful and made time to talk with me and advise me which was great.

Do you have any advice for current or future apprentices?
Everything at the theater is the result of a process, from the marketing materials, to the excel spreadsheets, to the type of programming that is presented at the theater. There is a reason behind everything that's done. Take the time to ask questions and listen to people. Write in your journal. Create relevant questions that you can ask people around the theater. Also, if you are having a challenge or a problem, write and reflect on it in your journal. That was a very positive tool for me and helped me consider where I wanted to go next. Also, see tons of theater at the New Victory and around New York. Go with other apprentices. Make friends with the other apprentices. They all have interesting stories, too.

If you are a former Apprentice, make sure to stay in touch with us! We would love to feature your successes too. You can email us at YouthCorpsAlum@new42.org.

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