Every season, performing arts companies take on a group of young up-and-comers who will work, and learn, with the pros. The Louisville Ballet calls them trainees. At Actors Theatre of Louisville, they’re apprentices. Kentucky Opera has studio artists. They’re in residence at a professional company for the first time, understudying for the stars and taking on small roles while learning the ins and outs of the business.
In the new series “The Big Break,” we’ll go inside the Ballet, Actors Theatre and the Opera through the eyes of three developing artists in residence. Claire Horrocks, Samantha Beach and Brad Raymond are keeping audio diaries, and every Thursday, we’ll air excerpts from the secret lives of understudies, told in their own voices.
Horrocks, 22, is a trainee with the Louisville Ballet. She grew up in Los Angeles dancing both ballet and jazz, but went on to study ballet performance at the University of Oklahoma.
“Ballet had been something that I really loved because it was a process. It was never something you were perfect at and you never would be perfect, but every day you would go to class and try to be better than you were the day before,” says Horrocks.
She even went tour with the Rockettes between high school and college. At a diminutive five feet and one full inch, she danced in the ensemble (Horrocks has a talent for being cast in bird roles), not on the Rockette line.
“It was during those four months performing with them as an ensemble member that I realized ballet is my biggest passion and that’s what I wanted to pursue,” she says. “So I went to school and now I’m living my dream.”
You’ll see Horrocks on the Louisville Ballet stage during the holidays, dancing in “The Nutcracker.”
Actors Theatre acting apprentice Beach just graduated from Northwestern University. Her first taste of the stage happened at church, during the annual holiday play.
“I was asked to be a sheep. It wasn’t a traditional pageant, but I was a sheep.” says Beach. “And I had so much fun doing it that I asked my mom when I could be used again and she started finding me more opportunities.”
Beach majored in drama, but minored in creative writing. She wants to be a triple threat—an actor, a playwright and a director. Through Halloween, she works on “Dracula,” understudying the role of Lucy while working on the crew.
“I feel most comfortable in drama,” says Beach. “I want to take some improv classes and start to expand my comedic skills. I love contemporary new plays. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to be at Actors Theatre, because they do so much new work.”
Kentucky Opera studio artist Raymond is a tenor. He’s 30—opera singers don’t hit full voice maturity until age 27, so their developmental period is longer than dancers and actors. He got his start in a second grade talent show his parents enrolled him in to combat his early stage fright.
“I wrote this kind of a rap for my school, about the principal and stuff. ‘When I get on the yellow bus, I go to a school that is made for us,’” says Raymond with a laugh.
Raymond is done with school now—he just finished his doctorate at the University of Texas. He fell in love with performing, and later came to love opera for its full, rich sound.
“It’s a manly thing to do. Singing might not seem manly to people, but operatic singing is so strong and virile,” says Raymond. “You put your whole body into it.”
This week, Raymond is singing the role of evil henchman Spoletta in Puccini’s “Tosca.” He has a fantastic maniacal laugh. Up next for Raymond is The Tempter/Abbott in Benjamin Britten’s “The Prodigal Son,” October 4-5.