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For her work with Goodspeed Musicals, Alexandra Olinyk became the first recipient of the Andrew A. Isen Prize, a grant that she says will take her back to school and advance her theater career. (Photo courtesy of Alexandra Olinyk )
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Ally graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in musical theater, but she also picked up a lot of experience for the technical side of stage production.
“I took all of the classes that are required for a B.A. in technical design,” Ally says. “I started off as an actor and did some stage management stuff in school and realized that I actually really liked the tech side of it.”
She says that she learned the basics of lighting and sound, setting her up for a well-rounded career in technical stage work.
Ally’s interest in stagecraft began in 3rd grade at East Haven Academy.
“[At] like six years old, I started learning the piano, so that sparked my interest in music,” she says. “When I went to East Haven Academy, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll try this acting thing.’”
Her first ever production was Cinderella and she says she was in every production after that.
“I quickly grew into the more lead roles as I got older,” she says.
Ally continued with theater at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven. She says a production of That Boy: The Musical during her sophomore year was the turning point.
After college, Ally went to work with the Goodspeed Musicals, a regional theater company based in East Haddam. She then took the first eight weeks of 2018 to live and audition in New York, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t for her.
“While you’re auditioning, you really have to have a job, like an at-night job, because the auditions are during the day,” Ally says. “So you can’t really further your career while you’re auditioning…I don’t really want to stand still in my career just to audition.”
Ally really wanted to tour with a production. She asked for advice from someone she met at Goodspeed, and when her contact, the head of props for the national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot, realized the tour was shorthanded, Ally earned herself an invitation.
“They found out that they couldn’t function with just her. I flew out the next day and joined them and have been with them ever since,” she says.
She’ll be with the show until the tour ends in May, visiting venues around the country from coast to coast. Unfortunately, the head of props ran into medical trouble, prompting her to leave the tour and the props department in Ally’s hands.
“I got bumped up to head [of props] like two weeks after I joined the group. It was my first tour, my first props….I had done pretty much everything else under the sun in tech, but never props,” she says. “Now I’m the head and I don’t have an assistant.”
As head of props, Ally is responsible for the tour’s three trucks of costumes, props, and set pieces and getting all props ready for the actors.
“We travel with 12 of us and we work with about 50 people from the venue or from the area that come and help us put in the show,” Ally says. “I tell people how to take things off the truck safely, put it in the building.”
Often, the local helpers have little experience with the theater’s operations, so the work can be challenging. Before the show, Ally practices some of the behind-the-scenes work that makes the show run smoothly.
The work happens fast, with the production often arriving the day of a performance. Still, Ally enjoys the tech work.
“[As an actor,] I always felt really good when I felt like the tech aspect was really supportive of me,” she says. “My goal is to support the actors as much as I can.”
Ally hopes to go back to school after her tour to get the tools she needs to be a technical director at a regional theater like the Goodspeed.
“During my second season [at Goodspeed] is when I decided that technical direction is where I want to take the next step in my career,” she says.
Her next step will be helped along by the inaugural $5,000 Andrew A. Isen Prize, which is given annually by Goodspeed Musicals to recognizes a person between ages 20 and 29 who has demonstrated excellence in their work during the previous Goodspeed Musicals season and intends to continue their career in theater.
“I truly enjoy being on stage and you need all the things, like the lighting and the sound, to make a production really good,” she says.
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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