A performer since the age of 8, Sarah Dion ’12 always knew she wanted to work in the performing arts, but it wasn’t until her first semester at MCLA that she decided to work behind the scenes instead of taking center stage.
Now a stage manager based in Seattle, Wash., her work – including a recent position with Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) – takes her to cities all over the country, including Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco. In April, her job with YAGP took her to New York City’s Lincoln Center.
“It has really been a whirlwind,” said Dion, a member of the Actors’ Equity Association who works in all aspects of the performing arts – including theatre, dance, opera and events.
Her job changes city by city. With YAGP – which offers national and international tours of semi-final dance competitions for youth aged 9 to 19 – she set up the stage, got sound and light information from each performer for their piece, and instructed them on the rules. Once the competition began, Dion called in the lights, sounds and the main curtain as necessary.
In New York City, her responsibilities increased as 1,400 dancers competed for scholarships and contracts at companies around the world. She was in charge of a team for the semi-finals, and also for the final round at the Lincoln Center’s Koch Theatre.
On the final day of the competition, Dion worked with each of the 80 to 90 soloists in anticipation of their performance that evening, as well as professional dancers for the two galas and the awards ceremony.
“In short – it was a lot!” she exclaimed. “I would say I worked 14- to 16-hour days with no breaks, but I loved it.” Next, Dion will head to Anchorage, Alaska, in June to manage the stage for the Anchorage Ballet Academy.
A graduate of MCLA’s arts management program, Dion also completed the Honors Program at the College.
“The liberal arts education was something I never knew I needed,” she said. “I found that I was always filling up my course load with six to seven classes a semester, as well as a number of shows, jobs and social activities. Things were usually incredibly busy for me. I have used almost all of my classes there in my life outside of school – especially my arts management, theater, and philosophy courses.”
At MCLA, Dion worked on Main Stage productions, and with the campus’s Harlequin and Yorick theatre clubs. Involved with the Student Activities Counsil (SAC), she was chair of the Saturday Night Spotlight during her senior year.
“I also ran the box office for Dance Company for a few years before having the opportunity to be the production stage manager for the spring performance at MASS MoCA during my senior year,” she said.
Although she went on to earn her Master’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of California-San Diego, her success, she said, boils to the many opportunities and experiences she had at MCLA.
“The best part of my MCLA experience was being able to make it my own,” Dion said. “My experience was totally customizable, and after speaking with others from larger state schools and private universities around the world, MCLA is really something special in the opportunities it provides.”