In “Urinetown,” a student stage manager is the one to press play |

In “Urinetown,” a student stage manager is the one to press play

Students learn the craft on campus at the Aspen District Theatre

Aspen High School senior Linnea Earl, center, helps the actors performing in Theatre Aspen Education’s “Urinetown” tape their mics for the show’s dress rehearsal backstage at the Aspen District Theater on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Earl has performed in and crewed shows for years but this is her first time as the stage manager of a company show. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

What: Theatre Aspen Education presents “Urinetown”

When: 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. on Saturday

Where: Aspen District Theater (Located inside Aspen Elementary School at 199 High School Rd., Aspen)

Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for students at

COVID-19 policies: Masks required for all attendees; proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test administered within 48 hours of the performance also required for audience members age 12 and older.

Aspen High School senior Linnea Earl has been a performer and a crew member in Theatre Aspen Education shows and school productions for years.

In her newest role as the stage manager in Theatre Aspen Education’s production of “Urinetown” this weekend, she’ll be the one that gets to press “play” — something she’s never done before. The onus of the show’s sound is on her shoulders (or under her fingers, rather); as other students perform a musical satire of capitalism, the legal system and social irresponsibility onstage, Earl will be overseeing just about everything else beyond it.

“I’m in a place where I control everything, and it’s nice to have so much control over something that’s so beautiful,” Earl said. “What they create and what we all create is so magical, and the fact that I’m sort of, a little bit of like the glue that (binds) things is so interesting.”

The experience marks Earl’s first time as the stage manager for a company production. She has held other tech and performance roles with other company shows and has stage managed school shows in the past, but “this is different,” she said; it feels, in a way, “more real,” she said. She’s now considering pursuing the field as a possible career path down the road.

“I get to see the actual process a little bit more deeply with actual professionals, and … I get to work with people who have been doing this for forever as a job,” Earl said. “And it’s just, it’s so cool — I keep saying that, but I’ve learned so much being part of the show just this one year, and it’s so much fun.”

The cast of “Urinetown” performs the opening act of the show during a dress rehearsal in the Aspen District Theater on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

It’s a bit unusual for a student to hold that role in a Theatre Aspen Education production, according to show director Elissa Russell, who also serves as the director of education programming and administration at large for the company.

Russell said this is the first time in her three years at Theatre Aspen that she’s worked as a director alongside a student stage manager, though there are opportunities for students to join the backstage crew. She sees it as a sign of potential for future growth in the technical component of Theatre Aspen’s education department, which offers camps in the summer as well as programming during the school year.

“We’ve been wanting to build up the technical theater side of our programming and we believe that that is just as important as being onstage, is the people who are supportive backstage,” so you know, we’re really lucky to have Linnea and to be building this sort of face of students who are gaining an interest in technical theater, I think is really great, for them and for us.”

It’s a unique experience in part because the proximity and availability of the District Theatre allows student actors and crews to rehearse over an extended period of time in the same space the performance will take place, according to Earl and Russell. The space is equipped with professional-caliber equipment and managed by longtime performing arts production pro Nathan Cox; Theatre Aspen also brings in its own technical professionals.

“I think it’s a really valuable experience for these students to be able to see that there are more opportunities in the theater, even if you don’t become a Broadway actor one day, that you could have a career as a lighting designer, or an educator or something else,” Russell said. “And I think that’s really valuable, and I think that this space technically lends a lot. … We’re not just performing in, like, a cafeteria or something like that.”

The Wheeler Opera House, which has played host to some productions in the past, has its merits, too, according to Earl. That space “is definitely more historic and beautiful,” Earl said, but most of the action there takes place right before performances rather than throughout the rehearsal process.

“My heart leaps when I get to be (at the Wheeler), but this is so homey and comfortable being in the district,” Earl said. “It’s like, I know it — it’s where I learned everything.”


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