Fulton native learns behind the scenes at Santa Fe Opera

Fulton native Mark Jacobsen works behind the scenes at the Santa Fe Opera. Jacobsen was one of 75 people selected for the opera's Technical Apprentice Program.

Fulton native Mark Jacobsen works behind the scenes at the Santa Fe Opera. Jacobsen was one of 75 people selected for the opera's Technical Apprentice Program.

Summer break has meant a lot of hard work for one Fulton native this year.

Mark Jacobsen, a 2010 graduate of Fulton High School, has spent the past several months working as a technical apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera.

According to a press release from the opera, this season’s apprentices have worked on projects such as building the bull in “Carmen,” a piano that transforms into a boat in “The Impresario & Le Rossignol,” and an upside down room in “Don Pasquale.”

Jacobsen said he has done things like helping prepare the opera for the season opening and an upcoming remodel, welding stair units to make them more sturdy for performers and learning how to do automation with two turntables built for one of the five shows being produced this season.

“It’s a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said his primary task during the apprenticeship has been helping with changeovers, when the tech crew has a few hours to disassemble the entire set from the morning production and put up the one for the later show, and then do it all again in preparation for the first show the next day. He said the physical demands of that task has been one of the biggest challenges.

“You’re running up and down sets of stairs five or six times, and there’s a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of long hours,” Jacobsen said. He noted that the tech crew working Saturday had to report in at 11 a.m. and likely would be at the opera until midnight.

Jacobsen said the lessons he has learned during his apprenticeship have included how to interact and work with other people and how to think a couple steps ahead.

“You can’t always be asking your supervisor what to do next,” he said.

Jacobsen is working on earning his degree in design and technology from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, which he said is taking longer than a traditional four-year program because “it has a lot of hands-on” training to fit in alongside classroom work.

Eventually, Jacobsen said he would like to be a technical director for a college — a job he compared to being an engineer who determines how everything is put together and how to make it work.

“The scenic designer would be the architect and the technical director is the engineer, and that’s what I want to do,” Jacobsen said. “I like trouble-shooting, figuring out how something works.”

He said he chose theater because it provides the opportunity to do something different every day.

“It’s not repetitive — I won’t be going in and putting up 8-foot walls every day,” Jacobsen said. “I could be building a ramp that curves to the left, or flying shoes out at 20 feet, or flying people out, and that’s really appealing to me.”

Tracy Armagost, assistant to the production director, said she recommended Jacobsen as one of the 75 apprentices chosen out of 600 applicants for the Santa Fe Opera’s 2014 Technical Apprentice Program because of his positive attitude.

“He seemed like he would be a really hard worker, and it’s proved to be true,” Armagost said.

Technical Head Eric Moore said that is exactly why he chose to hire Jacobsen after his first phone interview without having met him in person.

“He’s got a great attitude. I looked at what he’s done in school and the fact he’d done work in the summer outside of school — that shows me he’s motivated and wants to succeed and is willing to sacrifice to make that happen,” Moore said, also making note of Jacobsen’s carpentry knowledge and experience with welding. “He’s been outstanding — he’s in the top of his class.”


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