CaplisOriginalRobert Caplis

Choice CRM, A Shubert Organization Company – Director of Sales

Boston, Mass.

PRTC Apprentice Credits:  

  • “Corktown” by Michael Brian Ogden
  • “Some Couples May…” by Carey Crim
  • “Consider the Oyster” by David MacGregor
  • “Escanaba in da Moonlight” by Jeff Daniels

What or who inspired you to become an apprentice at the Purple Rose?

In the fall of 2010, I was a student in the Purple Rose Actor/Director Lab. I had never studied theatre, and acting was something that I had always been curious about. Guy Sanville (Artistic Director) and Michelle Mountain (Literary Manager & Resident Artist) were great teachers and mentors. That experience inspired me to become an apprentice.

What is the most useful skill or piece of knowledge you gained from your apprenticeship?

You can spray woolen clothes with vodka to eliminate odors in between dry cleanings! If you travel a lot for work, this tip is a life saver. In fact, everything about costume maintenance is great for taking care of good, quality pieces.

What job opportunities (theatre-related or otherwise) have you had following your apprenticeship?

After my apprenticeship, I went to work for a ticketing software company. I also consulted with arts organizations throughout the country on how to increase ticket sales, improve patron engagement, and raise individual gifts.

While I had a business background before becoming an apprentice, I could not have achieved what I have done these past four years had it not been for Guy and Michelle. They unlocked a hidden passion of mine, and gave me a language for how to think and feel about theatre. Now, I work for a division of the Shubert Organization and serve on a young professionals board at the Huntington Theatre Company.

How has your apprenticeship prepared you for/contributed to your current job?

Guy likes when people bring solutions; saying “no” just means that we haven’t explored a new solution.

One example of overcoming an impossible situation occurred during “Escanaba in da Moonlight (2011),” a comedy by Jeff Daniels set in northern Michigan. We needed carbonated water cans that looked like 1980’s-era Leinenkugel cans (Guy believed in that authentic “tsh” sound heard at a deer camp) for props. In past productions, the beer distributor would can carbonated water in beer cans but the FDA got strict on food labeling. We were stuck, it seemed.

Then, Danna Segrest (Props Master) found an older Leinenkugel’s can from one of the original productions, and I scanned the label  into the computer  to see if we could apply a copy to a LaCroix carbonated water can. Going one step further, we had Kinko’s print up those labels on glossy sticker paper (for that metallic shine) to wrap around 11 cans per performance. Sitting in the back row, I was convinced it would look fake. But the audience always believed it and even asked how we did it! I love telling that story at job interviews because 1) no other candidate is going to have that story, 2) it allows me to name drop Jeff Daniels, and 3) it goes to show that you really can develop inventive solutions when you are open to trying things.

The apprenticeship exercises that kind of thinking in ways that business school never did.

Of the shows on which you worked, which one was your favorite? Why?

My favorite show was “Consider the Oyster,” a world premier comedy that dares to ask “what does it mean to love someone (even if they change)?” It was my first time observing the rehearsal process from script to full production, and it helped me understand the Purple Rose’s importance to my hometown of Chelsea, Michigan.

Following one matinee performance of “Oyster,” an older woman came to the box office to tell us that she attended with her friends. Before entering our doors, she had wrestled for some time with coming out as a lesbian and was afraid of losing her friends’ love if she changed before their eyes.  Because of David MacGregor’s smart writing, this comedy (which dealt with similar themes) gave her the courage to have that conversation with her friends, changing her life forever and strengthening the bond her friendships.

Moments like that, after the lights go down, and you leave feeling a little differently than when you arrived are why the Purple Rose Theatre Company plays such a vital role in Michigan, and why its commitment to new works is to be commended.

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