Apprenticeship Program

Commonweal was the first place post-grad that gave me a true insight into how a theatre company works… if you want to be in the arts at all these days, you’re going to have to produce your own work. Commonweal gave me the language and tools to understand all of the aspects that come with creating a show.”

—Caroline Hawthorne
2020 apprentice

Caroline Hawthorne in "Peter & the Starcatcher" during her apprenticeship.
Caroline Hawthorne in "Peter & the Starcatcher" during her apprenticeship.

The Commonweal Theatre Company offers exciting, demanding and rewarding apprenticeships intended to help young theatre artists transition into the professional world. For approximately eleven months, each apprentice is immersed in the workings of our producing, professional theatre company.

Best suited for those who have either completed undergraduate coursework or have commensurate experience, our apprenticeship is an experiential learning program based on the traditional mentor/apprentice relationship. The apprenticeship also affords regular classroom opportunities and culminates in a production on the main stage of the Commonweal.

2022 Apprentices Maria Cina and Alex Schlesinger in Alice in Winter Wonderland.
Professional Opportunities

Since 1989, our professional company has been performing year-round in rural, southeastern Minnesota as both artists and administrators. For the past 10 seasons, we have been delighted to include the Apprentice Company in our collaborations both onstage and behind-the-scenes.

Apprentices are cast in mainstage productions and are assigned designing, assistant directing and/or stage managing duties. Administratively, apprentices work alongside company members on the Marketing, Development and Production teams. Because of this rare organizational model, Commonweal apprentices experience the full scope of running a theatre company. This work thoroughly prepares them for life as theatre artists in a way unlike most other artistic apprenticeships.

Commonweal’s apprenticeship culminates in a final capstone production, chosen by the apprentices. The 2023 apprentice class is producing their capstone project in March, 2024—a fully realized production of The Effect by Lucy Prebble.

For a complete history of Apprentice Capstone productions, click the button below.

Poster title only
Former apprentice Abbie Cathcart prepares for Steel Magnolias (2017)
Former apprentice Abbie Cathcart preparing for a performance of "Steel Magnolias" (2017)

Taking a year’s worth of acting classes would cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars elsewhere. That plus professional credits, free housing and a stipend definitely makes this apprenticeship worth it!”

—Abbie Cathcart
2016 apprentice


Commonweal apprentices take part in rich, challenging classes that help them continue to hone their skills and grow as artists. Classes focus on movement, vocal or scene study work, and employ techniques like Meisner, Grotowski and Linklater, among others. They are taught by members of Commonweal’s Resident Company and occasional visiting guest artists.

Resident company and apprentices often share classwork
Ensemble member Jeremy van Meter and apprentice Anna Murray participate in a company class

Our Resident Company is made up of artists from all over the country representing decades of combined professional experience, many with graduate degrees. Along with group classes, each apprentice gains from mentorships formed with Resident Company members who guide them through their time at Commonweal.


Apprentices receive a weekly stipend and housing in Commonweal’s purpose-built Artists’ Residence, Dixon House. Fully furnished and located only three blocks from the theater, housing in Dixon House includes all utilities, laundry facilities, internet and cable TV.

A typical single room at the Artists' Residence.
A typical single room at the Artists' Residence.
Enjoy the regional state bike trails
Enjoy the regional state bike trails
Life in Lanesboro

Commonweal Theatre Company is located in the bustling little town of Lanesboro, Minnesota. Although it is small, there is lots to do! In their free time, Commonweal staff often get together to tube down the Root River, have dinner parties, or grab a beer at the local pub. They get to know other young people in town, like the artists at Lanesboro Arts and the naturalists at nearby Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Rochester and Winona, MN, as well as Decorah, IA, are each within an hour’s drive and have lots of fun offerings. It’s easy to “get out of Dodge” for a bit to go see movies, take hikes and go out to eat. For more information, check out the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce website. 

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul boast a vibrant art scene and are only two hours away. Many past apprentices have relocated there, greatly benefitting from the professional exposure and connections made at Commonweal.

Minneapolis skyline

The opportunity to work with nationally-known theatre artists is a huge perk. Celebrated playwrights like Alan Bailey, Mark Brown and Michael Bigelow Dixon visit the Commonweal to direct and see their work. Twin Cities playwright & screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher collaborated with Commonweal to produce many adaptations of Ibsen’s plays.

Some Commonwealers, including apprentices, enjoying summer in Lanesboro

We are first and foremost a community of artists, and that community spans the theatre world. The Commonweal Apprentice Program is your gateway to a career in professional theatre.

How to Apply

Complete the application form linked below. You will be prompted to upload a headshot, current résumé and 500-word statement of purpose speaking to your perspective on your life in the theatre.

We generally audition apprentices annually at UPTA in Memphis and locally by appointment, with decisions being made by the third week of March for that year’s incoming class. You may apply for the 2025 class by filling out the form linked below.