Geneseo's Alex Stevens, 20, has spent his summer lighting up the stage for The Santa Fe Opera.

Geneseo's Alex Stevens, 20, has spent his summer lighting up the stage for The Santa Fe Opera.

Stevens was one of 74 students selected for The Santa Fe Opera's Technical Apprentice Program.

A lighting design major at Millikin University in Decatur, Stevens said he first learned of the program from a fellow Millikin student.

"When I was a freshman, one of the senior students at Millikin spent a summer at Santa Fe. She mentioned the program to me briefly," he said. "I talked to my adviser about it and was told I should apply after my sophomore year."

The New Mexico-based opera company selected Stevens as one of eight electrical apprentices for the summer.

Stevens has spent 13 weeks working at The Santa Fe Opera's open-air theater.

"I have relatives in Las Vegas and San Francisco, but I'd never been to the Southwest before. It's been kind of nice to be out here in the dry heat, as opposed to the (humidity) in Geneseo," he said.

Because The Santa Fe Opera is a repertory company, it stages a variety of operas.

"It's a different show every day, so we have to focus and re-focus the entire lighting rig daily," explained Stevens.

Even though there is a roof on the theater, the outdoor nature of the structure makes focusing lights during daylight hours a challenge, said Stevens.

"Usually, we'd go 'hot to a person' and center the lights on the lighting supervisor, but because it's sunny, we have to focus on an 'x' and 'y' axis," he noted.

"We also use a lot of LED tape and wireless dimming, which I've never used before. I've had fun learning how to work with those," he said.

Stevens spent last summer working for the Des Moines Metro Opera, so he had prior experience working for an opera company.

"Earlier in our season, when we had technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals our work day would be from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. — those were pretty long days," he said. "It's nicer now when we're doing shows. We show up at 3:30 p.m. and get out of there by midnight."

Recently, the company staged apprentice events in addition to the normally scheduled shows.

"Those were my two longest weekends," said Stevens. "All of the opera apprentices get showcases, and all of the apprentice technicians are put into lead work roles. One weekend I was the light supervisor and the next I was the board operator. We were at work from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. — basically we worked 20-hour days."

Stevens said he's appreciated the challenges presented to him during his internship.

"I was quiet at the beginning, but as they've gotten to know me, they've given me harder and harder challenges. I like the challenges, and I like the learning," he said.

Stevens, a 2010 graduate of Geneseo High School, worked in the theater at GHS.

"I learned about hard work and problem solving from the Geneseo theater department," he noted. "We would spend time experimenting and learning about the light board and trying to figure out how to do things."

Though he's majoring in lighting design, Stevens said he realizes finding a job as a lighting designer is a long shot.

"In light design, you either have to be really good or really lucky to be successful," he explained. "Right now, I'm more focused on light programming. Programing is fast paced and you have to know what you're doing with the lighting board. Programers help the lighting designers figure out how to solve problems."

As a lighting programer, Stevens said his job options would be open.

"I wouldn't mind working on a cruise ship for a year or I might apply back with The Santa Fe Opera as a light board operater. Programmers also could go on tour with a band or a musical," he said. "Part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you might do."

Stevens is the son of Bob and Carla Stevens of Geneseo.