Meet Some of Our
Quite regularly, especially when meeting with prospective students, this question comes up:
Do you have any famous alumni from your department?
The short answer is yes, but we don't want to end the conversation there. The facts are that our number
of "famous" alumni is low, not because we don't have a quality program but because the chances of
ANYONE becoming "famous" are low. As with athletics, most of the students who come to us were
the stars of their high school theatre programs. And just as very few of those athletes can accomplish
the same in college, many of our "stars" find themselves in supporting roles at first—and perhaps
throughout their four- or five-year college careers—and again when they graduate and enter the
professional theatre ranks.
Still, there are many others who, while not technically being "stars," are working professionals in
their chosen fields. It was these people I chose to concentrate on in my sabbatical project about alumni
updates. In many ways, the people featured here are all stars! (My apologies: This information was gathered between
December 2012 and August 2013, so some may be slightly outdated.)
We don't often get the time to catch up with those who have been students in our program
and then gone off into the world. This is a the opportunity to do just that. Read on for some examples.
At the bottom, you may continue on to view video interviews conducted with some of our alumni:
Jeff Huffman, seated, appeared in To Kill A Mockingbird at Hale Center Theatre in Valley of the Sun.
B.S. in Theatre English, Theatre & Speech Communications 1991
After living and teaching in Fargo, ND, for twelve years and being very active member with the
Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre, Jeff moved down to Phoenix, Arizona and has been teaching
high school English in Scottsdale, AZ for the last eight years. He has just recently returned to
performing onstage and was cast in two shows at one of the leading professional theatres in the
Valley of the Sun, the Hale Center Theatre. Jeff played Bob Ewell in Hale's highly acclaimed production of To
Kill a Mockingbird in the spring of 2012 and played the role of Slavo, an eastern European hitman, in the comedy The Hit.
MFA in Technical Theatre 2009
I'm an assistant professor of theatre at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. I designs sets, lights and sound for
the three main stage productions as well as serving as technical director for all productions, managing a staff of
three paid shop carpenters in the scene shop during the regular school year and I teaches three classes a semester in
technical theatre and design. In addition, I also design the PSU opera productions each spring semester.
BFA Design/Technology 2007
I is currently the Deck Crew Chief-Automation Technician at the 2009 Regional Tony Award Winning Signature Theatre
in Arlington, VA, and have also worked at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (2012 Regional Tony Award) for 4 years,
in addition to a variety of DC Metro area theatre companies, notably Ford’s Theatre, Arena Stage, Imagination Stage,
and some non-theatre work at the Washington Glass School as a studio coordinator and instructor.
Bachelor of Science in Theatre Performance 2005
Since graduating I’ve found a number of jobs in the field of entertainment in and around Seattle, where I’ve lived
for the past 7+ years. I’ve worked regularly as an actor at a number of theatre companies ranging from LORT Theatres
to fringe theatres, from 750-seat prosceniums to 49 seat black-boxes to shows performed in the park and on the beach.
My résumé continues to grow.
I am still working as a professional scenic designer and creative director.
I was encouraged by my teachers at Minnesota State College to submit my work to the Guthrie for an internship and
was accepted. That started me off on my career path. I went on to graduate school at Pennsylvania State University
for my MFA, was nominated to show my portfolio at Juilliard for the League of Professional Theater Training. I accepted an
offer at the portfolio review to become Assistant Designer at the Cincinnati Playhouse-in-the-Park where I subsequently
became Production Manager. I went from there to New York, working at Circle Repertory, working as a scenic artist and
assisting other designers on regional and Broadway productions, including Nine, Me and My Girl, Dancing at Lughnasa,
The Merchant of Venice, Cyrano, the musical, M. Butterfly and Metamorphosis. I opened my own design practice in 1990,
working on shows like “EFX” in Las Vegas and designing for stage, television and corporate clients. For film and television
I was scenic charge on “Friday The Thirteenth II” and “Guests of the Nation,” the production designer for
“Sessions @ West 54th Street,” art director for “The Flamingo Kid'” and production designer for “First Thing Monday.”
More recently I have been a designer of corporate events and industrial shows.
Hilary Winkworth (next to Super Grover, front right) was on tour with Super Grover! Ready for Action
with VEE Productions in 2007-08. It was an international tour.
BFA in Musical Theatre 2009
Currently I’m working as a Lead Singer for Norwegian Cruise Line. I’ve been very busy in acting and performing professionally
since I graduated from MSU. I’ve worked on a touring children’s show, performed in Dinner Theatres, performed in
Regional Theatre, performed in the NYC Fringe Festival and most recently I have been a singer for the production shows
for Norwegian Cruise Line. Working on ships has led me to see the world. I’ve sailed around the Baltic Sea for 6 months
and got to see Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. I also got to go to Rome, Israel, Turkey, Greece
and Egypt. I saw things like the Parthenon, the pyramids, the Theatre of Dionysus and traipsed around the grounds
of Olympia, Greece. Most recently she was in the Caribbean visiting places like St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica,
the US Virgin Islands, Columbia, Aruba and Curacao.
TRACY (FUNT) CAPONIGRI
BS in English/Speech Secondary Education with a minor in Theatre
I currently teach English and Theater at Park High School in Cottage Grove. I also direct at least one show a year,
and am involved with up to three shows a year at the high school. I am also the Chair and founder of Locally Grown Theatre,
a community theatre in Cottage Grove. For more information on that, you can go to www.locallygrowntheatre.org. I also have written
a few scripts for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Park High School and Locally Grown Theatre. I recently received my
MSE-Fine Arts with a theater emphasis from UW-River Falls.
BFA in Design/Techonology in 2007
I am still working as a Stage Manager, and am very blessed to have only worked in the theater industry since graduating.
After working in regional theaters and opera houses, I moved to NYC and got my AEA card. Since, I’ve toured
nationally and internationally as a Stage Manager. Currently, I am the PSM for Off-Broadway’s FUERZA BRUTA for 1+ years.
Bachelors in Theatre in 2005
I work for Troupe America Inc./ Stagewest Entertainment currently as a stage manager and sound operator. I also work
in the scene shop as a foam carver, painter, carpenter and properties builder. I am also the assistant production manager,
and was for the summer 2013 Medora Musical, now being trained in to become the production manager by the beginning of 2014.
MFA Sound Design in 2010
I am currently an Assistant Professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. I also freelance as a sound designer and
have designed at Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, RI), The Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center (Waterford, CT),
Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Program (Providence, RI), The Guthrie (Minneapolis, MN),
The Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company (St. Paul, MN), and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Cincinnati, OH)
since graduating from MSU.
Here are a couple of designs by Kelly Wiegant Mangan. It shows that, as she says,
she never liked box sets.
KELLY WIEGANT MANGAN
MFA in Scenic Design in 1991
Right now, I teach in the department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Fall
of 2013 marks the beginning of my 5th year here. I teach courses in Stage Management, Scenic construction, Props,
Scenic art and Drawing and Drafting. I also manage all of the majors in the department in their technical production
participation experiences (I assign all of the crews to the shows). I mentor all of the student stage managers in
department shows, serve as prop master and charge scenic artist (or mentor of students in those positions) and serve
as scenic designer for one show a semester.
Before coming to BGSU, I worked for 18 years at Stage One in Louisville, KY (an equity theatre for youth) as
prop master and scenic designer. Summers, before I had kids, saw me at The Utah Shakespearian Festival (7 seasons)
and Shakespeare Santa Cruz (7 seasons) as prop master.
When I left Mankato with my degree, I went directly to Chicago and served an internship with Steppenwolf Theatre
and was involved with the construction and painting of their theatre facility which was dedicated in 1992. While
in Chicago, I painted backdrops and scenery for the Chicago Historical Society, Funkhouser Backdrops,
Chicago Scenic and Ronsley.
MFA Scenic and Lighting Design in 1998
I am currently a tenured, Associate Professor of Theatre Design at the University of Guam. In October 2012, I was
appointed Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Following MSU, I worked at
Spoleto Festival USA, Bread Loaf Summer Theatre, Trinity Repertory Theatre, the Washington, DC, Opera,
and the La Jolla Playhouse before going to Tulane University. Between Tulane and UOG, I worked for a year
as the Technical Director of the City University of New York, Queens College Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance.
KATHERINE "CAT" NELSON
BS Theatre - Tech Emphasis in 1996
After ending my touring days in 2006, I settled down in South Bend, IN to work on the other side of the touring industry—
as a house person in a roadhouse. I am the Technical Stage Manager at the Morris Performing Arts Center, the largest
old vaudeville house in Indiana. While my main responsibilities are coordinating the needs of incoming shows, when
the stage is dark I can be found sewing curtains, repairing spotlights, painting, plumbing, wiring, etc. They recently
survived a two-week run of Wicked, the biggest show ever to be in the theatre (13 trucks) since its opening in 1922.
SASHA (OLCHEFSKE) WELTON
BS Theatre with a production emphasis in 2004
I am currently a freelance scenic and lighting designer and scenic artist.
All my experience in theatre that I have had can be related back to Minnesota State University, Mankato because that is where
I really started my career in theater. I learned how much I loved scenic painting and set designing at Mankato. I also
learned that it was my starting place. I was able to take what I learned at MSU and was able to develop and refine
the skills in my graduate program at the University of Iowa, where I graduated in with an MFA in Theater specializing in
Scenic Design, Lighting Design and Scenic Art in 2010.
Julie Powers (center) from her Facebook album "Last Show at the Palace"
JULIE (PFAFFENBERGER) POWERS
MFA Acting in 1997
I currently work full-time as an entertainer and as part owner of Golden Ticket Productions. We develop, write and produce
original shows; until recently, our work has been entirely musical, both original book musicals as well as review shows.
We have recently begun developing and selling interactive murder mystery dinner theatre shows, and we do a theatre camp
every summer for a few weeks in cooperation with the Literacy Coalition; the goal of which is to introduce underprivileged
kids who are struggling with their schooling to theatre, as a way to enhance both their literacy skills and
broaden their horizons. Brown County has a lot of rural poor, so for many of these kids, it's a whole new world. As a business owner,
I also am responsible for actor scheduling, I do the websites for our various endeavors, the social media, graphic design
and photography, costuming for all productions, as well as waiting tables and cleaning the bathrooms.
Because "Glamorous World of Show Business," right? I have to be honest, though, one big deal for me is the show opened in
February where I will be fronting The Stardusters Jazz Orchestra, an honest to god Big Band. I have always wanted to sing
with a Big Band. We have a lot of exciting things we're working on as a production company that I
get to participate in also as an actor.
ANTHONY R. PHELPS
MFA in Scenic and Lighting Design in 1997
I currently have a tenure track position as a scenic and lighting designer at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
I also do a fair amount of freelance scenic and lighting design and scenic painting, and I regularly work as a scenic artist
on feature films, usually one a summer the last few years.
Bachelor of Science in Theatre Performance in 2001
I'm currently acting as much as possible while maintaining a full-time job (at TwinCities.com). Post graduation,
I've done everything from theatre to film, commercial, voice over, print ads and industrials. I'm represented for on-camera
work by Moore Creative Talent in Minneapolis. For voice over I am represented by Voicebox Talent here in Minneapolis
and DeSanti Voices in Chicago. Right out of college I did the Medora Musical for Troupe America and then have bopped around
theatres/etc here in the Twin Cities. I spent nine months in NYC auditioning and doing a few projects, but returned
home in the summer of 2007 to do a one-man show for the Fringe Festival and haven't left.
Bachelor of Science in Theatre Arts in summer 2001
For a day job, I work as a Coordinator at Target Corporation in Minneapolis. I also teach theatre at a local high school.
But I also work as a union actor from time to time, I produce theatre both independently and via the MN Fringe Festival, and
my wife (Amanda White Thietje) and I run a theatre company in New Prague called DalekoArts (dalekoarts.com). I've worked all
over the place in the Twin Cities: the Guthrie Theater, Park Square Theatre, the Old Log Theater. I've also done several shows
with Walking Shadow Theatre Co. (alums John Heimbuch and Amy Rummenie's company). My degree at MSU has helped me
in all of that—there are a ton of MSU theatre professionals working up here.
MFA in Directing in 1991
I am currently Director of Theatre for Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.
Following MSU, I worked these places:
Shakespeare in the Schools tour manager, U. Pittsburgh
Technical Director, U Pittsburgh and Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival
Graduate Assistant at U. Oregon; received PhD 1996
Tech director, designer, production director and actor for Theatre L'Homme Dieu
Professor at Luther College, IA, Western State College, Gunnison, CO, and Concordia College, MN
Founding member of Theatre B, Fargo (artistic direction, production direction, acting, design, TD)
• The Medora Musical 2013: Technicians Matt Gilbertson & Dana Kleiman,
performers Emily Walter and Lauren Mikeal Weber
• Guthrie Theater regular Jim Lichtscheidl
• Bismarck, ND, teacher/director Erin Drevlow
• Globe-trotting activist Chris Bell
• Minnesota State Moorhead chair Craig Ellingson
• Rapid City graphic artist and actor Jeff Smith
• Our man on the road, Corey Krolikowski
• Taking the stage by storm, Jacleen Olson
• Recognize the voice over? That's Brent Teclaw
• Eriq Nelson is The Dude
• Theatre technicians Allen Weeks and Mick Coughlan said.
—Mike Lagerquist, August 2013
If you have questions or comments,
click on Mike's name above