1991-1995Page address: https://www.mnsu.edu/theatre/alumni/91-95.html
Alumni Updates Grads 1991-1995
BS Theatre Arts, 1995 (posted on 1-9-01)
Congratulations go to Eric Bakker (BS 1995) and Carla Swartz Bakker, proud parents of a little girl, Jessica Ariel Bakker, born 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, after only 13 hours of labor. She was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and a perfect Vikings purple, Eric reports.
Eric is currently working as a software tester and sales rep. for Omware in Sebastapol, CA. This year has been busy with the formation of the Tin-Pan Players Theatre Troupe, a nomadic acting company, and its first production of Laundry and Bourbon and LONESTAR. Eric directed and fellow former MSU Theatre student Berrisford Elliott (see entry below) and Carla (Swartz) Bakker performed in a successful production. The company and actors have numerous invitations, so more will come in 2001. Eric and Carla are also expecting a baby girl in late January.
(Posted 11-01/05) Eric recently traveled to Italy and Greece and toured the ancient history. Eric says, "It is a mind blower to stand in the beginnings of theatre. I visited the Theater of Dionysos, which clings to the south slope of the Acropolis in Athens, then tripped along the rocks to the Odeum of Herodes before humping the hill to stand in front of the Parthenon, and climbed high up the mountains to elemental maginc and stillness that surround The Theatre of the Sanctuary in Delphi. "An overnight boat cruise across the Adriatic, in Italy I shuffled down rainy cobbled streets searching out historical treasures. One of the most impressive finds was The Theatre at Ostia Antica, which is just a short trip seaward from Rome. Above everything the most impressive time I had was the day I spent in Pompeii in the shadows of Vesuvius. "As much as two weeks was exhausting, it was well worth the tired legs and left me with nothing but pure excitement to go back and see the hundreds of theatres I couldn't fit in." Eric is Vice President of Marketing and Sales for OnQue Technologies. He lives with his daughter Jessica in Santa Rosa, CA.
MFA 1991, (posted 3-28-02)
Gary Benson is a faculty member at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg Idaho. On March 25 he and his wife, Chimene, welcomed child No. 6, a boy named Garrett Austyn, into the world. Gary reports that Garrett is healthy and "very large"—10 lbs. 2 oz. with a 15-inch head.
Professionally, Gary is in the middle of a costume design for an original show; he doesn't give us a title, but says it requires trolls, dwarves and elves. Next he will do scenic and lighting design for Annie and then set and costumes for Guys and Dolls. A lighting assignment follows.
MFA 1992(posted on 1-4-01)
Brian has managed to triple the budget and the staff for the Toledo Rep and, therefore, led the big move to their big new space. This kind of success also makes him in demand as a non-profit theatre consultant on the national level. In between management duties, he continues to direct up a storm. This year's highlight (as reported by his wife, Wendy) was Crazy for You. He also directed Arcadia, Reckless, Down the Road and A Christmas Carol.
Brian has now left The Rep in Toledo (where his last show was a critically acclaimed production of W;t)and is now the Chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Owens College (also in Toledo). He is currently in the process of building a new 75,000 square foot facility scheduled to open next summer including a 520 seat proscenium theatre with a 75 seat black box and lots of studio space for drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, etc.
BS Design/Tech, 1995 (posted on 12-18-00)
Andrea is in the second year of her MFA program for lighting design at UW-Madison and working as a TA for the Opera (where she also works with props), and next year she will TA the lighting class.
Between Mankato and Madison, she served as an electrics intern at Juilliard for the 1995-96 season; worked at "The Design Group" in Minneapolis in various capacities from '96-'99; from '97-'98 worked at Secoa; spent three years as an electrician at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre on such shows as State Fair, Educating Rita, Brigadoon, Rainmaker, Nuncrackers: The Christmas Musical and Good News and was Assistant to the Lighting Designer for Forever Plaid.
This year's projects include Lighting Design for Spring Awakening at UW-Madison Theatre Dept.; Lighting Supervision, props construction and painter for Rape at Lucretia at UW-Madison Music (Opera) Dept.; Lighting Design and props construction for Merrily We Roll Along at UW-Madison Theatre and Opera; and Lighting Design for Lucia De Lammermoor for U-W Music (Opera).
Open Studies 1982, Teaching 1994
Teaching Theatre Arts and English at Pelican Rapids High School and coaching soccer (the team took second in the state this summer)
Nadine Wagner Brown
Speech/Theatre/Mass Comm., 1981
Director of Public Relations, 1991-94
Working as a Children's Librarian at Pelican Rapids Public Library and working on an Education degree and then Library Media Specialist degree to become a school librarian. Recently directed Annie with 93 cast members to raise more than $8,000 for the public library expansion project.
Currently employed by Omware, Inc., in Sebastopol, CA, with fellow graduate Eric Bakker. Berrisford's latest production was Laundry & Bourbon and Lonestar, playing Ray. Berrisford reports that this site does not have enough picture of him (actually, all photos will be coming soon).
Although Ford writes that he feels guilty about not doing more acting, he says "mostly I'm acting like a Dad ... my son Raney Whitt Elliott was born on July 10, 2002, and just typing those words makes me tear up. I'm so proud and in love with him." He did recently (more or less anyway) do a production of Woman in Mind by Alan Ayckbourne, portraying the "real" husband. A lot of fun, but that went up in the spring before my son was born. Ford also writes, "The years I spent there were some of the best of my life. I learned so many things that go way beyond the stage." He's putting those skills to work for Intuit, recruiting sales and training people in the field.
Shiobhan (Fusillo) Bremer
Shiobhan is now an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Morris where she is busy directing Sylvia. Immediately following its February opening, she will go into production for George Washington Slept Here at the Barn Theatre in WIllmar. Earlier this summer she had a leading role in an ATHE play in San Diego.
Dr. Ken Haught
MFA, 1993 (posted on 1-4-01)
Ken is still the Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Dickinson State University. He says that it distracts him from his true love of theatre, but it allows him to give theatre a lot of inside advantages! Amen to that. He directed Moon Over Buffalo and Starmites this year. During this past summer, not only did he design and build Oliver!, he starred as "Bill Sykes." Next show up: his Shakespearean directing debut with The Tempest.
Ken is now a full professor at Dickinson State University and celebrated with a personally satisfying production of Blood Wedding. Of course his recent production of Footloose brought in a lot more money. This past summer he went to England to study at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford Upon Avon. He also notes that he is about to turn 50, but is also pleased that Hustoles beat him to it.
BS, 1991 (posted on 1-4-01)
Jeff is thriving up around the Fargo area. He just graduated (again), this time from MSU-Moorhead with a teaching degree in English. But he keeps very busy at the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre where he is currently starring in The Visit with fellow MSU, Mankato alum Carol Bennett (BS 1991). He'll be directing for Theatre of the Invisible Guest at the university, where he just directed three one-acts. Since moving up north back in 1993, Jeff has acted, directed and/or designed sound for 21 full-scale productions. For those of you who remember, his kids are now 14 and 16 years old. How time flies!
MFA, 1993 (posted on 1-9-01)
Mike is still a professor at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. Last term he taught stagecraft and stage management, this spring he teaches sound design. Production work this year includes sound design for The Real Inspector Hound, technical direction for The Last Night of Ballyhoo, lighting design for Pippin and building Two Rooms. Mike also serves on the Lighting Commission of USITT and is busy recruiting workshoppers for the upcoming national convention in Long Beach. In the summers he works for Pamiro Opera as technical director and last summer he designed lights for their Carmen.
BS, Acting, 1991 (posted 1-4-02)
Anna recently came back to the Twin Cities area in the Ordway Theatre's production of The Prince and the Pauper, a new musical (Broadway bound?) by Tony Award-winning Judd Woldin (Raisin) and Marc Elliot. The co-producer was the 5th Avenue Theatre of Seattle, where Anna has done considerable work.
Other recent credits include West Side Story at the Village Theatre, Time and Again in Oz at the Seattle Children's Theatre and Oliver! at the Civic Light Opera. Next up, she will be the Assistant Director for The Most Happy Fellow at the 5th Avenue Theatre.
Anna is working as an actress consistently, and to make ends meet by doing skin care and waxing. It's her own business, she says, so she can make her own hours.
MFA, 1995 (posted 4-25-01)
Mike is Director of Theatre at Jamestown College (ND), a position he has held since 1996. Besides teaching performance, technical theatre, and literature courses, he has directed and designed productions of As You Like It, Man of La Mancha, The Learned Ladies, Evita, The Pirates of Penzance and several others. He also supervises all student productions in the college's 4-show seasons. During the summers, he directs and designs musical productions for Jamestown High School with his wife Cheryl and teaches children's theatre workshops. Lots of advice is offered by their kids, Anthony, Matthew, and Brittany, on all projects. Mike has also been recently named Coordinator for the new Reiland Fine Arts Center, a 700-seat facility housing Jamestown College's theatre, music, and art departments set to open in August 2001. West Side Story and Death of a Salesman are slated for the new theatre's inaugural season.
Melissa "Missy" Peterman
BS, 1994, (posted 5-23-01)
From CJ's Notebook in the StarTribune: Minnesota State's Melissa Peterman wasn't star-struck about the aura that is Reba McEntire until they had lunch during the shooting of the McEntire pilot by FOX for the WB. Peterman was with her husband, John Brady, a Wisconsin native, who was doing "Tony&Tina's Wedding," in Portland. "He came up to the studio to have lunch with me. Reba was over by herself, and she just said, 'Come on over and join us,'" said Peterman. "We were like, 'What? Ohmygosh!' So it was me and John and Reba having lunch. [Now] he's got a huge crush on her. It's really interfering," jokes Peterman. She found McEntire to be "a doll, nice as you think she is." In the pilot, Peterman plays the role of Barbra Jean, the clueless dental hygienist girlfriend of the dentist who plays McEntire's soon-to-be ex-husband. Other castmates include Christopher Rich, from "Murphy Brown," and Nell Carter, who "Ain't Misbehavin'" so "Gimme a Break."
Check out Missy on "Reba," Fridays on the WB.
E.J. now resides in Minneapolis, where he is a cast member of the long-running Tony 'n Tina's Wedding at Hey City Theater. He also has appeared in Macbeth at the Jungle Theater and American Buffalo for the Blue Collar Theater Company, for which he serves as a board member. Since his graduation, E.J. has returned to MSU each summer to be part of Highland Summer Theatre, including roles as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple last summer.
E.J. is a cast member of the recently resurrected "Tony 'n Tina's Wedding" at Hey City Theater in Minneapolis, playing "Michael Just" (the bride's party-crashing ex), and covering a handful of other roles. He is also a member of the newly formed Twin Cities Comedy Writers Group, where he is currently working on an original play, The Buck Passers. Another original play, The Belzer Pill, premiered at MSU's ETC Theater last April. E.J. also returned to Highland Summer Theatre in 2002 to play "H.C." in The Rainmaker and "Kipps" in The Woman in Black.
Chad Van Kekerix
BS, 1993 (posted on 1-4-01)
Chad, who happens to be married to Suzanne Gifford (who was here around that same time), has moved back to the Twin Cities area. Although both have "real jobs," both are also constantly involved in theatre. Chad is on the Technical Advisory Board at Theatre in the Round and has done recent design work for Impossible Marriage, Absurd Person Singular, Blithe Sprit, School House Rock and others. Suzanne still times find to act. Her most recent role was as "Baroness Elsa" in The Sound of Music.
MFA, Theatre Arts, 1995 (posted 5-17-01)
Emily writes: "I head for Denver next week to play Anna in The King and I. What a wonderful gift to have actually been to Bangkok (even though all Anna Leonowens, Margaret Landon, films, shows, music, etc, are completely banned in Thailand!) If all works out well, I will stay at the same theatre to do Titanic until early November. Then, I return to the ship with my friend Olena."
Emily writes from the Caribbean, where she's enjoying another "ship" portion of her "ship, land, ship, land" life.
She was booked through Peter Grey Turhune Presents to be back aboard the Radisson Seven Seas' Song of Flower, but back trauma changed her plans. She ended up as a principal vocalist. This turned out to be a good change when the events of September 11 badly affected the travel industry.
"I am out with Morag Productions on the Royal Olympia Voyager until the end of April. The plan is to cover my Equity weeks during June, July and August again (I had a magnificent summer in Denver playing Anna in The King and I at the Country Dinner Playhouse) and then head back to sea in the fall," she writes. "My back is holding up well, despite the slipped disc, crooked spine and multiple sprains this year entailed. I was a mess!"
Emily just returned from Europe, Russia and Scandinavia aboard Cunard Carania. In Denver she is about to open Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. This is where she enjoyed doing The King and I a few summers ago. She hadn't been home for Christmas in years, so was thrilled to fly to Wisconsin for a few days with family. "I love my career, I love the sea," she writes, "but there's nothing like 'coming home.'"
David's official title with the National Wrestling Alliance is "Event Operations." That, he writes, was all they could come up to encompass being talent, director, writer, producer, sales, marketing, house manager, match agent, talent coordinator. He works in Nashville, where he has an apartment, and flies home every other weekend (Thursday night through Tuesday morning) to be with his family. He and the others in his five-person office line up new viewers internationally, but he says he has no idea how long this will last. "The wrestling business is tricky and there are no guarantees. There is a possibility that if things continue to go well that we'll sell our house and move down to Nashville."