For many high school students theater experiences end when that final curtain closes after their senior year.
Few envision including performing arts in their already hectic college schedules, as they put those things aside to get busy preparing for the “real world.”
Some, however, can not envision a life that does not involve theater – perhaps dreaming of their chance to make it big.
Somewhere in between those two extremes are college students, such as Bailey Boots and Nikki Tatge, who excelled on the RVHS stage and have taken their talents to the college level as students at the Duluth campus of the U of M.
Both Boots and Tatge have been very involved in theater at the college level – spending time acting and filling other roles from costume design to directing.
Although both are dramatically involved in theater today, neither specifically set out to get involved when they started.
Boots said she planned to pursue a degree in education with the hope of being involved in speech or theater as an educator, while Tatge admitted she had her doubts about whether or not theater would be right for her.
Yet in both cases the theater beckoned them, and they answered the call.
During her time in college-level theater Boots has taken on a variety of roles, and she is currently serving as Stage II vice-president.
Stage II is the student run campus organization that does its own shows. She has also co-started and is helping operate an improv troupe on the campus called Improvaholics Anonymous. She has also been involved on the crew side doing everything from being an usher to hanging lights, and has filled roles as an assistant director and director.
Boots is currently working on two performances and is serving as an assistant director for a main stage show called “How I Learned to Drive,” and she is starting rehearsals for a student written performance where she is filling the role of director. That show is called “Pursed Lips and Wide Eyes.”
“Both shows are extremely different from each other, but both are challenging me to get out of my comfort zones,” said Boots.
For Tatge, the primary role she has taken on is as a performer, but she has also been on the crew helping with costuming and lights.
Currently, Tatge is involved in a show called “Coriolana,” which she said one of her professors adapted from Shakespear’s Coriolanus. The adaptation is to a female dominant play, Tatge explained, adding it has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.
“I’m a Roman soldier that fights in the big battle scene and keeps Coriolana safe,” said Tatge. “So far there’s been lots of physical training and sword fights. It’s going to be an exciting show.”
Page 2 of 3 - Tatge said one of her first roles was as a sophomore where she played a frog.
“You gotta start somewhere. Right?” she said.
Tatge also said she has had some great experiences working with different directors, adding she recently had a great opportunity to work with the writers of a show called “Tales from the Bad Years,” which is a musical that tackles the issues of the 20-something generation with a heavy pop music influence. This year she was also involved in a show called “Do Black Patent Shoes Really Reflect Up?”
In this show she played Becky Backowski, and she said in the role she was able to take on the issues of acceptance and love.
As a result of her performance she was nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship and had the opportunity to compete in a college theatre festival in Nebraska.
Both Tatge and Boots said their involvement in theater as students at RVHS really helped prepare them for their experiences in college.
Doing theater in college is pretty intense, said Tatge, adding students are expected to take required classes for their major, in addition to general education classes on top of spending time working on the shows, doing homework and spending time making friends.
“If I wasn’t encouraged to work hard and do my best in high school, I don’t know if I would have survived my first year of college,” said Tatge. “Hard work really does pay off in the end.”
Boots said she learned about working together as a team, and the importance of managing your time.
She also said she learned humility through her time at RVHS.
“At RVHS everyone did every job,” she said. “We all built sets, choreographed and helped each other with lines. No one was singled out. That is very much how it is in theater up here. We are trained in everything so we can help where we are needed.”
Boots, who started in theater as an eight-year-old with her family in RAT’s “The Wizard of Oz,” said she is staying in Duluth this summer to be in the summer production of “Evita.” Looking to the future, Boots said she is hoping to earn a master’s degree in directing, with the hope of achieving her goal of teaching theater. Her dream now is to teach at the college level. Until then, she plans to move to Chicago to get involved in the Improv scene and to get involved in as much theater as she can.
Tatge said she is waiting to see what kinds of theater opportunities arise after college, adding until then her future is uncertain.
Page 3 of 3 - Both she and Boots know a career in theater is not something one can plan. You just have to roll with the punches, said Boots.