Category "Memories of former students"

February 27, 2006

Memories from Paul Sannerud, class of '83

Rarig was Dickensian… you know, “best of times.. “ and all that. Great friends with whom much laughter, love and lunacy were shared. We all knew too much and too little all at the same time.

A few Rorschach memories:

2 summers on the showboat – Hazel Kirke and The Belle of New York.

The best: sitting on the taffrail, feet up, silly uniform shirt untucked, after a show with a frosty adult beverage and watching the river in the moonlight.

The worst: Looking up one Sunday afternoon and seeing the whirling clouds of a tornado directly overhead.

Rarig: “The bomb shelter?

The Best: The merry pranksters: John Justad, Janet Ryger, Scott Latandresse, Greg Trochlil, Todd Hensley, Tom Thatcher and all the rest.

The Worst: evening calls in the scene shop….

Cedar Riverside:

The best: Pumperniks Deli, the Triangle, Culla’s

The worst: Parking!


They were all the best! I loved working with Lee Walker ( God rest his good and merry soul), Julia Fischer, Tessie Bundig, and bunches more.

Practical Joke:

The best ( a tie): welding a stolen concrete squirrel into CLB’s locker, and the deflating the dome party.

The worst: I’m not sure the statute of limitations is out on this one yet….

Thesis Show (Billy Budd)

The best: Working with Charles Nolte -- especially during Tech rehearsals.

The worst: Having two weeks of techs!

Saturday morning donuts, getting a microwave for the Boat!, visiting the old boilers from the Showboat at their new home in New Orleans, Riding the buffing machines in the shop to clean the floor every quarter, setting Lance's pants on fire with welding sparks!

I wish all of you the best on your reunion. I hope to make it but it is unlikely as I will be IN technical rehearsals for an opera.

Posted by utheatre at 10:18 AM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

February 22, 2006

Creating TragiFarce

I remember my great horror in watching the farce I produced for directing class. After lengthy negotiations wherein I was required to perform in several other student-directed productions in order to get them to act in my piece, I finally found a full cast. However, since my main criteria in casting was that they would show up on the day of the performance (and, yes, they could even carry the script), the importance of an innate sense of comic timing was not really clear until I watched what had to be the most absurdly dirge-like farce ever produced on the thrust stage. Apparently, a director cannot will comedy into being.

My personal apologies to anyone who ever had to appear in my work.

Peter Largen, Class of '84

Posted by thadblog at 1:28 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

November 14, 2005

posting by Andrew Gorell

Hi, six years after graduation, I'm feeling bold enough to let the University of Minnesota in on my progress as a theatre professional.

First of all, I have changed my professional name from the one I used as a student. I was Andrew Worm (graduated 1999) and now go by Andrew Gorell. Same person, different name.

I am currently on tour with Shenandoah Shakespeare's American Shakespeare Center playing Richard III in RICHARD III; Borachio, Friar Francis and Balthasar in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; and crewmember Eddie Setgo in RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET. I don't have to go into the American Shakespeare Center, as current faculty member Steve Cardamone is very familiar with the company. The closest we come to the Twin Cities is Fairmont, MN where we will perform RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET on February 4th, 2006.

After graduating in 1999, I was an intern at the Milwaukee Rep for a year, moved to Chicago for two years and then to New York for three years before joining this company. My website,, has a more complete resume.

I hope that you will forward my regards to Dr. Kobialka, my advisor and the best history teacher ever; Stephen Kanee for casting me in my first mainstage production at the U; Steve Cardamone for helping to develop the company I'm currently working for; and everybody else that may remember my annoying tin whistle echoing off of the cement walls of the Rarig Center.


Andrew Gorell
aka Andrew Worm
class of 1999
BA Theatre Arts

Posted by utheatre at 9:19 AM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

September 7, 2005

Comments from Peter Thoemke

Ive started this letter several times and its turned into an I-me personal history, who cares? The east bank theatre experience is spotty for me because while I was involved, I was a Poli-Sci, Philosophy and History major before I finally declared fro theatre the end of my sophomore year right before the move to Rarig.

My years at the U were marked by many incredibly caring people, one is lucky to have a mentor, I had three. Doc Whiting, Robert Moulton and Charles Nolte, all welcomed me into their lives and their generousity influences my actions today and every day. Ive been truly blessed. In addition, David Thompson, Lee Adey, Kenneth Graham, Virginia Fredericks, Jeanne Gongdon, Lance Brockman, Gino Montgomery, Wes Balk, Elizabeth Nash, Wendal Josal, Dale Huffington, Vern Sutton all went out of their way, took time, invested their enthusiasm and love in this local boy. I am forever grateful.

I am a storyteller not a writer but here are some topics that might elicit some response from alums.

Arthur Ballets 101 in Scott Auditorium
Air Condition free acting and movement
Classes Spring Quarters in Westbrook Hall
Fencing with Tezla
Lee Adeys directing classes in the Annex on University Ave.
Wes Balks Shakespeare Games vs. Augsburg College in Shevlin Arena
The loan play library
My first ever acting class was conducted by Bush-McKnight fellow by the name of Peter Michael Goetz
Doc Whitings unforgettable production of the Steven Foster Story on the Showboat and his Peter Quince in a very forgettable Midsummer Nights Dream that same summer.
Acting for the camera with Warren Frost (Warren called me into his office, told me he thought I was a nice guy and I should get out of the business before I got hurt. Subsequently, he cast me as Renfield in his hit production of Dracula at Chimera Theatre and then played by daddy, H. C. Curry in the Gurthries 1986, The Rainmaker.)
Bob Moultons movement classes
Errol Flynns Revenge, Fencing and Staged Combat Recitals Spring Quarters 76 and 77.

Peter Thoemke

Posted by utheatre at 10:26 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Tom Hegg

My favorite Rarig memories are associated with the annual No-Talent Follies. It was an opportunity to carry on shamelessly with no fear of snarky criticism in The Strib, The Pioneer Press or The Daily. I remember singing like a hinge in ballands well beyond my meager powers, and tap-dancing with all the grace of Ernest Borgnine falling down a flight of stairs. Great fun!

Tom Hegg

Posted by utheatre at 10:25 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Courtney Peterson

One of my favorite memories of my time at the University of Minnesota Theater Department was performing on the Showboat. We did the Agatha Christie murder mystery The Mousetrap in 1992 directed by Charles Nolte. It turned out to be the last show performed on the old Showboat, and I am proud to be a part of that Minnesota tradition. Even with the family of spitfire raccoons, the flooding, and swarms of mosquitoes, it was a delight to perform with that great group of actors and keep the audience guessing until the very end.

Courtney Peterson

Posted by utheatre at 10:24 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Todd Hensley

Sunrise reflecting of the IDS Building on those below-zero mornings.
Trying to learn watercolor from Lance B!
The Experimental Theatre cold steel and stack chairs
Lamp warm-up!
Focussing sessions with lights at 30%
Five-scene preset board in Proscenium
Gino in charge: esp. on the Prosc. counterweight winch
Two bats in the Prosc. flyloft they came down during Act I Finale of The Mikado and did lovely figure-eights behind the scrim.
The Pit and making the real art down there with friends, between rehearsals.

Todd Hensley

Posted by utheatre at 10:23 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Guthrie Hebenstreit

When I think of Rarig, I think of the costume shop. As a shop work-study my freshman through senior year, I spent the majority of my time there and definitely learned more there than anywhere else. Whether it was endlessly sewing line after line in cotton knit to clothe Oedipus and his cringing chorus or the the fantastic brocades and velvets that clothed the court in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, every show had a spirit of its own. The talent that designed them was matched by the skill that built them making each unique and memorable.

But more importantly, it is the costume shop family that lives in my memory. Kegan, Joanne, Joe, Tony, Barbara, Sara, Estelle, Brenda and everyone else who called the shop their home from home not to mention the array of students struggling through their sewing samples and mandatory shop hours these are the people who offered daily support, humor and insight. These are the people who created the golden hue that colors my time at Rarig. Living on jet-fuel strength coffee and theme-based potluck snack parties, we spent our work shifts, our class breaks and time when we should have been in other classes creating stunning costumes and amazing friendships. Even though I havent seen these people in years, I miss them and think of our time together often.

Guthrie Hebenstreit (U of M 1990-1994)

Posted by utheatre at 10:22 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Pat L. Wontorski

I was president of the thespian club at Robert Service High School in Anchorage, Alaska. My drama teacher and sponsor of the thespian club, was from a small town in Minnesota. She had gone to college in Morehead and had always longed to attend the University of Minnesota. Never having left the state of Alaska, Minnesota sounded great to me. I applied to the University of Minnesota and soon was on a plane to Minneapolis. My drama teachers brother met me at the airport and helped me settle into Comstock Hall.

I couldnt wait to set foot in Rarig Center and to be surrounded by the world of theatre. I was duly impressed; never had I been in a building that housed 4 theatres and sported a photo of Loni Anderson on the wall! I have many fond memories of my time there. I was enthralled by Arthur Ballets lectures in the Intro. to the Theatre class. I was proud to master the table saw and the band saw down in the prop shop. I enjoyed every night of running costumes for Jacques Brel. When I look back, its hard to believe that I was so nave and easily impressed in 1975. However, the theatre, the university and Rarig Center were impressive to me and I remember them with a smile.

Pat L. Wontorski

Posted by utheatre at 10:21 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Claudia Hankin

U of M Theater Department musings Claudia Hankin

I played Mina in Dracula on the Showboat in 1991 and this was the old Showboat the old listing, cramped, stiflingly hot, creaky-scary-wonderful Showboat. We each got a different cleaning job every day, and the worst was cleaning spiders off the decks. Youd sweep them away one day and theyd come back in full force the next, only bigger and more tenacious. Since theyd roost in the rafters (and I say roost, as each was approximately the size and heft of a small pigeon) you would have to brush them with a broom, but kind of lean forward and jab at them so they wouldnt fall on your head. I remember trying to convince our Captain, Greg Smucker, that since we were performing Dracula, the spiders were entirely appropriate and should be left where they were for atmosphere! (He wasnt fooled.)

It was a very hot summer, most of us were costumed in wool, and only half the air conditioners worked at any given time. By the end of the show our makeup would have melted, and our clothes would be sopping wet. (It was difficult to maintain the illusion we were in chilly autumnal Europe.) Creighton Larson, who was playing Dr. Van Helsing, would actually swim in the Mississippi between Sunday shows, even though we warned him he might sprout another eye or something as a result.

Once during the show I was standing on a riverside deck and saw a rubber ducky floating down the Mississippi.

When I first started at Rarig, in 1988, the pit was filled with those hideous red, yellow and orange cushion chairs that looked like giant Starburst fruit chews. Hideous to look at, yes ripped and tacky as hell, but great for taking naps between classes or before a rehearsal. Plus smoking was still allowed, so when youd descend the staircase youd look down on this hazy tableau of students sprawled all over the naugahyde furnituresleeping, rehearsing, smoking, flirting, relaxing, stressing
Smoking was banned in the building before I was a Senior, and the ill-favored couches were eventually removed one could argue that both were victories on the side of good taste, but now it seems kind of sterile: a place for a theater patron to spend intermission, not a place for a student to live and lounge.

Posted by utheatre at 10:20 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Aaron Milgrom

A memory of the move from Scott Hall to Rarig

My freshman year at the U of MN was the last year the theater department used Scott Hall. A strong memory from those days is from the next year, when we were inaugurating Rarig but still had offices on the East Bank. Although I was interested in the acting courses, technical theater was a prerequisite to any classes beyond beginning acting. I was serving my 40 hours of tech theater at the field house where sets were built and then, previously, hauled over to Scott Hall. This was to be the last set built there and was going to be hauled over to Rarig for a show in the proscenium.
I was definitely NOT handy in the set shop a talent Ive maintained all these years. I couldnt nail a board straight if my life depended on it. The head techie carefully drew me up a diagram of a mail box for me to build. He encouraged me to use all my creativity and seek as little help from him as possible. While I struggled, using a good 8 hours to build this simple box, I wondered where in the play it would be used. When I finally sanded and painted this primitive thing I brought it over to my mentor who looked it over and then instructed me to go over to Nicholson Hall and nail it up outside his office. (It turned out to be the perfect entre to what I would be doing the following summer be an intern at the Stagecoach where I would primarily clean paintbrushes and wash out buckets.)

Toward the end of my career as a sophomore actor/techie we spent our time loading all the things at the dusty field house on to trucks, vans and everyones cars and hauling them over to Rarig, the new state of the art theater building.

Aaron Milgrom
B.A. in Theater Arts

Posted by utheatre at 10:19 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Kathy Kohl

I was at Rarig during those heady Three-Prong Designer years, when design students were required to fulfill competency requirements in set, costume and lighting design. My memories of that time tend to be filled in tiny vignettes because we were constantly sprinting to keep up with assignments and productions. I know we all felt that, after Rarig, the real design world would be much, much easier. I believe we were correct!

I suspect I won the prize for the lighting departments example of what not to do when lighting a show. For my MFA senior project (JB Priestleys TIME AND THE CONWAYS), I was given a show with detailed sets and costumes and a notoriously simple lighting plot (the faculty had spotted my weakness as soon as I walked through the doors) performed in the Areana, my favorite theater at Rarig. Thinking I was utilizing materials and instruments very efficiently, I emptied the barrels and used every single cable available for the Arena. The lighting students wouldnt speak to me for several weeks afterwards without making cracks about spaghetti in the sky.

We had drawing class at a humorless 8 am twice a week with Lance Brockman. It was actually a wonderful, relaxing class and we could come out of it totally in our right brains (remember that?) and very foggy. One assignment was to find a detail of architecture to sketch within Rarig. After a few months in that building, we were all so tired of concrete that this was an extremely trying assignment. I did finally find one intriguingly angled and braced corner of the upstairs ceiling that spoke to me, serving to remind me of the passion behind this architecture of the brutal. I added grey to my basic 80s black wardrobe the very next day.

My tenure at Rarig also included serving as rehearsal accompanist for the department. We were holding auditions in the proscenium for Working by Studs Terkel on particularly star-crossed evening, and had had a spateful of creaky auditionees. Our final act, the one who totally shut us down, was a man who had himself grandly introduced by his manager, handed me his music (The Candyman) and proceeded to deliver this inane piece, complete with props. I slowed to a finish after the proscribed eight bars, but he slipped the clutch and drove the whole seven verses. The student director closed the doors immediately after he left, there was a brief silence, then we laughed until we cried.

Other quickie memories:
--Dave Doersch (our resident stage combat freak) (sorry, Dave) jumping from the second balcony down to the Pit cushions (a lovely orange naugahyde in those days);
--my son, Aaron, one of the resident Child Actors for the department during this time, supplementing his meager allowance with change he collected by crawling under the vending machines (yuch);
--my older son Bryan enraged that he had to attend school sporting a 20s-style wedge haircut for his Six Characters in Search of an Author role; the next year, a year too late in his books, the style was the trend;
--taking advantage of a low Mississippi River in 1988 that caused the Showboat stage to list several degrees to one side, and playing the accompaniment faster when the singers had to climb up the rake in the oleos, heh, heh.

Kathy Kohls memories of Rarig, 1984-1987

Posted by utheatre at 10:18 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Nan Zabriskie

Ahhhh, Rarig Center
What I remember about Rarig all revolves around memories of coming in from the nose-hair freezing walk to school. Rushing in the big doors to be greeted by the well and the pit at the bottom.who is in the pitcheck it out, then on to the shops. I remember tucking in to the scene shop to do some painting, mixing those wonderful powder colors with the great gloopy hide glue. Lance was always around to drop pearls of wisdom or give me some healthy grief. On to the costume shop via Ginos office; she pretended not to know you were there. She couldnt let on that she was glad to see you; she just assumed that Im too busy! Get back to your own shop attitude. She never fooled me. The costume shop meant Tessie and her latest drawing of beautiful people and her wonderful belly laugh and throat laugh. She and I had a ball in the costume shop creating weird, impossible costumes for our fellow students, learning new techniques and generally exploring the many facets of theatre.
What do I remember most of Rarig aside from the great varied theatre spaces and the impersonal block walls? I remember the people of Rarig, the camaraderie and the quest for yet a better way to tell a story. Im still on that quest, twenty-five years later.
Nan Zabriskie, MFA 1979

Posted by utheatre at 10:17 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Sally Wingert

I remember entering Rarig and always running to the stairwell to lean over and see who was in the pit. That space became our coffee shop, home room, map zone, information station and pretty much the place that allowed me to feel at home will attending the sometimes overwhelming University of Minnesota. I also remember Beth Gilliland and I doing breath by breath recreation of Thura Nyros Gonna Take a Miracle album just outside the Stoll Thrust. That whole lobby core in Rarig had a huge echo chamber effect. We thought it sounded great.

Sally Wingert

Posted by utheatre at 10:16 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Michael Koerner

Here are a few words about my time at dear old Rarig High:

One of my fondest memories harkens back to the days on the old showboat. I was playing in a production of Pineros Dandy Dick with, among others, Beth Gilleland and Billy Blieseth. Our director was Charles Nolte.

Billy loved to go fishing off the back of the boat, and one day he caught a particularly ugly carp. Later that night at the performance the carp made and unexpected appearance onstage in a bucket that was supposed to be full of oats to feed the title character (a horse!). Needless to say with Beths notorious inability to keep a straight face in such situations, we all had a hard time keeping any sort of plot going!


One of my favorite dance partners in a Robert Moulton musical was the former artistic director of Eye of the Storm theater, Casey Stangl. We were paired in a production of Cole Porters Kiss Me Kate, with, among others, Lee Walker, Sally Bublitz and Ken Risch. It is a little known fact that Ms. Stangl was quite a hoofer early in her career!

And again:

My favorite performance experience at Rarig was a production in the Nolte Theatre of Marat/Sade directed by the late Stephen Hults with Sally Wingert as Charlotte Corday, Casey Stangl (again!) with me in the vocal quartet and musical director Dawn Baker. A wild show!

Michael Koerner

Posted by utheatre at 10:15 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Comments from Miriam Monasch

Rarig Memories
I have to admit, Rarig has seen some of my fondest and (arguably) finest theatrical moments. Not to say that Im not equally proud of some of my other work in the community, academic and semi-pro theatre, but Rarigs 4 theaters were the primary venues for my acting, directing and playwriting for a good chunk of the 1990s.

To name a few memories that might evoke some of your own:

In the Thrust:
Charles Nolte directed me as a birdlike Tiresias in Oedipus with phenomenal set and costume designs by Desmond Heeley.
Under Steven Kanees direction I tackled Madame Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard, with my own miniature dachsund, Higgins (17 years old now and still going strong) as the dog. People told me he stole the opening scene, staring into the audience. And he charmed everyone in the dressing room.

In the Experimental (Black Box):
As a director, I agonized over the ramifications of stripping John Bentley to his skivvies in The Dreams of Clytemnestra. Not to mention casting Raga with her Icelandic accent as the heroine of an Italian update of a Greek tragedy. A lot of people told me they didnt have a clue what the show was about, but some said they loved how daring it was stylistically. I had a blast with it!

In the Arena: (Hands down, best memories for me.)
Working with Julia Fischer and a handful of super MFAs to create (write) Beauty and the Beast. Seeing that script produced elsewhere after that made it clear what an amazing cooperative artistic project it was!
And, of course, some juicy cameos and plum roles in Le Belle Soeur, Restoration and Ghosts.

In Whiting:
My Rarig debut was as Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music. The music was glorious and turned me into a Sondheim fan.
TA for Intro to Theatre 101 I never want to hear (or give) another lecture on Euripedes or Neo-Classicism or Slice of Life, etc. But I did get a lot of knitting done in the back. In fact, I took second prize at the state fair in 93 for a sweater knit almost entirely in Rarig!

There were so many great productions, so much DRAMA in the pit, and so much talent coming and going. Whenever one of those faces shows up on the big or small screen these days, I can say, I was in a show with him/her back in

Thanks for the memories.

Miriam Monasch

Posted by utheatre at 10:13 PM | Memories of former students

Category "Memories of former students"

Reed Sigmund writes...

A few months before I graduation from the U of M with my B.A. in Theatre Arts, one of my acting professors, Kent Stephens, requested that I meet him in his office for a private discussion. I happily granted his request and followed him to his workplace. Immediately after sitting down, he looked me in the eye and told me I was his biggest disappointment of the semester. He complimented by abilities, but quickly followed the praise with his observation that I would never get a single acting job if I didnt take the craft seriously and develop a genuine work ethic. After rubbing Ben-Gay on my bruised and damaged soul for the next three days, I decided me might know what he was talking about, so I followed his advice. I developed a new approach to the craft. I stopped treating it like any other hobby and began to truly study. The techniques we had been learning in class were finally being applied and there were positive results. Kent rewarded my hard work by setting up auditions for me. Thanks to him and several other professors, I have been a full-time, working actor for the past five years. Ill never forget the theatre department facultys consistently wise and honest support.
Reed Sigmund

Posted by utheatre at 10:08 PM | Memories of former students