An Early Start: New Students Perform in First Theatre Production

Five first-year students were cast in this year's opening theatre production, even before taking their first college class.
"The Wedding Singer" runs for two consecutive weekends, Aug. 14-17 and Aug. 21-24.

It’s not unlikely that the students performing in the theatre season opener, “The Wedding Singer,” had a few butterflies on opening night.

But for five first-year students, the nerves may have bit a bit more jittery. After all, they were performing on the McDonald Theatre stage for the very first time — even before taking their first college theatre class.

Nadia Yakan and Hunter McEachern of Houston, Texas, Kyle Wright of Omaha, Dalton Polivka of Waverly and Brady Vigness of Papillion all moved to campus nearly two weeks earlier than their classmates.

The students auditioned in May and were cast in the 1980s musical, “The Wedding Singer.”

While their classmates were shopping for their residence halls rooms and wrapping up summer jobs, the five new theatre students were spending long days in rehearsal.

“For us five in particular, that realization that they really want us to be here is extremely welcoming” Polivka said.

This experience is not usual for Nebraska Wesleyan students, said theatre professor Joan Korte. While preference for the opening show is often given to returning students, the theatre department typically casts two to three new students. Students are cast in main-stage productions early in their academic career, providing them the opportunity to gain a breadth of stage experience by the time they graduate, she said.

“They get an intense introduction to Wesleyan theatre,” said Korte. “They learn a lot fast and they learn by immersion.”

“I learn and grow faster when I am working in the shows,” added Yakan.

The students admitted their experience thus far has been more intense than any other theatre program they have been a part of. Nonetheless, they said they understand how it prepares them for future shows and future careers.

“It’s one of the few programs out there that really teaches you not only how to be a performer, but a person who is a performer,” said Wright. “We are in a business of being judged by others and judging ourselves. We all have had doubts about how good we are, so the fact that they asked us to be here is very reassuring.”

Being cast in the opening production also meant early goodbyes to their parents.

“It was hard for my mom to let me go early, but my mom was understanding that I was dedicated to do this,” said McEachern.

Their early arrival also meant an early lesson on time management. Students have spent their days in 12-hour rehearsals. They’ll soon be juggling the last minute show preparations with new student orientation activities that will officially introduce them to campus life.

But it didn’t take long for the five to feel at home. They’ve already shared their evenings with returning NWU theatre students who have invited them to dinner and movies.

“I do not feel any different than I would if I was hanging out with my closest friends,” said Vigness.

“The Wedding Singer” runs two consecutive weekends, August 14-17 and August 21-24.

And once the show wraps up, the new students will begin another new routine.

“I am excited to take classes that don’t have anything to do with theatre but will allow me to grow in my academics,” said Polivka.