Laura Welsh Berg '05
If employed, what is the name of your current organization (its city/state) and your job title:
I am an actor, so I work at many different places, but I am a longstanding company member of both Great Lakes Theater and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
If you are attending graduate school, please provide that information including your major.
I just graduated from DePaul University Masters program with my M.F.A. in Acting.
Briefly describe your current job responsibilities.
Well, I am an independent contractor, so many of my job responsibilities include looking for auditions, preparing new audition material, mailings of my head shot and resume, negotiating contracts for employment and networking. Once I have actually secured a job, my responsibilities include memorizing lines, research, rehearsals, performing, and occasional interviews or promotional work as requested/negotiated by the theater I am working for.
While a student at BW, what experiences outside the classroom did you participate in (on or off campus)?
I was a member of Theta Alpha Phi, the Theaters Honorary Program. I also had an internship backstage with the American Ballet Theatre, while they were in Cleveland on tour. I did an understudy internship with Great Lakes Theater my final year of college, which helped get me a job there the next summer.
Who was your faculty mentor in the department and how did this professor help you while you were a student and afterwards?
My mentors in the theater department were Jeff Herrmann, and Charlotte Yetman. They are two of the best teachers I have ever had. They taught me, not only about their own specialties (set/lighting and costume design respectively) but they constantly challenged me on a professional level, teaching me that talent is great, but it is no replacement for hard work, and that theatre is a collaborative process that necessitates good communication skills, and respect for EVERYONE who is part of a production's process with you. They were very careful to try and help all of us to be prepared for the business side of our world. I am very happy to say that I have not only kept in touch with Jeff and Charlotte, I have had the honor to work with them professionally for the last 8 years! We have remained close both professionally and personally, working together in Boise, ID, Lake Tahoe NV, and, of course, Cleveland. I cannot tell you how much it meant in my training to have working professionals to turn to for advice, and since graduating, to have my mentors become friends and colleagues.
What makes the BWU Theatre and Dance department special?
I think there are many things that makes BW special: 1) A smaller department, which means a lot of individual attention and help. 2) Ample opportunities within the department to explore different aspects of theater (acting, assistant directing, design, and crew/shop positions) 3) Faculty that supports collaboration and independent student productions (one act weekends, theater house projects). 4) Proximity to a relatively large city that has many professional opportunities for students, with two large regional theaters (Great Lakes Theater and The Cleveland Playhouse) and countless smaller union and non-union opportunities (Dobama, Beck Center, Cleveland Public Theater, Karamu). And many of the theater and dance department faculty have direct ties to these theaters, or consistently work in the area, which makes it easier to obtain auditions or interviews. 5) A faculty dedicated to challenging their students, and growing their department, while continuing to work professionally, in an effort to provide an up-to-date and relevant working environment for their students.
What advice would you give to a prospective student interested in theatre or dance?
The one thing I regret about my time at BW, and the one piece of advice I would give students, is to take advantages of some of the opportunities that BW provides outside of the Theater Department. Theater can be a very all-consuming major, a bit of a rat race, as your eye is always on the next audition, the next project. I wish that I had taken the opportunity to study theater abroad, and taken more electives outside of my major (BW has a first rate music conservatory, as well as a wonderful art department). My advice is to enjoy some time outside of the department at a fantastic liberal arts university and take some classes for fun. Everything you learn in life helps you on the stage. EVERYTHING. So take a credit hour or two to study something that you love, whether it be poetry, pottery or physics. Go to England for a semester. Take a dance class. Meet some new people outside of the department. Your work within the department will only benefit from taking a step away now and again.
How did BW prepare you for graduate school/employment?
I could truly write a ten page paper to answer this question. BW taught me that my education (ie LIFE) is what I make of it. It taught me that talent is good, but talent without hard work and dedication doesn't mean much. The faculty at BW helped get me get internships that helped launch my career at the classical theater company that I am still a member of. The faculty at BW has written me countless letters of recommendation, both for jobs (many of which I got) and for graduate school (which I have just finished). They gave me a fantastic, broad based education, which gave me the opportunity to explore every aspect of what I loved. They sent me out into the world with professional preparation, including a portfolio, head shots, and professional quality resumes, as well as interview practice, and a very thorough training of how to conduct oneself in a professional environment. Of the people I went to school with, I can think of 5 off the top of my head, who, like me, obtained jobs right out of school with theaters in the downtown area, and four of them I still see regularly, professionally and personally. It has been a fantastic starting point for my professional career. I truly cannot imagine my life with the BW Theater Department. It was the beginning of everything.
Other info/thoughts you’d like to share:
I would just like to reiterate my profound sense of gratitude to the University, the Department, but specifically, the Faculty. Theater is a deeply personal art, and even the professional side of it is often based in personal relationships. In my time there, the faculty taught me things about collaboration, diplomacy, friendship, support, and being true to oneself that you will not find in any book, or any course. They are a product of integrity, personally and professionally. It was my hope, upon graduation, to make them as proud of me, as I was to be trained by them. Truly, if you want to know what makes the Theater Department so special, you need look no further than its people.