From recitals to rehearsals, vocal warm-ups to visual critiques, the life of a performing and visual arts student is academically diverse.
“Day in the Life,” a Spectrum series, shines light on these students and the arts programs at NDSU.
Askanase Auditorium is bustling with activity.
Theatre NDSU’s first main stage show of the season, “Urinetown,” opens in three weeks, on Oct. 19.
While the set is being designed, the costumes being created, junior Marissa Koppy and I slip away to a quiet part of the theatre building to discuss what a day looks like at Theatre NDSU.
“There’s never a normal day at Theatre NDSU,” Koppy said. “It’s always crazy and wild, and you never really know what’s going to happen, but that’s why it’s exciting. You wake up early and go to bed late, and you try to cram everything in in one day and still have a fun time without going crazy.”
Koppy grew up in a sports-heavy household. Her four older brothers were all involved in athletics, and Koppy did the same: “I always just did it because that’s what they did and that’s what all my family was into so I would do it, too.”
It wasn’t until junior year of high school that Koppy was involved in her first theatre production: “Cinderella: The Musical.”
“I’m not a singer — I’m strictly an actor,” she clarified. “Auditioning for a musical was especially nerve-wracking because it was my first thing ever and singing is just terrifying in front of other people. But I’ve gotten better at it or over that fear, I guess. After that year, I quit all sports and I went into acting. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ It totally shocked my parents, but they were very supportive. That’s nice. And then they switched gears, too. They were like, sports are nice, but now she likes this. So that’s good to have backup for sure.”
Since then, Koppy has been actively involved in theatre of all kinds: acting in plays like Theatre NDSU’s “Goldilocks Zone” and “The Odyssey,” and in musicals like the upcoming “Urinetown.”
Koppy described the amount of time and effort that’s put into creating a major show, on both the actor’s side and the technical side.
“What is it like preparing for ‘Urinetown’?” I asked. “How do you prepare for something like that?”
“A lot of rehearsal,” she said immediately. “It’s not even just during rehearsal; you have to do some stuff outside. Once you come to rehearsal, you’re there to work. So, you have to work outside of rehearsal to be prepared for the work that you’re doing in rehearsal. So, it’s like two layers of rehearsing. You have to — cause this is a musical — you have to know the music, you have to know your part and then there’s choreography going on top of it and other forms of blocking. Outside of rehearsal, you have to work on it on your own or with other cast mates.”
All theatre majors are required to at least audition for the main stage productions, of which there are four each year. Their senior year, they do a practicum, where they must work on some aspect of the production — acting, makeup, costuming, backstage work or building the set.
While Koppy is strictly interested in acting, she was awed by scenic design when he took a course at NDSU.
“I never was on the tech side of anything, but I took a scenic design course once, and that blew my mind about how much goes into designing a set and all the blueprints you have to do. It’s pretty much being an architect for theatre,” she explained.
This is one of Koppy’s favorite parts of being a theatre major: the vast amount of learning and creativity involved.
“You learn so many different things and you learn about history and technical sides of everything,” she said. “You have to be able to create someone’s life. And that person could be a scientist, so you have to learn about that. There’s just so much background to theatre that you’re constantly learning something.”
Despite the long hours, the stress surrounding productions and the work for classes, the final result is always amazing to her.
“I think my favorite part is definitely when I’m acting and you put so much work into something, like weeks and weeks,” she said. “And then you just start doing it and it just feels so natural. You don’t even control what you’re saying; I don’t even think about lines anymore, it just flows out of your mouth. And once you’re done, you’re like, ‘Woah, did I just do that?’ You get this like natural high. You walk off stage. Like, ah, that was perfect. I felt in the moment. It felt so real and truthful.”
After she graduates, Koppy wants to become a screen actor in films or television. Her favorite scripts are those that are dark, featuring plenty of drama. Her favorite play is “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” which she describes as “honestly one of the strangest plays, but it’s so good.”
You can see Koppy on stage from Oct. 19 to 28 in Theatre NDSU’s first main stage show of the year, “Urinetown.”