MOORHEAD -- It’s always hard getting kids to listen to grown-ups, but Trollwood Performing Arts School is hoping words of advice from alum sinks in with current students.

The school started posting short videos on YouTube and Facebook of graduates offering career and life tips for students and the general public.

The project was something Kathy Anderson, Trollwood’s executive director, had been wanting to do for a while.

“We’ve been thinking about what we can be doing, what content we can provide to connect people when we can’t come together,” she says.

She turned the project over to Kathy Hanson. Now a choreography instructor at the school, Hanson started with Trollwood in the early 1980s and has stayed active on the local theater scene as both a teacher and a performer. She reached out to past Trollwood participants for short videos offering advice. The response was so positive the school has enough clips to air through September.

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Kathy Hanson in a Music Theatre Fargo-Moorhead performance of "Cabaret." Perry Rust / Special to The Forum
Kathy Hanson in a Music Theatre Fargo-Moorhead performance of "Cabaret." Perry Rust / Special to The Forum

A mother of a young performer, she knows students and parents are open to suggestions.

“Spread yourself out and try new things you may not be strong at, but give it a try,” she says. ”Don’t pigeonhole yourself into just one dream.”

Being flexible and being prepared is advice Angela Schulz, another long-time local musical actress, often offers. A vocal instructor, she decided to use her video to share her pre-audition “magic tea.”

“There is no magic tea,” she says to the camera. “You have to get a good night’s sleep. You have to drink a lot of water. And you have to be prepared for your audition.”

Actress and vocal instructor Angela Schulz. The Arts Partnership / Special to The Forum
Actress and vocal instructor Angela Schulz. The Arts Partnership / Special to The Forum

Her own daughter, Sarah Schulz, who starred in 2016’s “The Little Mermaid” and 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” also recorded video advice that has yet to air.

Angela says the advice she wishes she heard when she was coming out of Trollwood, was to be more open-minded about what success looks like.

“I thought being a success was being on Broadway,” she says. “I think it’s just as rewarding to sing well at a nursing home as it is to sing on any stage.”

Michael Gardner, who performed with Hanson at Trollwood in the early 1980s, found a more rewarding life behind the stage than in the spotlight. His video is about exploring the technical work that goes into productions.

“I thought I could speak to that in a way no one else would,” says Gardner.

Now the head of wardrobe at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, Gardner says building a career as a costume designer allowed him time to work on his paintings at home, giving him a fulfilling life in the arts.

Anderson says hearing Gardner’s take was refreshing, just as hearing Jessica Perrizo’s advice on being financially secure is just as important.

The actress and former Rockette now works in real estate in New York, but says it’s important for young artists to save and invest their money as well as keep an eye on their credit so they are always fiscally sound.

“There are all of these highs and lows on the journey and COVID-19 really brought that to a head,” she says.

Tim Kasper moved from Trollwood to co-founding The Blenders and the vocal group still tours 30 years later, annually selling out the Fargo Theatre for its holiday concert run.

Tim Kasper, Ryan Lance (left) got their start in Trollwood before partnering with brothers Allan and Darren Rust in The Blenders. Special to The Forum
Tim Kasper, Ryan Lance (left) got their start in Trollwood before partnering with brothers Allan and Darren Rust in The Blenders. Special to The Forum

He knows the group may not be familiar to students, but says the quartet is proof that putting the practice and work in is important for all performers.

“You’re either doing the work or you’re not,” he says. “Don’t talk about it. Do it.”

Putting the work and practice in is important, says actor Hugh Kennedy, but during times like a pandemic, it’s also important to focus on your own well-being. You can push towards ambitious expectations like taking lots of online lessons or writing a new play or a book. Or not.

“I think it can be a little detrimental,” he says from his home in Minneapolis. “That can be kind of isolating.”

Rather, take time for yourself.

“It’s a great time to read books, open a sketch book or just take a walk,” he says, suggesting that people consider keeping a journal or chronicling their lives in other ways.

“Soon there will be plays about life during COVID and the actors in those plays will pull from their own personal experiences,” he says.