When Bridgette Hoover ‘13 donned cap and gown to accept her Bachelor of Science degree in theatre arts from USI, she had already visited New York City (twice) through the University, performed at Carnegie Hall and across Ireland with the USI Chamber Choir, earned points toward membership in the Actors' Equity Association, and developed mentors in the professional theatre world.
A native of Edwardsville, Illinois, Hoover is the house manager at New Harmony Theatre, the University’s professional Equity theatre, this summer and begins a paid, year-long internship at the Orlando (Florida) Shakespeare Company in August.
Fresh beginnings, strong mentors
As a freshman psychology major enrolled in Acting I, she was encouraged to audition for the spring play by Shan Jensen, associate professor of theatre. She landed a role in Meet Me in St. Louis and changed her major to theatre a year later.
“Shan is a big part of my education here at USI. She has been such a role model to me,” Hoover said.
Though her emphasis is in performance, she dedicated her sophomore year to learning technical aspects of theatre, particularly wardrobe and costuming. “I never forget the things I experienced as a ‘techie’ when I’m acting,” she said. “I like to experience all the aspects of theatre and not just one or two. It’s always good for an actor to be a techie as well.”
During her junior year she played Alice in The Lion in Winter. Before she graduated, she also played Mimi in RENT, Diana in All’s Well That Ends Well, and multiple characters in Twilight Los Angeles.
Experience provides the Edge
The RENT cast spent a week in New York City preparing for the production. “We tried to connect to what the characters would have experienced living in that environment, and essentially figure out the culture of New York and what it would have been like at that time.”
RENT sold out each performance, and an additional show also sold out in just five hours. The production was chosen to advance to the regional selections of the American College Theater Festival and Hoover was nominated for an Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship for her performance.
While working on RENT was a great experience, Hoover said it was equaled by The Lion in Winter, a USI Repertory Project production. “With that play, Elliot Wasserman (professor of theatre and chair of Performing Arts) focused a lot of attention on my acting skills. He taught me how to be an intelligent actor instead of an emotional actor.”
Through the Repertory Project, Hoover was able to share the stage with Actors' Equity Association members Richard Marlatt and Licia Watson, and earn points toward her own membership in the actors’ labor union. She also earned Equity points through her role in All’s Well That Ends Well.
Working with professionals “made me kind of nervous at first,” Hoover said.
“Especially in Lion, I was the only female student actress. That was my first big part and I was working with professionals. It was a great experience. Licia taught me so much. I essentially have a second mother, and we still talk to each other. It’s fantastic.
“If ever I have a question on something that has to do with acting, I can easily contact Licia.
“I am grateful that USI offers that opportunity to its students, because it’s important to have that. If you are going to New York you need to be close to having your card if you’re going to do auditions, because auditions are Equity-only, and that’s how you find your job - that’s your bread and butter.”
Hoover’s experience at USI gives her confidence that she’ll continue to find work in her field. “You feel a lot more secure. When I went to Southeast Theatre Conference auditions, I was able to post on my resume things that I feel gave me the opportunity to have the job I have now.”
As an acting and education intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, she will take Shakespeare classes, teach Shakespeare and acting workshops for youth, work in the box office, and perform in at least two shows.
All in the family
Hoover says her parents support her decision to pursue her acting dreams. “At first they were a little skeptical, but they support everything I do. My mother asks me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ but she knows this is what I love to do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Hoover’s seven-year-old sister Jada plays Raynell in New Harmony Theatre’s Fences, which opens July 5.
“She sings, she dances, and she acts. She’s everything that I wish I could have been at her age. We really feel that she will make it to Hollywood before I do!”
Photo Credit: USI Photography Services