As a high school student, it was an invitation to see a play that sent Liz Larson on her educational and career path.
"John Munsell came to my high school, invited me to see a production of "Vanities" and successfully recruited a young girl with stars in her eyes," she said. "His passion and the students' performance ignited my passion and I was hooked."
As a student in the University of Wisconsin-Superior Theatre Department, Larson found the fullness of the curriculum, season selection and opportunities to work with various staff and directors most appealing. She also enjoyed the opportunity to interact between the television professors and theatre students.
"It was fantastic and difficult and frustrating and amazing," Larson said. "The possibilities were endless. If a student wanted to create something and had a plan, they were given the time and space to do it. The intensive process of cultivating young artists while cultivating good people translates into transferable skills."
Although she was involved in many productions while a student at UW-Superior, a production of the musical "Little Me" stands out for Larson.
"The other cast members were so talented and the staff kicked us in the butt so I had no choice but to be the best that I could be," she said. "The many student directed "Black Box" shows that were supported by the tireless staff are a close runner up."
After graduating from UW-Superior, the Mora, Minn., native was able to live out the acting dreams she envisioned while in high school.
"I spent 17 years appearing in many live productions, commercials, small film roles and touring the country," she said. "My most treasured experiences have been writing and performing as one of 'The Lovely Liebowitz Sisters.' We were honored to perform for Charles Schultz and to open for comedy icon Phyllis Diller and at the same seeing things and places that blew me away. We played everything from casino show rooms to outdoor amphitheaters before 3,000 people. Who gets to do all that? The answer is someone who had people to teach them that they could do anything if it was their heart's desire and that they wanted it bad enough."
Larson, a secretary and freelance theatre director, is now working to help others learn more about acting and theatre.
"The best part of theatre learning is that the process is nothing but hours and hours of hard work with little or no reward until the end," she says. "When it's over, you don't get a trophy, just a great memory. I have worked many years with teens doing theatre. My heart is filled with joy seeing them spread their wings and soar because of the confidence they gain. It takes a lot for a young person to stand all alone on a stage in an auditorium filled with people and spill their guts. Theatre makes good people."
She credits the broad and versatile background gained in theatre with providing an array of career possibilities for graduates that extend far beyond the stage and screen.
"We are not 'dramatic' people," Larson says. "Many are shy, many have big personalities, but most of us prefer to keep the 'drama' on stage. Our best feature is the capacity for love and compassion having been stripped of the need for a facade. I have former students who are researching the cure for pneumonia, appearing in national touring productions, standing between families and foreclosures, involved in politics, running a school board, raising families, running corporations and making their way through the world as good people who intend to make our messy world a better place."