By Stephanie Jorritsma
Erin Weichel believes in the transformative power of the arts.
“The ability to express all that is within you through art is a gift I wish to share with everyone I encounter,” she says. “The fine arts show us our humanity and how we can learn from one another and be connected to people, so we are never truly alone.”
This North Dakota native spent her life sharing the performing arts with those around her. Through her acting, directing, and teaching, Erin has helped countless people connect with those around them and truly find their voices.
Long before teaching or directing, Erin personally experienced the power of performance from onstage. In college, Erin specifically recalls acting in the show “Marvin’s Room,” which she describes as “beautiful and heart-breaking.”
“I played Bessie, a woman struck by cancer,” Erin remembers. “I shaved my head bald for the show and was forever impacted by the script.”
Such experiences only deepened her love for theater, and Erin ultimately graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a bachelor’s degree in theater performance.
After graduation, Erin took to the stage in New York, sharing theater with others from onstage. She performed professionally for two years in shows that included an off-off-Broadway production of “Into the Woods.” During this time, Erin also toured twice with the Hampstead Stage Company, a company that presents classic plays for kids; however, a planned summer at home soon became a longer stay when her father suffered a stroke, and Erin remained in Bismarck to help care for him.
After moving back to Bismarck, Erin decided to use her talents for directing. She helped found and began to direct for Capitol Shakespeare, a local community theater that brings the works of Shakespeare to life for the public.
“I have always had a love for community theater,” Erin explains. “You will never find a group of more accepting, caring, and dedicated people than community theater people. They give of their free time so willingly and are passionate about theater and expression.”
Erin also loves the chance to share Shakespeare with the public.
“Shakespeare shows us what is most beautiful about the human condition and all its faults and flaws as well as its joys. Shakespeare has never been more needed to show us how to communicate and express all that is within our heart and soul,” she says.
Erin has directed for many Capitol Shakespeare productions since the organization’s founding and continues to direct and occasionally act for its productions.
FINE ARTS TEACHER
While in Bismarck, Erin also began her career as a teacher of the performing arts. She went back to school, earning her bachelor’s in music and her master’s in education from the University of Mary. She then went on to teach at Shiloh Christian School, serving as the middle and high school choir director, speech coach, and high school theater director.
“The most important thing I do as a fine arts teacher is instill a love and appreciation of creativity and beauty in my students,” Erin says as she describes her role. “They do not need to be opera singers and professional performers; I simply want them to be forever impacted by art and expression and be able to appreciate its place in the world.”
She truly loves those moments in which “a student understands a concept they have struggled with … or begins to step out of their shell and fully embody the character of a song or role.
“Those brilliant moments when a student’s performance takes my breath away by the sheer power of their will and determination … are the moments I live for.”
Erin lives in Bismarck with her husband and twin daughters. She plans to continue working for Capitol Shakespeare and started a new job this fall as a choir teacher at Simle Middle School. Looking back, she expresses pride in her students, as well as gratitude for the lessons they have taught her. Whatever the future holds, there is little doubt that Erin will continue changing lives through her work.
“I … get the joy of watching music and theater transform quiet and solitary students into passionate, connected, and confident students who can go out into the world and make a difference in someone else’s life,” she says. “There is no greater joy than that.”