By Meghan Feir
When many people think of North Dakotan terrain, they often forget about the landscape surrounding Medora. Nestled in the heart of the badlands, the little village is the summer home of tourists and performers alike. A breathtaking view, flat, farm country is replaced with canyons and buttes painted in red and purple.
For three MSUM alums, living and working in Medora for the summer has not dulled the awe that comes from gazing at their surroundings, and every night, Carl Rottman, Carolyn Schmitz and Matthew Dietzler help put on one of North Dakota’s biggest tourist attractions – the Medora Musical.
Carolyn Schmitz, a 2013 MSUM theatre graduate is one of 12 performers who make the Medora stage come alive with song and dance. This is Schmitz’ second, consecutive year of performing during the summer for the Medora Musical.
“Doing the show every night, you experience a lot of different audience members,” Schmitz said. “On a Tuesday, you could have a small audience, but on a Saturday, there will be almost 2,000 people in that crowd cheering you on and having a great time. That’s been one of the most positive experiences – getting to interact with those types of crowds on a daily basis.”
Without the proper training, performing every night can wear on a person’s vocal stamina. Schmitz thanks her MSUM voice instructors, Jenny Dufault and Julie Adams, for teaching her how to maintain vocal health.
“I just want to thank them for teaching me to use my instrument in a healthy way that’s going to help me prolong my career,” Schmitz said.
Music industry graduate Matthew Dietzler joined Schmitz and Rottman in being a part of the Medora crew as an audio engineer and has enjoyed the opportunity to help produce the country inspired entertainment show.
Dietzler, who moved back to Fargo after a yearlong stint in Texas after graduating in 2012 from MSUM, was considering going back to the Lone Star State for work, but a call from Medora changed his mind.
During a visit to Medora last summer, Dietzler connected with the audio engineer. “If I hadn’t talked to and gotten to know the engineer, I would not be here right now. It’s amazing what an impact your career can have by just talking to somebody.”
Dietzler also credits his time at MSUM and professor Ryan Jackson for not only teaching him the basics of the music industry but for showing him how powerful connecting with others can be. “Had I not had the time at MSUM, I don’t think I would’ve been successful. Ryan Jackson is such an awesome individual,” Dietzler said. “I learned a lot from him by getting to know him and being in class.”
Carl Rottman, the stage manager of the musical, graduated in 2013 with a theatre arts degree. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the light and sound cues, makes sure that everyone is on time and that the artistic vision of the director is maintained throughout each show. It is Rottman’s first season at Medora, and the most enjoyable aspect of his job has been the people he works with every day.
“The cast is fantastic. The backstage crew has been everything that I could’ve hoped and dreamed for, and the band is fantastic,” Rottman said. “Those have been the most enjoyable things, besides the view. The view of the badlands is second to none.”
Rottman and Schmitz had never heard of the Medora Musical until attending MSUM.
“A lot of people had mentioned the Medora Musical, and I came from the Twin Cities, so I was like, ‘What’s that?’” Rottman said. “After my time at MSUM, I learned more about it, and I finally decided to apply.”
Rottman, who was a part of three seasons with the Straw Hat Players, said that being a part of the summer theatre troupe was invaluable. “If I hadn’t done Straw Hat, I wouldn’t have been nearly as prepared to do this job as I was.”
Although the three friends never have a night off from performing, managing and controlling the sound all summer, each of them said they would love to come back, if that’s where life leads them.
“This is a family friendly reviewed show. You get everything from the ‘30s to modern-day country, so it appeals to all ages,” Schmitz said. “There’s even a stuffed bear that walks across the stage.”
If the stuffed bear isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider this: Many of the band members have performed with big acts, like The Beatles and Prince. So even if country music isn’t your proverbial cup of tea, the energy exuding from the stage will grasp your attention.
The Medora Musical runs every night at 7:30 p.m. until Sept. 6. For tickets, call 1-800-Medora-1 for tickets, or visit online at www.medora.com.