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MSLCE Student’s Disney Dream: To Produce Theme Park Theatre

By Jacob Nelson

Sarah Bergeson grew up close to Disney World, and its proximity seems to have worn off on her.

The Northwestern theatre graduate is interested in pursuing a career in a very specific kind of performance: the kind that goes on at theme parks like Disney.

“Your audience is right in the middle of everything, they become part of the story, too,” Bergeson said about the appeal of amusement park performances.

“Theme park entertainment has to run at a way higher capacity. A theme park is open 12 to 14 hours a day and there’s always something happening, it’s a bigger effort but at the same time it’s a more cohesive product.”

Bergeson also likes that theme parks open up the world of performance art to children who may otherwise be uninterested in theatre until they’re older.

“A lot of people incorrectly assume theatre is a place you wait to take your kids to,” Bergeson said. “Disney is a great gateway to the world of performing, and so I’d like to share that with as many people as I can.”

As a result of her experiences in Northwestern’s undergraduate theatre program as well as a six month long program she participated in at Disney, Bergeson has learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in different sorts of theatrical productions. She’s managed lines of children waiting to see Disney characters, she’s worked Meet and Greets with characters from Frozen (“It’s not going anywhere soon,” Bergeson said of the film’s popularity), and she once performed as the head of the dragon in a theatrical production of Shrek! The Musical.

“The undergrad program at Northwestern allowed me to do all of these things and led me to change from being in the front to behind the scenes of productions,” Bergeson said. “There are more opportunities behind the scenes than onstage — it takes everyone to tell a story… I liked being able to help bring storytellers together.”

What Bergeson hopes to gain from the MSLCE program is the knowledge and skills necessary to handle production budgets and do other tasks that are essential for putting on a show.

“All of my experience comes from working on the front line at Disney… I lack all of the business skills to carry things out in the real world,” Bergeson said. “Being at the higher end of things, creating the structure is something I’m hoping to learn.”