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IPFW theatre major Brady Schrock grew up in the tiny town of LaGrange, in a family of nurses and engineers.
“This made my theatrical career choice a little jarring,” he jokes, “but they are all wonderfully supportive and have never missed a performance.”
As a youngster, Schrock spent a lot of time outdoors and engaged in sports.
“And I mean all of the sports,” he says. “Baseball, basketball, soccer, football, and golf.”
In addition to sports, he honed his performance skills showing rabbits, goats and calves at the county’s 4-H fair.
But he found his true calling at the age of eight when the Missoula Children’s Theatre of Montana made its first visit to his elementary school. The organization sends a troupe of actors and directors throughout the country to involve local schoolchildren in theater productions. He participated every year they came to his school.
“This was my first real acting experience,” Schrock says, “and I was hooked.”
As a fifth grader, he saw Lakeland High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “I was simply astounded by the production,” he says. “I saw every single one of their shows. Little did I know that in a few years I would be up on the same stage doing the same thing.”
As a freshmen at LHS he nailed his first audition and was cast as Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing.
“I loved every second of it,” he remembers. “I could not wait to do another show.”
Seventeen productions later, he is starring as Franklin Shepard in the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along with the IPFW Department of Theatre.
IPFW was an easy choice of schools for Schrock. Much like a high school baseball or basketball player, he was “scouted.” IPFW’s theater chair John O’Connell and technical director Mark DeLancey attended the two productions he starred in during his senior year in high school. After his performance in Oklahoma!, O’Connell offered him a theater scholarship. “That was essentially the equivalent of my audition for the department,” Schrock says.
Now a junior, he says he considers IPFW as a second home.
“The smaller, close-knit nature of the department allows for this connection,” he says. “Everyone is willing to work with all types of people. It’s like ‘the melting pot’ of college degrees.”
Schrock recognizes the importance of being able to work with diverse groups of people even outside the theatre.
“Employers are learning that theater breeds this kind of acceptance as well,” he says. “More and more, theater majors are being hired in different fields because of their willingness to get things done and their ability to work really solidly as a team.”
This spirit of teamwork and a family atmosphere have been fostered by the IPFW theaterstaff.
“Our professors here are all essentially parent figures for all of us,” Schrock says. “It gives me more of an incentive to do my best in all of my academic ventures because disappointing one of the professors feels like letting down a parent. If that doesn’t explain how integral our professors are in our lives, I don’t know what will.”
Schrock also appreciates the professional background and experiences the teaching staff brings to their classrooms.
“Wonderful professors are the ones who teach from real life experiences,” he says. “That is exactly what we have at IPFW: wonderful professors.”
The most valuable acting tool Schrock has learned at IPFW has been the concept of “scoring” a script.
“Scoring scenes and monologues is where you break down the intentions behind each line of text. It makes your performance much more interesting and evocative,” he says. “Any time I’m having difficulty grasping a character in a particular scene, I turn to scoring, and it really does a nice job of clearing everything up.”
Schrock values his backstage work just as much as his acting performances.
“Working backstage is equally as important as actually being on stage,” he says. “It gives you a very deep appreciation for all the technical elements of theater.”
The IPFW Department of Theatre professors instill a strong work ethic in its students, Schrock says.
“For my role in Merrily We Roll Along, I spent probably the most time preparing than I have for any previous role,” he says. “This show is a fairly large undertaking. The songs are all so wonderfully written and are such a pleasure to sing. This show’s message is extremely important, and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.”
He also has high praise for his fellow performers.
“Every single cast member is amazing at what they do, truly,” he says. “Everyone has a good balance of having fun but knowing when to work. It also helps that we are all really good friends, a result of the tightly-knit family that is the IPFW theater department.”
This production marks his third under the direction of Craig Humphrey, Mindy Cox and Holly Knott.
“I would do a hundred more shows with Craig,” Schrock says. “His direction is so fun, yet extremely efficient. He knows what he has to do and he gets it done. And it’s always a pleasure to be under the musical direction of Mindy Cox and Holly Knott. I learn so much from their expert musicianship every time I do a show with them.”
Although the bulk of his theatrical experience has been at IPFW, he has also worked at the Elkhart Civic Theatre and plans to do more productions at other venues as his schedule permits.
“I developed a lot of professional relationships and friendships at the Elkhart Civic Theatre that mean a lot to me,” he says, “This industry is all about networking, so developing all of those relationships is really integral to being successful.”
He will graduate in the spring of 2016 with a BA in theater with an emphasis in acting. After that, his ultimate goal is to be a cast member at a Disney theme park – preferably as Aladdin.
“To say that I’m obsessed with Disney is a ridiculous understatement,” he says. “My theater degree would blend pretty seamlessly into life as a Disney cast member, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibility.”
As a backup plan, he also plans on earning a minor in hospitality management.
“Working at a luxury resort in the Caribbean wouldn’t be all that bad,” he notes.
In the meantime, Schrock is enjoying his life and his prospects for the future.
“If I’m not having fun, I’m doing something wrong,” he says. “I couldn’t be more pleased with myself for picking a profession that allows me to play for a living with other people who love theater just as much as I do.”