116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Local actor, stagehand looking for new scenes in D.C.
Supporting roles prepare VanDenBosch for seeking new communities
Noel VanDenBosch has come full circle in her Corridor days onstage.
She began performing with City Circle Theatre Company in “Schoolhouse Rock” in 2008 at Iowa City’s Englert Theatre. This Sunday, she is wrapping up her run as Agnes Mundy in “Dancing at Lughnasa” at City Circle’s current home in the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.
And it’s her last show locally, since VanDenBosch, 31, of Iowa City, is planning to move to Washington, D.C., in the late summer or early fall. She’s leaving her hometown to seek more and different theater opportunities onstage and behind the scenes, where she’s a union stagehand and wardrobe worker.
The Tony Awards will recognize Broadway’s best on June 11, but among Corridor stages, VanDenBosch would be in the running for best actress in a supporting role.
Among her various characters on stages in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Marion and Coralville, she’s played several Shakespearean roles; a synthetic human in “Aurora”; a female Beth and male Laurie in “Little Women”; a violent female gang member in “Bully”; a penguin, cat and clown/goon in “Batman Returns Returns”; and Nora’s childhood friend Kristine, now an adult, in “A Doll’s House.” And that’s just a few of her many and varied roles.
“There's something really beautiful about bringing a character to life that maybe other people wouldn't see as very important,” she said. “It's cool to bring those characters to life. But don't get me wrong — I'd love a lead role sometime.
“I think that's also one of the reasons I'm excited about moving to D.C. There’s simply more theater opportunities” in the realm of plays, versus musicals.
“This area does a lot of musicals, and while I think musicals are amazing, those aren't my favorite stories to tell,” she said. “And so I'm excited to be in an area where there’s simply more plays being done, so that I can be a part of that community.”
Behind the scenes
She’s also looking to find her backstage union community, to help carve out her theater career. Right now, she works part-time as program manager for the Program in Bioethics and Humanities at the Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City.
“It's kind of a great little gig,” she said, because working part-time rather than full-time allows her to do more theater “without being so exhausted.”
However, backstage work requires plenty of muscle, especially when moving shows in and out of a venue. Being a truck loader is “heavy lifting,” she noted, “and I can definitely pull my weight, but loading several semis is exhausting.”
Still, she’s ready to serve in whatever capacity is needed. Her biggest area of expertise is wardrobe, she said, but she also has done audio, electrical, video and carpentry.
“I have a determination to really do my best, especially within the union,” she said. “There's a lot of men out there, and for the most part, they're incredibly welcoming and supportive, and are happy to see women and nonbinary people. But it's still kind of a man's world sometimes.
“So it helps that I’m determined to put my best foot forward, even if the situation is less than ideal. I'm still proud of my own work when I'm done with the day.”
Her organizational skills come into play whenever she works on a wardrobe crew, and she recently served as wardrobe head for the national tours of “The Book of Mormon,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hairspray” at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls.
On Tuesday, she helped with wardrobe and other preparations for “Annie,” a Broadway at the Paramount production in Cedar Rapids. Among her duties was checking the costumes for any needed repairs, then sewing to get them in shape for the evening’s performance.
She’s also worked as a dresser nearly 20 times, and said it’s important to establish a connection with the actors she’s assisting. Preshow duties might include checking for needed repairs, handing out clean laundry to the actors, hanging costumes offstage and placing items in the proper basket to facilitate quick changes. Afterward, costumes need to be hung back up or taken to laundry, where they’re cleaned, ironed or steamed, to be ready for the next performance.
“In some unions, there's a misconception that anyone can be a dresser,” she said. “(But) being a wardrobe person or being a dresser, and even doing laundry, is a highly skilled job. You always want people who are on the ball and know what’s coming up.
“It's been really cool to work with some local people who are really passionate about doing wardrobe, because if you don't set your quick-change basket correctly, that means you might be missing an item.”
That could mean an actor might not be able to make an entrance — or have to go onstage in just shorts and no pants.
So being a dresser is “an important piece of the whole show,” she stressed.
A new scene
Her body of work in the Corridor is an important piece of what she’ll bring to whatever roles she finds in Washington, bolstered with a resume full of work onstage and off.
“From my time here in the Corridor, I will take with me a love of play and exploration and collaboration,” she said. “That, combined with my determination to do my best, feels like a golden ticket no matter where I end up.”
She already has scoped out the possibilities, saying Washington “has an incredible theater scene.”
“My hope is to pursue more professional theater opportunities, whether onstage or backstage. … My goal would be to just do more of what I love. Because as much as I enjoy being here, there just isn't enough to make it very sustainable.”
Still, she realizes parting will be such sweet sorrow.
“Outside of the idea of theater, when I think about moving and what I'm going to miss most, it is the people here, in the community where I create my art,” she said.
“I think I'm a little bit biased, because I have lived here for so long. It'll be good for me to be a part of a different community and to see how that is just as beautiful, but in different ways. But there's something about the Corridor that I love, and it's very near and dear to me. It's going to be really hard to leave those people that are not just fellow actors, or fellow stagehands or fellow artists, but they're also friends.
“People keep telling me, ‘You can always come back,’ and like, ‘You're right, I can.’
“I can always come back,” she said. “And then maybe I won't. Maybe I will decide that D.C. is where I want to be — or I'll find some other place. But I'm really excited for the adventure, too.”
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