Fourth-years Katie Cole and Keith Smith share their moments performing in their college career moments

Katie Cole and Keith Smith take their final bow at Ball State in this year's production of “The Nutcracker"

When Katie Cole came to Ball State University, she said she thought she wanted to be a choreographer. However, now she’s cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy in a production of “The Nutcracker,’” and her love of performing has grown.

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Ball State University will be putting on a production of “The Nutcracker” at Emens Auditorium Dec.10 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. This will be a collaboration between the Department of Theatre and Dance and the School of Music. 

Cole is a Ball State fourth-year dance major with a minor in autism spectrum disorders. 

Though her performances at Ball State were a start on her path, Cole explained her future plans to combine her passions with her major. 

“My goal after college is to be able to combine two of my favorite things, dancing and traveling,” Cole said. “My ideal job at the moment would be to dance on a cruise ship to fulfill both of those areas.”

 Through her experience dancing in the show, she said she learned the power a performance has to an audience.

“Knowing that our performance evoked so many emotions made me want to continue dancing to tell stories and bring the audience on a journey,” Cole said. 

She said she had few regrets and would not change anything about her experience, except to “branch out” and meet more people within her department.

“The connections we make in college are very special and having a strong network, especially within our field, is important,” she said. “Some of my favorite memories within classes and shows are the ones that are heavily mixed with dance majors and musical theatre majors. From the beginning of my time at Ball State, I would have intermingled more to create more of these memories, friends and connections.”

Cole’s favorite performance was when she was double cast as Emily and Lola in “Valley of the Four Dolls,” she said. She relished the experience of learning and performing two different roles for the same show.

Katie Cole (far left) performing in "Valley of the Four Dolls". Kip Shawger, Photo Provided

“Having two roles was very special to me because it was a challenge, yet allowed for me to be fully engaged with whichever role I was playing that show,” Cole said. “Eight of the ten members of our cast had two roles, so our family was always shifting. This show remains my favorite because of how close our cast became over the process due to how much we had to rely on each other with all of the shifting of characters. We became a family on and off the stage.”

Like Cole, Keith Smith has also been cast in this year’s production of “The Nutcracker as he Prince. Smith is a Ball State fourth-year dance major in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“The most rewarding part for me is exploring the different ways to present my character’s relationship with everyone else’s in the show,” Smith said. “It’s really satisfying as I grow closer to my character and my peers in that way.”

Smith’s experiences led him to want to pursue theatre as a career. 

“My experience in the last couple of years has given me more love for performing I was planning on working towards my choreographic career instantly, but now I think I want to perform for a while first,” Smith said. 

He said his favorite role was Buddy in “Valley of the Four Dolls,” and his favorite performance was the finale in “Streets to the Stage.”

Smith believes his experiences have helped him grow as a dancer and an actor. 

After Ball State, Smith said he plans on taking a short break from studio training to solidify his plans on how and where he wants to create. He is passionate about performing and choreography. 

Director Audra Sokol, who has been working in the Department of Theatre and Dance for 15 years, shared some advice for the future to the fourth-years leaving the program. 

"The biggest piece of advice I would give is to keep your head up, to not be shy, to say yes to a lot of things when you first graduate and those first couple of years [in your career],” Sokol said. “Do things that you didn't think that you would do before. You never know who you're going to meet. Get weird, put yourself in different kinds of situations and go down all the paths."

Ball State's last performance of the Nutcracker in 2018. Kip Shawger, Photo Provided

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