Rebecca Hengstenberg entered the room with a sparkle in her eye and an impressive theater career to boot, despite her young age. Currently directing the Creighton musical “Godspell,” Hengstenberg’s rÃ©sumÃ© of acting and directing have helped her gain valuable insight to a professional career in theater–knowledge she is eager to share with students.
“If you are serious, start auditioning for everything,” Hengstenberg said. “The worst thing you can do is play it safe and not be seen.”
“Godspell” is playing Mar. 19-20 and 24-28 in the Lied Performing Arts Studio Theater; seating is available to 100 audience members per performance. The musical tells stories through action, according to Hengstenberg. It has an intimidating amount of directing freedom because of its interpretative and nondescript nature.
The Creighton Fine and Performing Arts Department is currently in the second year of beginning a musical theater major and attempting to put on more musicals than in previous years. Stephen Sheftz, Musical director/coordinator, sought out Hengstenberg to direct “Godspell” because of her experience in musical theater.
“Rebecca was a natural fit,” Sheftz said. “After co-directing with her, I knew when I wanted to contemporize a production, she had the great organizational as well as interactive and motivational skills working with students.”
Hengstenberg and Sheftz co-directed “Songs For A New World” in 2007, while Hengstenberg was still a college student.
Growing up in Muguanago, Wis., Hengstenberg was musically and theatrically inclined from a young age, playing violin and singing in a chamber choir, as well as acting and directing in high school.
“I’ve been doing theater for as long as I can remember,” Hengstenberg said.
In 2007, Hengstenberg graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts-directing and a psychology minor. Directing the play “Keely and Du” as a student in 2006 was the turning point when Hengstenberg decided she wanted to direct as a career. The production was a huge success and even toured to neighboring universities and colleges.
In the summer following graduation, Hengstenberg moved to New York City to pursue her of love of theater and directing. She is currently directing with Wide Eye Productions in New York City.
“I discovered that I really loved the observation element about directing,” Hengstenberg said. “It’s fulfilling to create something from the outside and work with actors to help them improve.”
Her advice to all those seeking a career in theater is to make your name and face known. This charisma and optimism have aided her in a young yet successful career.
Besides “Keely and Du” and “Songs For A New World,” Hengstenberg has also directed “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” and co-directed several other productions.
When asked about the discrepancy between directing in New York City and Omaha, Hengstenberg had only positive remarks about Creighton’s Fine and Performing Arts Department.
“It’s refreshing to work in Omaha, since some actors in New York lack the enthusiasm students who want to learn have,” Hengstenberg said. “Everyone here is so talented and I’m surprised there have not been more musical theater productions.”
As eager as the students are to learn from Hengstenberg, she is just as eager to share her knowledge on the determination and dedication needed to take on theater as a profession with young aspiring actors.
When asked if she would return for future Creighton productions, perhaps for the fall production of “Floyd Collins” or the spring production of “Into the Woods,” Hengstenberg could only respond with a big smile, “Absolutely!”