Alumni Spotlight: Caleb Bourgeois

November 20, 2013
I Am UAA - Caleb Bourgeois

I AM UAA: Caleb Bourgeois

B.A. Theatre and Dance ’13
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Can bust out a pretty convincing Irish accent on request

If you’ve been to see UAA’s most recent Mainstage Theater production, Big River, you’ll recognize Caleb as the talented Huck Finn.

“My parents were in the arts, so I grew up doing theater,” he says.

At five years old, he got his first taste of life on stage in the Discovery Theater for a performance of Orpheus in the Underworld with the Anchorage Opera.

“I was just a super, so I didn’t sing. I just walked on and walked off, but that was enough to sell me,” he says with a grin. “I got to come on and act like I was conducting the pit orchestra. That was my 30 seconds of glory. From then on I’ve wanted to do it. That feeling of excitement.”

Recognizing they had a budding performer on their hands, Caleb’s parents connected him with Alaska Theatre for Youth (ATY) and TBA Theatre, which absorbed the rest of his childhood and teenage summers.

“When you do theater, you don’t really have time for hobbies,” he says with a laugh. He sings, dances, plays guitar, designs costumes and sets and draws, but it’s all part of theater.

Big-River-2

Caleb Bourgeois, who plays Huckleberry Finn, gets in character backstage.

At home in the Fine Arts Building

After high school graduation, Caleb headed to Los Angeles and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), a performing arts conservatory. But the focus of the academy seemed too narrow.

“I felt like I would be missing out during my undergrad if I didn’t get the full scope,” he says. So he came back and enrolled at UAA.

“I had basically grown up in the Arts Building doing summer academies with TBA or ATY. Coming back was kind of like coming home.”

He connected with Professor Tom Skore for his first UAA performance in Playboy of the Western World, where he perfected his Irish accent.

“Tom’s been a huge influence on me. I can’t even count the ways. He’s such a knowledgeable, wise person. I feel like every time I’m around him, I learn something,” Caleb says. “He’s given me so much good advice over the years, pointers on acting and life. He’s been a real mentor to me.”

Savior takes the stage

Another faculty member, Professor David Edgecombe, helped him explore new territory in playwriting.

“He’s really supported me and helped me fine-tune things in areas I hadn’t felt brave enough to delve into,” Caleb says.

“One of my favorite things I got to do was write my own show, direct it and produce it,” he says. “So I got the Mainstage to myself and just went to town.”

He describes his show, Savior, as a “dystopian love story meets action story.”

It takes trust to hand over the stage to a 23-year-old and give him a chance to sink or swim, Caleb says. Fortunately, doing his show turned out to be a great experience.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do that anywhere else. That’s one thing I love about UAA. I’ve had so many opportunities.”

In perhaps the best course evaluation ever, Caleb’s final thought on professors Tom and David, “I hope I know the two of them for the rest of my life.”

At a crossroads

The theater has taught Caleb everything he needs to succeed. He laughs that at a previous job managing properties his boss asked him to please recruit more of his theater friends to work with them, because not only were theater people handy with tools, but they were great with people.

Since graduation in May, things have slowed down a little, he says, to where he’s mostly just working (apart from the last couple months of rehearsals and shows). He’s been project managing an Art Place grant for the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

“I love working for a nonprofit,” he says. But, like all grant-funded positions, his is about to come to an end.

He’s feeling the pull of New York, but he’d love to stay on in Anchorage in another capacity since he’s loving what he see as the resurgence of art in the community right now.

“I feel like there’s this modern movement in Anchorage. The arts are becoming really cool. I didn’t really feel that same vibe five years ago, ten years ago. But now it’s cool to go see a show,” he says. “I want to move to L.A. or New York and perform, but at the same time, there are so many opportunities here, why leave?”

There is the small matter of figuring out how this adventurer is going to retrieve his motorcycle he left parked in Washington, D.C., following a cross-country road trip some months back. It took him on a wild ride from Arizona to L.A., up Route 66 to Chicago and then over to D.C. So now for the big decision. Bring it home to Alaska or hop on and head to New York?

“I love working in non-profits. I’ve always been a helper. I’d also love to be an acting teacher or director. I mean I want to be a million things in my life, but for right now this is a great experience,” he says of his work with Alaska Native Heritage Center.

He knows that whatever path he chooses, his theater degree has something to offer.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better education. I learned everything I wanted to learn.”

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