Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College

’Boji Reflections

OST theatre alumnae and alumni, as well as past and present faculty and staff reflect on their time at Okoboji Summer Theatre.


Toni Anita Hull ’04 B.F.A., ’17 M.F.A.

’Boji in five words:
Fun, life-changing, dramatic, best, forever

Favorite memories:
One of my favorite memories is getting to jump into the production of The Butler Did It Again. It made me realize that I am pretty damn funny. One of my other favorites is when I asked an 8-year-old Miranda Burke to give me a tip for life, and she replied, "If you're living life, you don't need a tip." Smart 8-year-old! 

Important lessons learned at ’Boji:
I learned that hard work pays off. I learned that negativity will get you nowhere. I learned that I made friends for life in that little town in Iowa.


Pattie Doyle, Costume Shop for 35+ Years at OST

’Boji in five words:
Joy, community, transformation, creativity, nurture

’Boji is special because:
Professionals from all over the U.S. work with students as directors, designers and actors. The Iowa Lakes community has supported OST for all of its 60 years.

Favorite memories:
Productions - Brigadoon, Two by Two, South Pacific, Mikado, A Doll’s House, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Man of La Mancha, Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte’s Web, I Remember Mama, The Miracle Worker, plus, plus, plus
Fourth of July parades on the lot
Main sail parades downtown
Pig roast 
All the costume shop staff and community volunteers
Kerry’s great cooking!


Michael Quevli ’84

Boji in five words:
Exhilarating, fun, hard work, collaborative, memorable

Favorite memories:
Hazel’s amazing blueberry pancakes and cinnamon rolls
The grateful patrons
Touring ’Boji Bantam shows
Learning Friday evening just before the pig roast that you are going on for Rob on Tuesday and have ultimately had no rehearsals. One of the best and rewarding experiences of my life as an actor.

Important lessons learned at ’Boji:
Expect the unexpected
To really listen and then react
Embrace fear and/or anxiety and not let it control you
Cherish the memories—they remain with you your entire life
Above all, have fun


Virginia Ris ’99

’Boji is special because:
Once I knew I would be attending Stephens, my family made a detour to Okoboji to see a show in the summer of 1995 (Blithe Spirit). I remember remarking how it would be three years before I would be back. In June of 1998, two classmates and I pulled onto the lot nervous as anything—how would we get through this? We survived, and I was lucky enough to be asked back in the summer of 2000 to work public relations. The point of all this is that I was able to visit this past summer (2016) with my daughter (who still quotes from There Goes The Bride) and the minute I stepped foot on that thick Iowa grass, every single wonderful memory of my two summers came flooding back in a way I can't describe. I became that kooky lady talking to the box office workers about my time there, almost 20 years ago. There is no place like OST, no way to properly describe the hard and rewarding work that is performed on that lot summer after summer. I can say a tiny piece of heaven is in Iowa.

Important lesson learned at ’Boji:
Always check for bits of screws or nails in a previously used piece of 2x4 before cutting it. I know the saw blade I ruined was hung up near the reciprocal arm saw for several years!


Mark Taylor ’73, Stephens Board of Trustees Member

’Boji in five words:
Life changing, magical, invigorating, cherished 

Favorite memories:
The community support
Play after play
Boat rides, water skiing, tons of stars

Important lesson learned at ’Boji:
How much theatre meant to me and how important it can be to others


Nathan Lee, OST Technical Director

’Boji in five words:
Special, family, spectacular, inspiring, needed

’Boji is special because:
The Okoboji Summer Theatre creates a community of students and professionals. The program demonstrates to the students professional work ethics. I believe that the students who complete the program have the ability to create their own path in theatre. 

Favorite memories:
There is no one memory that sticks out. Here’s what I’ve noticed and what brings me back to the Iowa Great Lakes region and specifically ’Boji: When I get a chance, and not just opening night of the show, I like to people watch and see the community come together under the awning. It provides a chance in the summer to see old friends, make new ones and enjoy the beauty of the Lakes region. In the past years, the introduction of the pre-show Friday night showcase has added even more enjoyment to the people watching.


Sara Herrnstadt Crosby ’76, Stephens Board of Trustees Member

’Boji in five words:
(Thinking back to 1975 as a wide eyed 20-year-old):
Dramatic, immersed, challenging, cornfields
(Thinking of my experiences over the past 10 or so years as an adult patron/Stephens trustee/alumna):
Pride, students, challenging, Tiny Houses

Favorite memories:
I always think of three right off the top of my head.
1. Running across the field to the Smiths’ farmhouse cellar while watching the skies for the tornado that had been spotted nearby.
2. The incredible set that was built for Picnic. I played Millie, and Howard Ashley directed. Howard believed in me when, as a 20-year-old, I barely could believe in myself. Everywhere you turned on the set there was some amazing detail, a bird’s nest tucked into the overhang on the porch … every performance I discovered something new I hadn’t noticed before. There was no backstage crossover, so we had to go outside to get to the other side of the stage for an entrance. Being part of that show was one of the happiest moments of my life.
3. Playing the “King" in The Plain Princess, at the ’Boji Bantam, which was an outdoor tent with roll-up sides, wearing clip on roller skates, spirit-gummed beard and a heavy costume performing in 100 degree heat and humidity.       

Important lessons learned at ’Boji:
As is often the case with experiences from our youth, many of the lessons I learned while at ’Boji I did not realize until many years later, and memory has a way of distorting the past, but I can be fairly confident that I learned a strong work ethic, I learned how to show up and do the work. I learned that my feelings would not kill me, in other words, tolerance for my own emotional discomfort. I learned to stretch a canvas, to hang and focus lights, to cut gels, to focus and work thoroughly to create a character. Whatever else I learned during those 10 weeks, I am certain, became firmly imbedded in the foundation of my character.


Jenny Friend Bolling ’89, Returned for 10 Seasons as OST Production Stage Manager/Master Electrician

Okoboji, for me, was an amazing laboratory of theatre. Start with a group of eager college students. Add in a staff of dedicated artists and administrators; pour in a cornfield, thunderstorms, bonfires, late night techs and early morning focuses—and mix. I spent 11 summers in this chemistry experiment both growing up myself and helping others to grow. I learned that doing theatre well requires a big heart and a strong infrastructure—plan ahead and fix that sewer line now. I remember so clearly finishing each season, packing the truck, saying goodbye to these friends and family I spent almost every waking moment with and then driving off the lot and each of us turning a different direction on Highway 71, going back to our other lives and away from this place we loved and that defined us. I’ll sum it up with what began as a scrap of paper first ripped off a Warehouse poster I made and shared between Addison and myself that then evolved into an inscription on his Okoboji gazebo: Joy to All Theatrekind!


Dean Anthony ’87, Guest Artist (1996-2005)

’Boji in five words:
Vital, emboldening, fun, singular, sink or swim

’Boji is special because:
I was at ’Boji as a student, again just after graduating, and again a number of summers a decade after graduating. It’s hard to remember how I felt about the place as a student as opposed to how I felt about the place as I got further and further away from being a student. Now I’m a professor of theatre at a small school, and I wish my students had a place like OST where they could go and immerse themselves in theatre. I got to watch quite a number of generations of students go through the amazing process that is the Okoboji Summer Theatre, and the students who get it, thrive. Their abilities grow in ways that they won’t begin to understand until years later. It’s not just their abilities in theatre, either. Working that hard toward the goal of producing great theatre week in and week out teaches life lessons that will help you no matter what field you eventually find yourself in. 

My student summer I got to work closely with Fritz Lennon, one of the professionals who was a ’Boji regular for years. Fritz was one of the greatest examples of an actor wholly aware of his own abilities, and one who understood that less is more. In the dressing room before we were going to perform The Foreigner, Fritz looked at me and said, “If I had had a son, you would have been just fine.” I remember not knowing what to say, but that moment stuck with me. I felt like my hard work during the summer was validated. 

Important lessons learned at ’Boji:
Boji taught me …
... hard work is more important than talent … whatever that is
... the true meaning of collaboration
... how to hold for a laugh
... that success could happen in a cornfield
... that no matter the generation hard work and hard play brings people together


Kate Greene Murphy ’88, Returned to OST in ’88-90, ’94

’Boji in five words:
Fun, community, family, theatrical, iconic

Favorite memories:
Pig roasts, ten-cent Cokes in glass bottles, volleyball at lunch, Kent Tritle leading music rehearsals for pirates, running the spot from the catwalk for Greasepaint, late night productions in the Bantam, touring the Bantam with a spinning wheel tied to the back of my car, Addison plowing the back field to plant wildflowers, the old pole barn, leaky trailers, Vinton Arnold, singing Christmas carols in woolen costumes in the middle of July with Michael McCarthy, the joy and artistry of running two scene preset boards

Important lessons learned at ’Boji:
Always honor your promises to the community business people, the importance of being a ’Boji ambassador, how to street team posters, learn your cues and your lines


Rachel Leyh ’12, OST Box Office Manager Since 2011

’Boji in five words:
Amazing, work, crazy, happy, wait list

’Boji is special because:
’Boji is amazing because it’s like a step into the river, meaning no matter how many times you go you’ll never have the same summer with the same people ever again. Each season is a new experience for everyone—staff and students alike. 

Favorite memories:
Opening Day at the box office, meeting the student company, first and final bonfire, Mondays at 3:16, first strikes, final strikes, crawling through the theatre on final strike and not crying at all, living in Smith House with my best friend, hanging out with the Burkes on the porch, anything that happens on the lot in general


Ruth Ann Schulze Burke ’86, OST Executive Director  

’Boji in five words:
Excellence, discipline, inspiring, traditions, supportive


Addison Myers, OST Executive Director (1980-97)

Okoboji: A 1958 vision by Bill West, combining professional standards, a community-based focus, college support, a hard-working, fun-loving staff, and many, many talented students. We were well-prepared, well-fed, and did good work entertaining sell-out audiences.  I never had an unhappy day at OST! Thanks to all those who have been to ’Boji over these 60 years! Here’s to more pig roasts!


Gail Humphries Mardirosian, OST Artistic Director and Dean of the Stephens College School of Performing Arts

OST has ensured its survival for 60 years with the outstanding quality of the performances, the diversity of its offerings and a dedicated audience that loves the theatre.


Michael Burke ’86, OST Director of Production and Operation

’Boji in five words:
Challenging, company, rewarding, community, historic

’Boji is special because:
The theatre came about and has been successful because the community of the Lakes area wanted the theatre to be there—to operate. When this was uncertain, the community went looking for the right partner and Stephens was lucky enough to make the connection, and had the vision to make it happen.

Favorite memory:
The first day of the season when there is always a line of folks wanting their tickets at the box office. It is always thrilling.


Rachel Gross ’93, OST ’91 and ’92

Okoboji was one of the greatest professional experiences of my career. Being part of this community of professionals taught me at an early age the value of flexibility, teamwork, accountability, being prepared, taking feedback and the importance of being an upbeat and positive colleague. ’Boji changed me for the better and 25 years later, I’m still benefiting from this gift.

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