Longtime theater standout nears end of run at Southeast

Friday, April 1, 2005

After being a star of the stage at Southeast Missouri State University for the last five years senior Tim Nicolai is preparing for the bittersweet inevitability of his last performance on the Rose Theatre stage when the curtain falls on the musical "Guys and Dolls" April 10.

Nicolai is playing one of the supporting leads in the show, Benny Southstreet.

"It will be sad that it's my last show, and it just hit me a couple of days ago. I was sitting off in the wings and I turned to my stage manager and said 'Man, in a week-and-a-half I'm going to have done my last show ever on that stage,'" said Nicolai. "That's kind of a strange thing to say, but ... having been here for five years I'm ready to move on."

Both audiences and faculty in the theater department have seen Nicolai's talent during his time on the Rose Theater stage. He's played diverse roles in numerous productions -- so many that he doesn't know the exact number.

From dramas like "The Diviners" to farces like "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" to musicals like "Guys and Dolls," the young actor has been a mainstay and, in his later years, a leader in the department.

"He's been one of our workhorses for the last number of years," said department chair Dr. Kenn Stilson, who has both taught and directed Nicolai throughout that time. "At this point in his career he has a lot of senior leadership. This is what we hope we get from our seniors -- that they are contributing to the learning environment for the younger actors."

Stilson praises Nicolai's talent and versatility and said he has a bright future ahead of him.

"He's an extremely talented young man and someone who can really go out of this program and make it in the world of film and theater and television," Stilson said. "He's got really, really good instincts, and he's got very strong imagery and he hears language very well in his head and that translates to his characters.

"He has a real good sense of adapting his body and his voice through his imagination, so therefore he's got a large range as an actor."

The young actor has already locked in a position as a production assistant at the Olney Theatre Center in Washington, D.C., where he hopes to learn the ropes of stage production and take the first steps toward being a director. He'll try to continue acting whenever he can, though.

"It depends on where I am," said Nicolai. "Maybe I'll hit an audition now and then."

Somewhere down the line graduate school is in the cards, Nicolai said, but that may be some time away. And after that, he may even try to return to his home at Jackson to teach at his alma mater.

But even though the Southeast theater program is losing one of its standouts, there will be others.

"There will be somebody who steps up to the plate when he leaves," said Stilson. "That's just the natural ebb and flow of an undergraduate program. Somebody else will come in and they will rise to the top, as Tim has done."

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

WANT TO GO?

* What: 'Guys and Dolls'

* When: April 5-9, 8 p.m.; April 10, 2 p.m.

* Where: Rose Theater

* Info: 651-2265

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