Mount Union Alumna Carrie Coon Pursuing Successful Acting Career

April 13, 2010

Carrie Coon '03 is living her dream, although she would be hard-pressed to say it was the original vision she had for her life.

As a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's master's program in theatre, Coon never thought she would end up at acting school. However, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed scholar, reader and athlete just happens to be a gifted actress.

'The thought of acting never crossed my mind,' Coon said. 'I thought I would major in just about everything else.'

When Coon was a freshman at Mount Union, she was convinced that becoming an English major was the right path for her. But, when the Department of Theatre was auditioning for A Midsummer Night's Dream, she decided to try out.

'I thought that doing Shakespeare instead of just reading it would be a wonderful experience,' Coon said. 'I auditioned, not expecting much, and actually got a great role ' Titania, Queen of the Fairies.'

For the next four years, curly-top Coon boldly juggled soccer and track with a few leading roles and dual majors. During her time at Mount Union, Coon said she not only gained a lot of acting experience, but also became prepared for life. The College's rigorous liberal arts education helped her to strengthen her critical thinking skills, which are an essential part of being a great actress.

Coon says the Department of English also demanded a great deal from her, and she is able to use the wealth of literature she read over the years at Mount to bolster her work daily. She further noted that all the papers and discussions in which she participated made her a more articulate and effective communicator.

'Communication is an essential part of any career path, and as an actor, I'm my own small business,' Coon said.

Coon added it was Mount Union's nurturing small campus and strong liberal arts environment that made it possible for her to be involved in so many activities.

'I was able to be a college athlete, explore acting in earnest, study abroad, read some great books, learn a foreign language and pursue an unexpected opportunity,' Coon said. 'All of these experiences have made me a better actor.'

By December of her senior year, she was getting ready to send her thesis out to a few master's programs in linguistics, when Dr. Doug Hendel, professor of theatre, told her to seriously consider trying out for the university/resident theatre auditions in Chicago. She took his advice and afterward, Coon said she was surprised to receive a great offer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

'I was feeling pretty insecure about pursuing a career that seemed so impractical,' Coon said. 'But my parents said 'You're 22, go to acting school. You have your whole life in front of you.''

Having always been able to thrive in an academic environment, Coon says she truly enjoyed the new and unique challenges of acting school.

'Acting school demanded that I rely more on my intuition and my kinesthetic awareness than my intellect,' Coon said. 'Certainly research is an essential piece of preparing the role, but putting everything together is a different kind of challenge than writing an essay or taking a test.'

One of Coon's most memorable roles was staring as Anna Christie during Madison Repertory Theatre's production of Anna Christie, a 1922 drama written by Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene O'Neil. Coon said her role as Anna Christie was such a gift because she was able to learn everyday from one of history's greatest playwrights.

'Eugene O'Neill demands so much for his actors: the characters' journeys are epic in emotion and scope, and the world he creates is so specific,' Coon said. 'I really loved working as Anna because there wasn't a single night where I nailed everything. Every time I made a new discovery, the next moment demanded even more of me because the layers kept getting deeper.'

Anna Christie, however, is Coon's second major Madison Repertory part, for last year she was hand-picked by the company to play the starring role of Emily in Thornton Wilder's Our Town.

Coon says if she could offer any advice to those wishing to pursue a career in acting it would be to read, travel, talk to people and collect their stories, stay open minded and be able to argue both sides of the debate.

Since completing her master of fine arts degree last May, Coon has found work doing voice-overs and training videos in addition to working in motion-capture technology, where she uses her young, athletic and flexible body to create the physical movements which will be used by the animated characters in a video game.

Coon is currently in Chicago where she has work lined up for most of the year. She says she plans to stay in the 'windy city' for now to continue to build her resume.

'It takes a long time to get established in a new market, but I've been met with support and encouragement from my colleagues and my family, had amazing opportunities to grow in my craft and found some unexpected avenues for making ends meet,' Coon said.

Coon says she wants to stay in the acting business because she finds it so fulfilling. She believes she has been fortunate enough to be participating in projects which are contributing to the richness and growth of the communities in which she's been working. She says she may feel differently in five or 10 years, but she has been surprised often enough to know that opportunities will open up if she determines it's time to change her path.

'Eventually, I would like to have a family, but for now, I'm just concentrating on maintaining a sensible budget and having a great time,' Coon said.

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