Actress Emily Bergl visits South, gives words of wisdom

Kali Croke, co a&e editor

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This past April, students got a glimpse of fame with the arrival of South alumnus and Hollywood star Emily Bergl. Bergl is well known for her television roles on Desperate Housewives, Gilmore Girls and Men in Trees, as well as her horror movie role in The Rage: Carrie 2. During her visit, she conducted a theater workshop to talk about her career as a professional actress, performed parts of her upcoming cabaret show and critiqued student-performed monologues and musical numbers.

According to James Shellard, vice president of student activities, Bergl played harp, competed on the speech team, and performed in V-Show, musical and plays while at South.

“I was one of the speech coaches while Bergl was on the speech team,” Shellard said. “I remember Bergl being a very focused young lady with amazing acting and speech abilities. There was an energy about her when she performed where you said, ‘Wow! She has something special!’”

After her years at South, Bergl attended Grinnell College, where she graduated with bachelor degrees in both English and Theater with desires to continue in show business.

Mark Ferguson, TV director and Bergl’s former speech coach, was, and still is, very close with Bergl. He also remembers her commitment to many activities and challenges during high school as being very influential for her desired vocation.

“We gave her Shakespeare, we gave her musical theater, straight theater and we gave her speech team,” Ferguson said. “She knew that she wanted to be an actress and knew that by getting involved in all of these activities that would only shape her and guide her to the career she’s in now.”

Ferguson also reflected on her many successes at South. Bergl was a strong participator in South’s theater and Speech programs and showed a strong affinity for the arts.

“Glenbrook South traditionally has had really strong programs in speech and theater, and Bergl took advantage of those offerings when she was in high school,” Ferguson said.

After college, Bergl received a role in a show in New York City then debued in “The Rage: Carrie 2”.

Bergl excelled in theater during high school. It was Bergl’s exceptional devotion to her passion that largely guided her current career.

“Acting and singing were things that I always just wanted to do more than anything,” Bergl said. “I just naturally prioritized it in my life. When you’re looking for what you want to do, just notice not only what you like to do but [what you] make time for.”

Although she had many strong roles on both TV and the stage, she struggled during high school. Like many teenagers today, self- confidence was a challenge for Bergl.

“I had such amazing opportunities at South and so much support,” Bergl said. “I hear now that I was kind of the star of the theater, but it never really felt like it at the time because I was also filled with a lot of self-doubt.”

Despite these feelings, Bergl is now an inspiration for many students interested in taking a similar career path. Sophomore Julia Packer had the opportunity to sing in front of Bergl during the workshop. Packer was greatly inspired by Bergl’s determination and shares her same goals.

“She showed that if you have motivation you can really achieve anything,” Packer said. “You just have to put yourself out there and you should be doing what you love to do for your career. She helped secure my thoughts on wanting to have a career in a performance area.”

While Packer anticipates starting her theater career in the near future, Bergl does not plan on ending hers any time soon.

“In the future I see myself never retiring and playing fabulous old lady parts on stage and singing in night clubs,” Bergl said. “I hope to die on stage, preferably on a laugh.”

Bergl also hopes that students are inspired by her experiences and can take away lessons of perseverance and determination.

“I would like people to learn from my story that sometimes when people tell you can’t do something you need to ignore them or use it as a fire under your feet,” Bergl said.

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