Former theater student reflects on journey to first major

Sandra Hill, left, and Jonathan Blum, right, opens up the play "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical" by going over theater etiquette with the audience. The production is directed by former American River College student Karen Bombardier. (Photo by Karen Raychel Reay)

Sitting before a brightly lit stage filled with performers dressed in costumes and surrounded by laughing family and friends, American River College alum Karen Bombardier watched her first major directorial debut come to life.

Long before Bombardier’s first big premiere, directing “The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical” at the Veteran’s Memorial Amphitheatre in Fair Oaks, the former theatre major began her college career on the grounds of ARC in 2002 with no idea where her life would lead her.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” Bombardier said. “I took general education classes but I didn’t like them….it wasn’t until I walked into Tracy Shearer’s theatre class my first semester that I found somewhere I was comfortable.”

Bombardier likened her time with the theatre department to spending time with a family.

“I finally found something I enjoyed doing,” said Bombardier. “It was addicting…I was always in a show. Most of my days were spent in the theatre.”

It was through her active involvement within the department that she met ARC alum Brianne Hidden-Wise.

“Karen is good people,” said Hidden-Wise. “She’s a loyal and caring person who rises up to leadership positions.”

After graduating from ARC in 2005, Bombardier transferred to the California State University at Fullerton to further her acting skills in their musical theater program.

However, Bombardier’s college career at Fullerton was cut short due to failing to make it past the second “jury” (audition) within the program.

According to Bombardier, the program teaches students the important lesson of having a back-up plan.

“My counselors at Fullerton were always pushing me toward being a director. ‘Just do it,’ they said.”

Bob Irvin, an adjunct theater professor at ARC who has worked closely with Bombardier since her first start in the theatre program has also seen the potential Bombardier holds as a director.

“(Karen) has it all together and is very prepared,” said Irvin of Bombardier’s skills. “She’s good at working well with people and is knowledgeable and seasoned.”

These qualities, among others, led Irvin to pick Bombardier for the part of director for the show, “The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical,” an R-rated play loosely based off Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in Old Fair Oaks.

“I almost died,” Bombardier said about her reaction to Irvin’s request for her to direct the play. “It was a huge honor.”

Hidden-Wise, who has known Bombardier for twelve years said that although she had never thought about Bombardier in a directorial role prior to the request, giving Bombardier the part made “perfect sense”.

“It is fun to see (Karen) take on challenges,” said Hidden-Wise. “(Directing) is not a simple task, yet she shoulders through it to make it work.”

Bombardier said she was grateful for the unconditional support she receives from friends whom many she has worked with for ten or more years.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, everyone wants me to succeed,” Bombarier said.

Bombardier’s hopes for her directorial debut are that people will enjoy themselves and maybe even share a laugh.

The ARC alumni’s version of the play will run through Sept. 6.

The advice Bombardier would pass on to aspiring students who wish to enter into the theater field professionally is to have a goal.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something…being self-aware of who you are and your capabilities is key in keeping a sane mind in this industry,” Bombardier said. “Constantly reassess yourself and even though a lot of people will say they can’t do it you have to be the one who says ‘I can do it.’”

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About the Author

Lena DoBynes
Lena DoBynes is a second-semester student on the Current, where she serves as News editor. She is majoring in journalism and plans to transfer to Sacramento State.

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