Derek Nelson

Class Year



Lake Villa, Ill.


Theatre Performance

For Derek Nelson, theatre is the study of life. He started his college career at DePaul University, but after half of the freshman class got cut from the theatre program, including Derek, he made the move to Carthage.

“I was doing a show over the summer with a student of Carthage by the name of Tommy Novak,” Derek said. “He pitched the school to me so during the next school year, I took tours and met with the professors. Then I auditioned and got into the program.”

For him, the switch was a great decision — not only because of Carthage’s location between Milwaukee and Chicago, but also because of its dedicated and talented staff.

“I really enjoy getting a lot of attention from my professors,” Derek says. “I feel that it helps me learn the best. All of the professors I met with seemed real friendly and excited to meet new potential students, which was really important for me.”

He has been nothing but impressed with the diverse faculty at Carthage, who range from working theatre professionals to professors who have spent their lives teaching their craft to students. Derek knows that his professors will not hesitate to work with him and will find the time in their busy schedules to help him improve, he says.

Since coming to Carthage, limitless opportunities have presented themselves to Derek. He was invited to compete at ACTF, which is a regional acting competition that students have to be nominated for. He is also cast in the upcoming main-stage showRail Splitter, which is about the Abraham Lincoln’s adolescence. Carthage professor Neil Scharnick has also asked him to participate in the J-Term Experimental Acting course.

Derek hopes to get an internship with a theatre company out of Milwaukee and go to graduate school to receive his MFA in Acting.

“I just can’t imagine studying anything better than life and people,” he says. “It is never ending, always challenging, and gives so much back to me. I learn more about myself and more about life with every role I take. It is the ultimate challenge that yields the ultimate reward.”

“The faculty works so hard with their students and you get so many opportunities to work with professionals in the theater world.”

Derek Nelson, ’12

Career goal

“I would like to be a stage or film actor or both.”

How have Carthage faculty had an impact on your life or Carthage career?

“My favorite professor changes from week to week. This week it is Neil Scharnick. Just his energy and sense of humor make me look forward to class every day. Plus he has an incredible knowledge of pre-modern and postmodern plays, which is the time period of playwrights that I know nothing about. So I feel like he is helping me widen my knowledge of good theatre, which is why I came here.”

Favorite class

“My favorite class so far has been Voice for the Stage. Mainly because we are required to memorize a new monologue for every class, and while that can be tough, it is rapidly expanding my toolbox. Also I love working on dialects, which is what we just started working on.”

Toughest class

“Directing has been my most difficult class. I thought it would be easy because I have been directed many times before, but that was not the case. It is like I know absolutely nothing and am starting from square one. Directing is a completely different animal from acting, and I knew nothing about directing a production and the effort and time it takes to do so. I mean, I just got done writing a six-page play analysis for the class.”

Favorite moments and memories at Carthage

“Favorite moment at Carthage so far is the campus during fall. It is beautiful. Also getting to perform in my first main stage show here,Biloxi Blues, which was directed by my good friend — and recruiter for the school — Tommy Novak.”

Favorite spot on campus

“My favorite spot on campus is on the rocks by Lake Michigan. It is so beautiful to watch the waves crash over the rocks.”

Why should other students consider your major? What advice do you have for them?

“I would suggest to anyone interested in becoming a theater major to do it! The faculty works so hard with their students and you get so many opportunities to work with professionals in the theater world. Also, the location is perfect for graduation. You have the two biggest hubs in the Midwest for theater at your door step.”