When life throws you a pandemic, a stage actor finds other ways to be creative. When Air Force spouse Nancy Stange found herself forced into a hiatus, she retained her humor and made sure she didn’t lose that creative edge.
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Nancy: A little about myself…how about a bulleted list?
- Hysterical (in both meanings)
- Antithesis of a being.
Short version of my life story is I grew up in Southern Maryland with my older sister, Becky and two cousins Sarah and Eric who were more siblings to me than my other (9 total?) siblings who I won’t get into because we’ll be here all day. Parents separated when I was 5, and the next 13 years were full of joy and woe and trauma. My sister and I however, were forged together in this fire, and we are now unbreakable. (Figuratively. I get hospitalized a lot because I’m physically fragile as teacup.)
How I met my spouse: My sister had a crush on my husband, Jesse, when they were in high school together. Years later, she found out he was visiting home for a bit, and she wanted me to meet him. We went out to a bar, and my sister left us alone for 5 minutes, and we small-talked our way into liking each other. We all had a good drunken night together, and the next day, my sister asked if I got his number which, of course not. Her crush may have been years over, but sisters don’t do that to each other. She gave me her blessing thinking I was 21 and he was moving to Wyoming in a few months, it’d be a summer fling. 9 months later, we eloped. (Also, we learned that you still have to provide your own witnesses when you elope, so we found 2 strangers at the courthouse who had a minute. To this day we have no idea who these people were.)
MilspoFAN: How did you become an actor?
Nancy: I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. My parents both enjoyed live theatre and were very supportive of my pursuit of it. I grew up under a heavy influence of what might be called the “oldies,” like Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter. Theatre was my only extra-curricular in high school, and I majored in Theatre Studies at Towson University. I attended for 4 years, but did not manage to graduate (in hindsight this was due to undiagnosed C-PTSD, hypersomnolence, and autoimmune issues, but that’s life, right?)
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the type of character roles that speak the most to you.
Nancy: One thing I love most about theatre is the breadth of creative work available to do. From one show to another, I can be acting, sewing, painting, directing, singing and/or dancing (in community theatre, I frequently do multiple at a time). I am what’s known as a “character actor,” and I love nothing more than making an audience laugh. One of my top favorites has to be playing Grandma Addams in The Addams Family Musical. The director essentially let me off-leash 2 weeks before we opened, and I got to just make up whatever crazy nonsense came to my head each night. The poor actors in the rest of the cast had a very love-hate relationship with me because they had to keep straight faces no matter what I was doing, and I considered it a challenge.
However, as much as comedy brings me endless amounts of joy, I really miss doing drama. Our local theatre has, on average, one drama per season and if there is a role I even qualify to play (20’s-40’s Female). I have only had the opportunity to be in 2 dramas in the last decade (A Streetcar Named Desire, and And Then There Were None), and in Streetcar, I played the one female comedic role. There is a saying that drama is easy and comedy is hard, but in the end, it all comes down to finding the truth. The truth of what your character is going through, what they want, what tactics they know and will use to achieve that goal, and I have a past filled with various traumas and experiences and relationships to pull from, and to tell these stories truthfully. But I am still young, and there is always next season.
MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Nancy: I am very lucky to have met my husband while he was switching from the Air Force to a full-time active Guardsman. Apart from 2 rounds of tech school in Biloxi, I get to enjoy the permanence of where he is stationed. I still love getting to meet other military families through the theatre, even though it is always a heartbreak when they inevitably PCS to a new base.
MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?
Nancy: I try to make something every day, even if it is just writing down an idea for later or a small doodle. When I’m not feeling “creative,” I like doing pre-patterned embroidery. It is like paint-by-numbers but with thread. I still get the feeling of progress; it helps me build the skill, and I can veg in front of the TV while I do it. I’m also really into movies and TV and take lots of inspiration from there.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Nancy: I have been on hiatus from the theatre due to COVID-19 and my personal history of medical issues, but with newly implemented vaccine requirements, I am cautiously coming back to it. Back in March of 2020, I was not only the costume designer, but also cast as a Kit Kat Girl in Cabaret. One week into rehearsals, everything shut down, so hopefully this spring I can finally do the show and hyper-focus on something else. Apart from that, I spent the last 2 years learning to sew and am enjoying that, and recently began taking Aerial Hoop classes.
MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?
Nancy: Find a community. The past 2 years have shown us that even if you cannot physically engage with your people, you can always connect, and there is nothing so important as having others to lean on.
And if you ever PCS to F.E. Warren, check out the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players.