Nichole Carey grew up idolizing legendary actresses like Katherine Hepburn and Judy Garland, but for her role as Dorine in "Tartuffe," she went a slightly different route.
"The role actually reminds me a lot of Fran Drescher in 'The Nanny,'" Carey said in an interview last week at Central Lakes College. "She's the smart-alecky maid who tells everyone how it is. She's street-wise and puts people in places where they can figure out how it is. She's a pretty big part of the whole thing, plotwise."
If anyone can make such a role appealing, it's probably Carey, who has performed in plays such as "Antigone," "MacBeth," "Gypsy" and "The Rocky Horror Show" at CLC after getting into acting at Brainerd High School.
Carey calls herself a passionate person, which explains why she is currently performing in three plays at CLC. In addition to "Tartuffe," which continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Chalberg Theater, the 20-year-old Brainerd native has roles in the children's play "The Emperor's New Clothes (Or What Not to Wear)" and the student production "Just Before the War Between the Plates."
After graduating this summer, Carey will pursue a theater degree at Metropolitan State University in the Twin Cities.
Although she was initially wary of attending CLC, Carey said it was ultimately the right decision.
"If I had left Brainerd and gone directly to a larger university and auditioned, I think I would've been a deer in headlights. I'd have no idea what I'd be doing. I don't feel that way now. I'm still nervous and a little scared, but I think I'll be able to hold my own a little better."
Carey credits her teachers at BHS and CLC for preparing her for a theater career, and perhaps a teaching career eventually.
But her personal attitude toward theater also has contributed to her growth as an actress.
Nichole Carey, a veteran of Central Lakes College plays such as "Gypsy" and "The Rocky Horror Show," anchors "Tartuffe" as audience surrogate Dorine, who always seems to be a step ahead of the other characters. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"Never close your mind to anything," said Carey, who figured she would be a singer before she discovered acting. "I love people that get on stage and say, 'I can't do that.' You can't say that because then you narrow your expanse of knowledge and art so much. You have to let yourself go and just do something. So many actors I've run into are so embarrassed of doing something on stage. I've done that, too, but you have to get past that if you want to be able to do anything. Certain roles demand something of you."
That's true of every role in "Tartuffe," which requires the actors to speak in rhymed couplets. Opening night was pushed back by two nights, but the wait paid off. If Saturday's performance was any indication, the 18th century farce ranks as one of the most enjoyable plays to be performed in the Brainerd lakes area in the past year.
Among the standout performers are Matt Cooper as the obnoxiously brusque Tartuffe, Kevin Query as the too-trusting Orgon, Fay Lytle as the frazzled Elmire, Shayla Paradeis as the adorable Mariane and Matt Cummings as the simple-minded M. Loyal. But Carey anchors the show as Dorine, who moves the plot along by staying a step ahead of the other characters.
The cast of "Tartuffe" includes Nichole Carey (left, Dorine), Jamie Bellefeuille (Flipote), Tom Vesecka (Damis), Fay Lytle (Elmire), Kevin Query (Orgon), Chantelle Frie (Mme. Pernelle), Matt Cummings (M. Loyal), Max Karnowski (Officer), James Habiger (Valere), Shayla Paradeis (Mariane), Doug Larson (Cleante) and Matt Cooper (Tartuffe). Costumes were designed by Dennis Lamberson with make-up by David Wilson. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"'Tartuffe' has been difficult for me and many of the cast members just because the language is so difficult to get through," Carey said. "If you drop a line, nobody on stage can really help you because they'd have to come up with a rhyming pattern. Everyone has to be on the ball."
"Tartuffe" is the latest in a long line of challenging productions for Carey. But at least this time she gets to keep her clothes on. She played a stripper in last summer's "Gypsy" and she spent most of last fall's "The Rocky Horror Show" in her underwear.
"'Gypsy' was very hard for me," Carey said. "I'm not a dancer by any means, so just to move your body in such a way that it's sexy but not trashy, for lack of a better word, I'd never done anything like that."
She counts herself lucky that she could get tips from her boyfriend and co-star, Andrew Lester, an experienced dancer. But nothing could prepare her for the bizarre wardrobe (or lack thereof) of "The Rocky Horror Show."
If you go
When: 2 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Chalberg Theatre, Central Lakes College
Tickets: $5 (public), free (CLC students), available at CLC Bookstore or 855-8218
Dorine in "Tartuffe"
Favorite play: "Waiting for Godot."
Favorite play you've been in: "The Rocky Horror Show"
Favorite actress: Katherine Hepburn
Favorite actor: Ewan McGregor
Favorite movie: "Moulin Rouge"
Favorite TV show: "Friends"
Favorite book: "A Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
Favorite singer: Judy Garland
What do you do in your spare time: Reads, writes in journal, spends time with friends.
"One night, I said, 'Just go for it,'" Carey said. "I was amazed it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Once you realize it's all an act, you can get over it pretty quickly."
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.