What do you do at IU, and why do you do it?
At IU, I study Musical Theatre. It’d been my goal since around freshman year of high school to go to school for musical theatre and it was my sophomore year that I learned about and decided I wanted to audition for the BFA program in the future!
When did first you realize you were a theatre geek?
I first realized I was a theatre geek when I found myself enjoying cast recordings more than non-theatre music, which must’ve been around age 10. When I was younger I was most drawn to the fact that you could follow a story on a cast recording; there was always something to follow and look forward to, even on repeat listens. That influenced my continued interest in performance itself and finding new shows to learn about and want to perform, which I still continue to do with each show discovered.
What is your favorite thing about the theatre, and why?
My favorite thing about theatre is how encompassing it is as both a performer and audience member. I’ve never been in a show in which I not only learned about performing, but about personal growth, human behavior, healthy relationships, etc. As an audience member I’ve never left a show that, in some capacity, hasn’t made me think or feel something, regardless of its positivity or negativity. You learn life skills through your stage skills, and I’m incredibly lucky to have found so much joy in that.
What is one project you’ve undertaken at IU that has taught you the most?
Being a part of The Wave workshops here was incredibly invigorating and enlightening. Getting to work with such brilliant minds as they crafted a show before our eyes was not only educational, but wholly enthralling. I learned so much about the experience of being in a workshop, crafting character and structure of a show from a writer’s perspective, and making theatre with only some desks and rehearsal blocks. I can’t say enough positive things about it.
When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?
My favorite theatre song to jam to right now is “And They’re Off” from A New Brain. I think William Finn is such a brilliant writer both lyrically and compositionally, and the song is a mainstay now in my audition book. Whether jamming to it before rehearsal or performing it in an audition, it’s a fun one. My favorite non-theatre song is “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent. Such an underappreciated musician, and all her music is wonderful. Look her up!
Who in the theatre world inspires you, and why?
One of my biggest theatrical inspirations is Mandy Patinkin. He is a performer with such versatility and ability in every sense of the words. When it comes to people who can interpret and present music beautifully, I think of him instantly. Whether it’s “Move On” in Sunday in the Park with George, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” in The Wild Party, or “Losing My Mind” from Follies, he has such a strong grasp of musical language that I both envy and learn from.
What do you do outside of theatre?
Outside of theatre, I most often find myself catching up on sleep! Other than that I’m a political junkie, a puzzle solver, and a Parks and Rec aficionado. Being in the lucky place of doing what you love for a career means I rarely do too much outside of performing, and I’m so grateful for that.
Do you have any words of advice for new theatre students?
If I could give a word of advice to new or incoming students, it’d be to educate yourself in the areas you don’t find interesting. Do what scares you. If you’re an actor take a playwriting class, if you’re a stage manager take a costuming class, if you’re a designer take a dance class! Learning about different things in the theatre world will never hurt you. The worst it can do is give you a better perspective on that work and the most it can do is introduce you to something you want to do the rest of your life. Exploration is key!
What is one exciting project you are currently working on, or have coming up? (as if we didn’t know…)
Coming up this Friday we open City of Angels in which I play Stine, a novelist struggling to adapt his book for the screen while trying not to gray the lines between reality and fiction. It’s a wonderful show to be a part of and I’m humbled to be working with such talented, dedicated people. After the show, however, I’ll be sticking around Bloomington for the summer! I’ll be in both The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino and Our Town as Wally Webb. I’m stoked to be doing my first shows in repertory and to play such different roles. Onward and upward!
Before becoming a Hoosier, Cole Winston appeared in multiple professional productions with companies including First Stage, the Milwaukee Rep, and Skylight Music Theatre. He has also performed extensively as a vocalist, winning two years in a row in the Wisconsin NATS musical theatre competition and taking runner-up in the nationwide Songbook Academy competition in Carmel, IN. Cole is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.