Alum spotlight: Angie Atkinson (BFA ’06)

collage of photos

Angie Atkinson, BFA in Theatre, Performance, 2006

Dance Recital photo circa 1987

Angie’s journey to VCU didn’t follow a traditional route. She dropped out of high school at 17, got her GED and attended Mississippi State in Journalism. A year later Angie was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which caused her to consider, “Do I still want to do theatre with this limitation?” She transferred to begin a BFA from the University of Memphis, “but my heart wasn’t in it, so I traveled for a while.”

Angie as Olga in Three Sisters at VCU, 2006
Angie as Suzy Hendrix in Wait Until Dark, VCU 2005

Even when VCU came on Angie’s radar, she was considering music, but decided, “If I’m going to be in pain, I might was well be in pain doing what I loved.” One of her inspirations at VCU was Aaron Anderson (Associate Chair of Theatre), who had suffered a climbing accident while in the army that left him with a disability. He explained, “It’s OK if your disability is a reason, but don’t use it as an excuse.” That lesson stays with her to this day.

Texas Shakespeare Festival, 2010

Angie worked in a few local shows before moving to NYC, where she ended up in a workshop called Disenchanted Bitches of the Kingdom. She played Disney’s Pocahontas, “It introduced me to a lot of wonderful people, mingling in the world of musical performers.”

Carnival Breeze Rock Band, Spring 2018
The Bitter End, 2015

Music then took a larger part in her life, “I love theatre, but wanted to be a rock star.” Angie created a band performing original country rock music. “I grew up in Mississippi and loved Americana music that you sing in the back of a pickup truck. Country mouse meets city mouse.” After eight years, Angie decided, “I want something long term and sustainable.” Enter Brian Baez, talent broker for cruise ships (read his profile here), who worked with Angie at VCU in the production of The Civil War. “He said, ‘I’ve been seeing videos of your band on line. Would you be interested in submitting?’”

Carnival Magic rock band, The High Cs, Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

This took Angie to LA for Carnival Cruise Lines, where she performed as a singer in a band doing different styles every night from Motown to disco. “It was a rewarding job with lots of guest interaction. One group …had a member with a visible disability. She was dancing every night and was stone deaf and she loved the band vibe.”

Carnival Freedom Rock Band, Flavor Town, Fall 2018 – Spring 2019

“I met world class musicians and made a lot of friends. I was riding that cloud so high when Covid put everything on hold.” After a while in lockdown in California, Angie returned to Richmond to stay with her parents.  She’s now headed back out on the Norwegian Encore in Kinky Boots, “The first day on stage, we all cried because it had been so long and it felt so good to be back doing what we love.”

Angie as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, Texas Shakespeare Festival 2019

Thinking back to VCU and how it affected her career as a singer, Angie recalls, “I will never forget a single word from Janet Rogers about breath support. That helped more than singing lessons and served me, not only in theatre, but in the rock band.”

Kinky Boots, Norwegian Encore, Fall 2021 -Spring 2022

Header image (clockwise from left): Promo photo by Brandon Perdomo; Album cover art for High and Mighty, photo by Sam Updike; Carnival Freedom Rock Band portrait Fall 2018- Spring 2019; Sidewalk Cafe November 2013, Photo by Sam Updike.

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the December 2021 Theatre Alumni newsletter