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BWW Blog: A Thank You Letter to My Friend and Mentor - Tucker Tab DeGregory

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Back in April 2018, when I visited Northwestern for an admitted students day, I attended a special info session for dance and theatre. We listened to students talk about their involvement with the performing arts in campus, and later had the chance to talk to them ourselves during a lunchtime socialization period. During the info session, one of the students, who later introduced himself to me as Tucker, talked about his involvement with the musical theatre choreography on campus. When walking into the lunchroom, my eyes immediately scanned the room for his face, and upon spotting it, I hurriedly walked towards his table to claim a seat. I spent time talking with Tucker about the vast choreography opportunities on campus, the musical theatre choreography program, and the variety of dance and choreography classes available on campus. I wrote down his email in my notes app, noting to myself to follow up with him and thanking him for all of his advice. Little did I know that this stranger would turn into an incredibly important mentor and friend and this email would soon turn into a phone number, and one that I would text more than many times throughout my next two years on campus.

In my first week on campus, I began to grasp an idea of the beast that is Northwestern student theatre (also known as the Student Theatre Coalition, StuCo for short). Upon attending a student theatre info session, I learned about The Dolphin Show, the nation's largest student produced musical. I immediately ran up to the student producers after their speech and asked if they had a choreographer. I'm almost embarrassed looking back on this moment, as I was completely naive to the fact that yes, they did have a choreographer, and they had had one for about six months now. As I would soon learn, the StuCo process of building teams for shows, a process that I would soon know like the back of my hand, happens about a year out from production. Nonetheless, the producer was encouraging and told me to reach out to the show's choreographer, a student named Tucker, to see if he needed an assistant. Luckily, I knew exactly how to reach him and immediately opened my notes app.

After an in-depth conversation about our mutual passion for musical theatre choreography, numerous email chains and several meetings, I was officially signed on as the assistant choreographer for the 77th Dolphin Show: "Hello Dolly!". As I am not a theatre major (I like to consider myself theatre-adjacent), I knew no one in the rehearsal room the first night. However, as I sat against the mirrored wall feeling alone and nervous, as I watched Tucker, who was just a junior at the time, be able to command the room in such a humble, mature, and brilliant manner, I was truly awe-inspired. I spent every night of my freshman year sitting in that corner, slowly warming up to the other team and cast members. I would rave about Tucker's talent to all of my non-theatre friends both at Northwestern and at home, and just about everyone who I spoke to freshman year knew how much I admired him. And I wasn't the only one. It became abruptly clear how everyone on this campus praised him for his talent, humility, and genuine care for everyone he interacted with. As we moved into the theatre, he asked me my opinions about things and truly listened to my ideas. He trusted me being his choreographic-eye while he was out of the room, and most importantly, treated me as an equal co-worker rather than just

some freshman assistant. Tucker was rungs above me on the StuCo ladder, but instead of climbing and watching me struggle, he brought me with him on his journey up.

I was lucky enough to assist Tucker on a production of "Into the Woods" a few weeks after "Hello Dolly", and was not surprised by the vast amounts of respect and love the cast had for him. I remember constantly telling my mom on the phone that I was working with, and had befriended someone, who was undoubtedly going to win a Tony one day. By the end of my freshman year, I was lucky enough to choreograph the freshman musical of "Legally Blonde". I constantly picked Tucker's brain about the process, as I knew he choreographed his own freshman musical several years ago. Whether through text or over coffee, his responses were always detailed and full of genuine care, and despite his unbelievable crazy schedule, he was able to give me his undivided attention whenever I needed it.

This past year, as a sophomore, I found my own choreographic footing on campus as I choreographed two big student productions: the musicals "9 to 5" and "She Loves Me". I had never choreographed a whole production like this, let alone two at the same time. And if it was not for Tucker's advice, mentorship and teachings from the year prior, I don't think I would have been able to do it. I learned from Tucker that talent, as great as it is, is nothing without kindness, humility, and the ability to respect those around you. Tucker is a raw talent with all of these things, and I am so grateful to have had a mentor and friend like him to support me and learn from during my underclassmen college years.

I recently learned that I have been given the privilege of choreographing the 78th annual Dolphin Show: "Pippin". If you would have told freshman year me, sitting in the corner of the rehearsal room every night of my freshman fall quarter admiring Tucker and his ability to tackle the largest student produced musical in the country, that I would one day be in his place, I would have never believed you. I can only hope that I am half of the choreographer, friend and teacher that Tucker is. Our conversation back in April 2018 was just one of many that would soon be a defining element of any college experience, and for that I am ever grateful. I am already counting down the days from the Tony night when I see Tucker accepting his award, and I can say, "that's my friend".

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