Nearly 25 years after they were Prof. Bhaer and Jo March in a college production of Little Women, Nate and Ericka Forsberg–now married–are on stage together again.
He is portraying patriarch Beverly Weston, and she is portraying his daughter Ivy Weston in BrickStreet Theatre’s upcoming production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, April 14- 16, 21-23, in Forest City.
The Forsbergs married in 2006, but their love story began in an Intro to Drama class at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul a decade earlier.
“She caught my eye for obvious reasons,” said Nate, “and I was intrigued to learn what kind of woman would wear a Pearl Jam t-shirt with bell bottoms at a Christian college.”
“I thought he had a sexy theatre voice,” said Ericka.
During their time at Northwestern, they appeared in other shows The Cherry Orchard and Shadowlands–he as C.S. Lewis and she as Joy Davidman, as well as student-directed productions, but their on-stage chemistry didn’t keep them together through graduation.
The following years found her pursuing a master of arts in music at DePaul University in Chicago, studying opera under Susanne Mentzer. He spent those years on the road as an improv and sketch comedy actor with “HappyFunTime,” then later–and now–with “Mike & Nate Comedy.” While he made people laugh in colleges, schools, churches, music festivals, and comedy clubs, she honed her music skills performing several roles for DePaul Opera Theatre and then later singing with the Minnesota Opera.
By 2005, they had both made their way to the Twin Cities. Soon, they were dating and,
only months later, he proposed to her in the same Northwestern classroom where they first met. Rose petals scattered on the floor and love floating in the air. That mood is a stark contrast to the intense and complex family emotions that play out in August: Osage County, the first show the Forsbergs have performed in while married. This tragicomedy by Tracy Letts won the Tony award for best play in 2008 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize that year. The story centers on a tense family reunion in a small Oklahoma town after their patriarch’s disappearance. Its artful storytelling invites audiences into the lives of a dysfunctional, all-American family as they struggle with the trauma caused by addiction, depression, and suicide.
The Forsbergs find its message relevant to post-pandemic life.
“Our world has changed a lot these past years,” said Nate. “The cast performs this piece with earnestness and sincerity, revealing true pain, joy, heartbreak, and all the things that make life hard but also beautiful.”
Ericka’s character, Ivy, is one of those complex roles–a middle sister who chose to stay home and care for her parents.
“I sense Ivy’s resentment,” said Ericka, “and how her loyalty has her feeling stuck. It’s
fun to play someone with so much complexity.”
Both Forsbergs enjoy how the cast is comprised of actors from Mason City, Garner, Belmond, Leland, Woden, and Forest City. Each actor stretching their skills each rehearsal.
“Dan May [director] did a fantastic job with casting as everyone is bringing this show fully to life,” said Nate. “I have a working theory that all art, at its core, is essentially a hope and prayer. A hope to connect to the people in the world around us and a prayer that something greater will make it speak to people beyond our own understanding. That’s the power of this show.”
The Forsbergs are an example of the power of community theatre. Their daily lives are typically spent focused on activities tied to their sons, Grant (12) and Hudson (10). Ericka, after working as a nurse for Hancock County Medical Center in Britt, is now a professor of music for Waldorf University in Forest City. Nate works remotely as a manager of corporate communication and media relations for a national insurance brokerage and consulting firm. They enjoy spending their nights back in the type of environment where they first met.
“BrickStreet is such a welcoming group,” said Ericka. “Everyone is so supportive of one
another, and this show has so much to offer audiences.”
Tickets for August: Osage County are available at www.brickstreettheatre.org or at the door, if available. They may also be purchased by leaving a message with the BrickStreet Box Office at 641-585-1800. Performances will be at BrickStreet Theatre, 1305 Hwy 69 South in Forest City.