Linda Uthoff knows she has done her job correctly when her hours of hard work go unnoticed by the audience.
“Live theatre acting and directing are ephemeral,” said Uthoff, a 1981 masters of art graduate. “It takes a lot of hours to create, but if you do it right the audience doesn’t notice the work.”
Although Uthoff was always interested in theatre, her eyes were opened to the world of theatre after seeing a traveling production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and a K-State opera theatre performance of La Bohme during high school.
After high school, Uthoff pursued a bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Kansas University. She studied voice and sang in choirs while at the university, but it was a part-time job that led Uthoff to pursue more training at Kansas State University.
“I worked summers and weekends as a singer and dancer at Worlds of Fun,” said Uthoff. “I truly fell in love with musical theatre during those years.”
At Kansas State University, Uthoff was involved in a number of shows, including The Robber Bridegroom, My Fair Lady, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Telephone. She also studied voice under Jerry Langenkamp. During the summers, she performed at the Music Theatre of Wichita and other regional theatres.
“I will always be grateful that the music and theatre departments at K-State worked collaboratively and allowed me, as a theatre graduate student, the chance to play leads in operas and musicals,” said Uthoff. “Not all universities are able to say that.”
After graduation, Uthoff taught speech, acting, voice and diction, and oral interpretation of literature courses as an adjunct instructor at Kansas State University. She also worked as the Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department’s children’s theatre director and as the first artistic director at The Columbian Theatre from 1994-1997.
For the past 18 years, Uthoff has worked as the director of theatre at Manhattan High School, spending countless hours directing everything from large musicals to small plays.
Uthoff is proud that she has been able to “find a place for so many students.” Aside from large musicals, she helps coordinate smaller plays and ensures there is space for students to write, direct, design, build costumes and sets, act and learn how to work collaboratively with others.
“It takes all types of people to create good theatre,” said Uthoff.
This year, the Manhattan High School drama program was one of three selected from Kansas to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the American High School Theatre Festival. Her group premiered an anti-bullying play called Barnyard, which was written by Manhattan High School alumnus and California playright Richard Broadhurst.
Uthoff said her graduate degree from Kansas State University not only “opened doors” and helped her “earn additional income,” but “gave her confidence that she knew her subject. I’m able to pass on a more global view of what theatre could be to the high school students and all my audiences due to my masters of art degree,” said Uthoff.