TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — Twenty (Or So) Questions For Misti Koop

It would be one thing to be on a cruise ship in some sunny locale during the holidays if you wanted to be, but quite another thing to be working on a cruise ship if you’d rather be celebrating the holidays at home in the Midwest with your family and friends. If it’s Dec. 24 and you’re longing to be up north.

That’s the basis for “The Holiday Show” put together and starring Misti Koop. Many people know Misti from her appearances in the Medora Musical. Others from her many local theater productions in the Greater Grand Forks area.

The show also features the North Dakota Ballet Company, UND’s Low Brass Ensemble and many others from the Empire Theatre Company.

You can see “The Holiday Show” at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Nov. 26-27) and Dec. 2-4 and at 2 p.m. Sunda7 (Nov. 28) and Dec. 5. Tickets are available by calling (701) 746-5500.

But first, to help you get to know her even a little better, here are 20 (or so) questions for Misti Koop.

Me: You spent a Christmas season entertaining people on a cruise ship. What was that like?

Misti: The experience of performing on a ship is incredible! Add in the fact that it was a Cirque Show in which I was one or two Americans and four out of the 16 of us spoke English! Add in the fact that the ship MOVES when you perform! My instrument stands were actually zip-tied or screwed to the floor! Add in the fact that Christmas was the warm/palm tree type … when I’m used to the snow and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” type of holiday. It was very different than what I had ever done for Christmas. I remember we did a little Christmas talent show for the guests on the ship, when we were at sea, Christmas Day. And we had a Live Entertainment Christmas Party after our shows that night with music and food and small gifts for each other. I didn’t have many Christmas ‘things of clothing’ with me … so we threw together items and clothing to ‘look’ Christmasy.

Me: What is your holiday show about?

Misti: Kathy King asked me to write a Holiday Show for the Christmas/Holiday performing slot at the Empire. That was back in March of 2021. Now, here we are! I chose my strongest story of being away for Christmas. Aboard the Norwegian Epic, I had to find my own Christmas, with friends around me and my memories and my faith. The other actors in my show are friends of mine on the ship and also my parents, grandma and siblings — as I flashback to vivid holiday memories. I’ve used favorite Christmas songs to lightly carry the audience through the piece. Kathy suggested that we involve the community, so NDBC and UND Low Brass were the ones that responded, “YES.” I was also able to lock in on four wonderful local musicians to carry the musical accompaniment of the show! I wanted the chance to have my instruments in the show as well, so there’s a moment in Act 2 where I get to play several in a row. 

Kathy King has gently guided me on my writing journey, reminding me that it doesn’t have to be absolutely exactly like the real memories and people I knew on the ship. She also helped me to incorporate humor! The ultimate goal is to entertain the audience with skill and energy, but especially to allow them to relate what they see and hear on stage to their own lives and memories. This becomes THEIR holiday show, as their memories rise to the surface! I can’t tell you how excited I am to share my story! Especially with my parents. I hope the audience will relate to it and enjoy it thoroughly! Time will tell soon!

Me: What is your favorite Christmas favorite song?

Misti: I have to say “Chestnuts.” “The Christmas Song.” But, I do have at least ten second favorites … Several from the albums of the Osmonds, Carpenters, Partridge Family, Bing, Frank, Mel, Harry Connick, Wayne Newton, Peggy Lee, etc. I LOVE “My Christmas Card to You” sung by David Cassidy and the Partridge Family.

Me: You play the saxophone. Do you think that instrument is often maligned? If so, why?

Misti: Perhaps sometimes. I feel that those who choose to malign the saxophone don’t understand it. I was a musical kid. I totally understood music and my voice and how to read music. I had had three years of piano when I started band. I’m sure my teachers wanted me to play something “more challenging.” But I HAD to play saxophone because Maury Finney does! Maury is married to my mom’s first cousin. I had always idolized him (I still do!) I refused to play any other instrument. Now that I’m a band/choir/music teacher — I fully recognize that the saxophone is one of the easier to start kids on. It’s more accepting of different mouth types and finger lengths. BUT, like any instrument, if you’re going to be good, you have to work at it and dig deep into your efforts. I practiced often three hours a day in college, plus two to three ensemble rehearsals daily. I got to a point where I would crave practicing. It was quite powerful actually. I’ve recently started teaching piano at my school and I’ve rekindled that love of practice too!

My “ear” has always been with the alto sax, though. I can pick it up and play the pitch I’m hearing live or in my head. It’s quite the relationship I have with my alto:) Going back to your original question, I always make the choice to defend it when needed. Put it this way, my saxophone ear and skills — got me the job on the ship. I sent several videos and improvised to their required tracks.

Me: What’s the smallest audience you’ve ever played to?

Misti: Two. I started one of my Kids Shows with a mom and son once. A few more came, but not many that day.

Me: What is the best Christmas present you remember getting?

Misti: A soprano saxophone! My Dad, after hearing me play soprano sax in a band piece in college, was determined to buy me a soprano. I had no idea he was even thinking about this. He and my mom got other teachers and sax players to play test the soprano sax for me, before he bought it. Santa brought it that year and I almost fainted. We were both in tears.

Me: How many cell phones have you broken or lost?

Misti: How many cell phones have you broken or lost? Ha! Actually, none. I mean, I had a home-button stop working? And I directed theater at a “Y” Camp in New Jersey and someone stole my phone from the theater (a Blackberry). I never got that one back. I DID slide in the ditch one frigid night, on my way home from my parent’s house. As I was digging out the tires with help from some nearby ice-fishing guys, my cell phone slipped out of my pocket into the snow. Then, after thawing out my car in their garage, playing cribbage with them, sharing about my theater and driving home to teach the next day … My DAD went back to the spot I described and FOUND it in the ditch of deep snow! He let it thaw out on the dash of his truck and when he got to me in EGF, it worked!!!!!!!!! WOW! One of the guys and his wife still attend several of my shows:)

Me: Who is your favorite singer, male or female?

Misti: I’d have to go with Mel Torme. I do LOVE Harry Connick Jr. and Kurt Elling and Frank Sinatra and Jamie Cullum,too! Ladies  … I’d have to say: Karen Carpenter. Also Peggy Lee and Petula Clark and Ella Fitzgerald.

Me: What do you procrastinate about?

Misti: Figuring out percussion parts for my school bands!

Me: Do you have any tattoos? Please be specific.

Misti: No. I’ve lightly thought about it, but with theater, it’s best to be tattoo-free.

Me: Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Misti: Dog!!!! I have the most amazing dog! His name is Milo! He’s a rescue German Shepard mix. He is my family. I’m so grateful for his playfulness and unconditional love. We are buddies! He’s the first dog I’ve had of my own! Always had dogs growing up and I love my parents’ dogs and my sister’s dogs  … but Milo is mine:)

Me: Which historical figure, living or dead, do you most admire?

Misti: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Angela Landsbury, Julie Andrews, Irving Berlin, Bach.

Me: What’s your favorite food?

Misti: Oh gosh, salad?! I love salad! I know that is very very bland answer. I do love olives, carrots, sharp cheddar, and soft pretzels!

Me: What is your biggest fear?

Misti: Losing my parents. We are VERY CLOSE.

Me: Coke or Pepsi?

Misti: Coke. (I don’t really drink any soda, but I do prefer Coke!)

Me: If you could  listen to just one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Misti: “My Christmas Card to You” by the Partridge Family

Me: What’s the most important object you own?

Misti: Besides Milo, my dog; my favorite teddy bear “Pelly,” and my alto saxophone — I might say, my Grandma’s earrings. I wear them everyday.

Me: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Misti: I don’t really know? I guess I wish I was better at relaxing. I really don’t …

Me: What do you most dislike in others?

Misti: I have a real hard time with whiners and braggers. They turn me right off.

Me: What’s your favorite holiday movie, and why?

Misti: “Christmas Story”! For some reason, I love the narration style of this movie. I love the old music in the background and the old atmosphere they create. I love the acting from the boy who plays Ralphie. I love the gift of giving that comes from the Dad and how genuinely happy and grateful Ralphie is to receive his Red Rider BB Gun. The rest of my family strongly dislikes it … so I love loving it even more to spite them! I have several leg-lamp items too!

Me: What is your favorite saying?

Misti: “There is Always A Way. Always.”

Me: What are you most proud of?

Misti: I guess I’d have to say my work as a performer and teacher. I feel both “roles” come from a very natural and genuine place.

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