Fargo Roots, “Rigoletto” and Big Dreams: Catching Up With Fargo-born Director, Austin Regan

Fargo-Moorhead is fortunate to have vibrant arts and culture that give community members of all ages abundant opportunities to be creative.

For many people, their artistic experiences throughout Fargo-Moorhead often set the foundation for their future careers as artists, actors, filmmakers or directors — whether they stay in the area or take their talents to other cities.

Lots of artists working all over the globe can trace their roots back to the Red River Valley, and one of which is New York based director, Austin Regan.

Regan, who grew up in Fargo, has an expansive resume that includes directing plays and musicals all over the United States — particularly New York City (you know, the home of Broadway), where he has lived the last decade. Regan’s latest endeavor is working as the Stage Director for the Minnesota Opera’s production of “Rigoletto” opening this weekend in Saint Paul.

We had the privilege of chatting with Mr. Regan about his Fargo roots, “Rigoletto” and the both “thrilling and terrifying” career path as a professional artist living in New York City.

Like many of his fellow performing arts colleagues, Regan attributes much of his success to the artistic opportunities offered in his hometown.

Austin Regan. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera.

Growing up, Regan took every opportunity he could to be creative. He played piano and guitar, wrote fantasy novels for fun, sung in the FM Opera chorus and attended Trollwood Performing Arts School from 1999-2003.

“For me, (the Fargo-Moorhead arts community) was absolutely what gave me the idea that I could have a career in the arts,” Regan says.

His interest in opera stems from taking classical singing classes with David Hamilton, the current general director of the FM Opera. He acted in multiple performances during his time at Trollwood, but after he moved to the east coast to study theatre at the Boston Conservatory in the early 2000s, he realized how much he loved to direct.

“I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” Regan says.

After he graduated college, Regan moved to New York City where he has directed numerous stage productions in different venues all over the city. He’s even worked as an assistant director for Tony Award-winning director, Michael Mayer (the New York Times published a fun article of how this happened a few years back).

Now, he’s excited to be close to home for Minnesota Opera’s “Rigoletto,” a production set in a totalitarian regime reminiscent of George Orwell’s “1984.”

“The reason (“Rigoletto”) is still a masterpiece is because it has something to offer every time period,” Regan says. “The opera is one of those wells that we can keep going back to because of its richness. As director, my job is to make any production feel as exciting and relevant as I possibly can.”

Costume renderings for Minnesota Opera’s “Rigoletto.” Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera.

More information on the production is available on the Minnesota Opera website.

During the phone interview, Regan acknowledged that it’s hard to make it as an artist – especially in New York City.

“It requires a lot of bravery and persistence, but it can be the most rewarding thing in the world,” Regan says. “You face a lot of rejection, but it’s important to not let yourself become bitter on the journey. You have to find gratitude for the ability we have to make art and surround yourself with a community of artists that support one another.”

That applies to any community, whether it’s big or small, he adds.

But he offers advice to local youth who share a similar dream that his younger self had as a performer in Fargo-Moorhead:

“Much of it is a mixture of luck, circumstance and timing,” he says. “However, I think the world is in great need of young, hungry, ferociously talented artists who have something to say and are interested telling stories that can inspire people.”

Thanks for catching up with us, Austin! For more information on Austin Regan, visit www.austinregan.nyc.

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