Small Talk: Area doctor and CAST member takes a year to explore New Zealand
by Donna Barton
Small Talk
Dec 07, 2013 | 1009 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On a year-long hiatus to New Zealand, Calhoun County doctor Jacquie Tessen went skydiving over Queenstown, New Zealand. INSET: Tessen and her instructor pose just before jumping. Submitted photo
On a year-long hiatus to New Zealand, Calhoun County doctor Jacquie Tessen went skydiving over Queenstown, New Zealand. INSET: Tessen and her instructor pose just before jumping. Submitted photo
Community Actors Studio Theatre rarely produces a show that isn’t stage managed by Jacquie Tessen. While everyone else tends to the onstage work, Tessen is behind the scenes gathering props, supervising set changes and hunting down lost actors when they miss their cue. In real life, things are no less hectic since Tessen is a medical doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I’m not sure how I got roped into stage managing, but I’ve come to love every minute of it,” Tessen said. “I enjoy the creativity and getting to work with our talented actors and singers.”

“Jacquie has spent countless hours and resources making every production the best it could be,” said Brooke Hunter, CAST’s scenic designer.

Producing Artistic Director Kim Dobbs agrees. “Dr. Jacquie is a treasure to us. A solid asset to our theatre.”

So imagine the director’s shock when she learned her resident stage manager was planning an extended hiatus.

Tessen had always dreamed of spending time abroad, so when she got the chance to work at a hospital in New Zealand for a year, she took it.

“My daughters were grown and gone, and I needed something just for myself,” she said. “And New Zealand was in need of doctors.”

While overseas, Tessen missed out on a full season of shows, including CAST’s first Shakespearean production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but she had her own share of unique experiences while living in the land of the kiwis.

“One day I went kayaking and snorkeling at Whale Island and on another day I wandered the grounds of Rivendell where ‘Lord of the Rings’ was filmed,” she said. A few weeks later, she was using a boogie board to body surf on the coast of the Pacific. “The water was freezing and my toes went numb, but I was having so much fun, I hardly noticed.”

Tessen especially enjoyed getting to know the island natives. Accustomed to seeing 25-30 patients a day back home, Tessen saw only 15 a day in New Zealand. “That gave me more time to spend with each one,” she said.

Away from work, Tessen explored the area with nature walks and road trips. “Learning to drive on the left side of the street was its own challenge,” she said. But she wasn’t always confined to a car on her excursions. One day she took a boat ride to an active volcano off the coast of the Bay of Plenty.

“Just as we were arriving, it erupted!” Tessen exclaimed. “They wouldn’t let us dock, but it was incredible to see something like that up close.”

The most memorable experience of the year, however, would have to be skydiving over the city of Queenstown. Tessen’s daughter, Alice Tessen, was visiting at the time.

“I let her talk me into it. It was my first time to skydive,” she said, “And probably my last.”

In celebration of Tessen’s homecoming, her significant other, Steve Campbell, planned a welcome-home party in her honor. The highlight of the menu was hot dogs.

“That was the one thing she couldn’t find in New Zealand — a good hot dog,” Campbell said with a laugh. “It was at the top of her request list when she got home.”

On Nov. 23, dozens of Tessen’s friends including Pat and Eric Bell, Jeff and Marianne Arensmeyer, Julie and Ted Facklam, Kareem and Carol Lane, Pat and Renee Stewart, Nancy Stewart-Kozak, Rosie and Doug Kidd as well as Kim Wingo and her daughter, Janah, gathered at The Rusty Nail — Tessen’s home near Eastaboga — for a good old-fashioned weenie roast.

Now that she’s back, Tessen will be donning her stethoscope and joining the Stringfellow Network. And, of course, she will also resume her position backstage at CAST, ready to open the curtain on even more life experiences.
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