News Column

One singular sensation [Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA)]

September 1, 2013

YellowBrix

Ireta, and to be supportive of her father, Charles SaLoutos, a retired professor of education at the University of Wisconsin- Platteville.

Knowing she wouldn't be able to find Actors Equity work in the tri-states, she had picked up a Master's degree in English and theater, planning to teach.

"It was wonderful to have the opportunity to come back," she said. Ireta, who died in 2010, taught language arts at Platteville Middle School for 30 years.

The days of caretaking were hard, but as others told her, "when you get to the other side of it, you won't regret it," she said. "And I've made a whole new collection of friends here and share that experience with students."

"You're the Top"

Ann Dillon Farrelly, co-artistic director at the UW- Platteville's summer Heartland Festival and associate professor of theater, said Furlan's resume came across through a mutual friend.

"We were very impressed," she said. "'Anything Goes' was her first show (for Heartland). She's game for anything and such a perfectionist. She works harder than anyone I know. She has a great attitude. And I consider her a really good friend. The students and everyone are lucky - I am lucky that she's here."

After years of performing in regional and touring productions, Furlan finds herself teaching speech and theater classes and dance for musical theater at UW-Platteville as well as dance at Clarke University. Often, she has a student who says, "You know, you sound just like my old middle school English teacher." That makes her smile.

"Teaching has been a way to give back," she said. It was a sad day when it was time for her to hang up the little black dress for the last time in a South Florida production of "Sweet Charity."

"But they let me keep the collapsible hat.

Susan Day was in school plays, as well as band, orchestra and choir with Furlan while the two were growing up in Platteville.

"She was a great student - very conscientious, full of energy and very positive," Day said. "She was also a hard worker. We all knew she was very, very talented and supported her musical journey.

"I don't know that I ever thought we'd move back," said Day, whose career path took her to North Carolina and an opera touring group, before she returned to Platteville. She is the musical director for many university productions, directs an opera workshop and teaches voice lessons.

"It's very special to work together again, but the more important thing is that Connie is a first-class teacher, artist and human being. You don't have to go to New York to find it. She's top notch."

In the most recent Heartland season, Day performed in and Furlan choreographed "Nunsense" and "Fiddler on the Roof." The first show they worked on together was "Anything Goes" - a show they also did in high school.

Farrelly said Furlan is so down to earth that cast members likely forget her theatrical pedigree.

David Schuler, also co-director of Heartland and associate professor of theater, describes himself as one of her biggest fans and gets a bit choked up when talking about her generous spirit.

"She is a top-notch professional," he said. "She's very demanding but extraordinarily positive and supportive."

Schuler, who came to Platteville from upstate New York, has had a chance to work with people who have Broadway credentials.

"By far she is the best I've ever encountered," said Schuler, who was Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" this summer, which Furlan choreographed. "She will not ask someone to do a move she can't do herself. It's always about the show. Everyone in the arts has an ego. But with Connie, it's about the work.

"She's that rare person that can figure out how to get the best out of everybody. All of her choreography is complex, with depth and layers. Also, she doesn't waste time. She comes prepared."

"They Can't Take That Away from Me"

Furlan and her husband recently went to New York City to take in some Broadway plays.

"That's what I do in my free time," she said. "I go see theater, to keep myself connected with my teachers and the agencies. That's what fuels me."

Locally, she likes to catch plays at the American Players Theater in nearby Spring Green, Wis. She credits Farrelly and Schuler with reinvigorating the Heartland Festival, which was forced to take a summer off last year for building renovations.

Furlan keeps tabs on high school and college theater productions as well as community theater. She choreographed "Little Shop of Horrors" in 2009 at Dubuque's Grand Opera House.

"Artistic interests are growing," she said. "I hope the community steps up" in attendance.

She enjoys encouraging her students to spread their wings, much as her parents did for her.

"I did it," she wants to show students. "You can pack your suitcase and go."

As for her, she said, "I choose to be happy."

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