Meeuwsen Musical Tradition Continues in Bye Bye Birdie


Adison Karbon, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Mrs. Kate Meeuwsen, a member of the East DePere class of 1972, started a tradition of performing Bye Bye Birdie that has continued through her daughters Emily (‘97) and Ellen (‘20).

At that time, the musical was done through Abbot Pennings and traditionally only girls from St. Joseph’s Academy tried out for the female roles.

Meeuwsen, an alumna of East De Pere High School, “found the courage to try out in spite of the St. Joe’s tradition.”

“This was my very first musical and I got hooked immediately. I loved being on stage and loved the friendships that I made with people that were also interested in putting on a great show,” said Meeuwsen.

She participated in several more high school musicals at Pennings, summer music theatre at St. Norbert College, and eventually college productions.

Her musical career began with her roles as Nancy, one of the teens, and a member of the teen trio in Bye Bye Birdie.

“It was an outlet for my musical performance exploration. In addition, it was just great fun to be with all the kids for so many weeks of rehearsals,” said Meeuwsen.

Dudley Birder was the director at the time and “it was wonderful to work with someone that had such great passion and musical expertise.”

Her overall love for the stage continued her musical career into senior year where she was cast in Camelot.

“I was in the cast of Pennings’ Camelot my senior year and met a boy in the cast. I eventually married him,” said Meeuwsen.

She is now a retired music educator and is very busy with her family and their activities.

In the free time she does have, she loves to go to NYC and see great Broadway shows because “there is nothing quite like it.”

She is very involved in the NDA musical program, serving as the Bye Bye Birdie ticket sales chair along with her husband, Mike–that Pennings boy she met in Camelot.

She is also assisting “in formulating a marketing strategy to bring focus and interest in the musical among the school and community.”

“I would love to see the audience filled with students from NDA,” she said.