By Jenny Schouppe
News Report Staff
Tracy Utz-Myers lives her life with the philosophy that “we get to live a lot of lives.”
According to Tracy, a 37-year-old that was raised in Effingham, she has been able to have many roles or “lives” in her lifetime that has allowed her to spend her life the way she wants while also making a difference.
“I always hope to keep moving through life, experiencing and learning everything I can,” explains Tracy. “I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of different things that I really enjoy. I want to make a difference in as many different places as I can. I feel that’s an exciting way to live life.”
This philosophy started at an early age for Tracy.
Tracy was born in April 1979 to Kevin and Kathy Utz. She has a sister, Aimee, and a brother, Michael. She attended Sacred Heart Grade School and then moved onto Effingham High School.
Growing up, Tracy’s mother was a 5th grade teacher in the Unit 40 school district and her father was a small business owner. “They seemed to know everyone.”
Tracy talks fondly about her childhood. Both of her parents are originally from Effingham, so Tracy grew up surrounded by family, who she claims “taught her all of life’s lessons.”
“My family taught me a lot of what it meant to be a part of a community,” remembers Tracy. “From an early age, I understood what community and family meant. My parents always encouraged shopping locally and giving back to the community. Whether it was involvement on the school board or in church, my family was heavily involved. My family’s active involvement makes me proud of where I come from.”
Other than being a daughter and sister, she had many other “lives” throughout her childhood.
She was a student. While in high school, Tracy enjoyed chemistry class. The lab environment was exciting for her and the chemical structure she learned every day “just really made sense.”
She adored Mrs. Kosterman, who taught rhetoric.
“I just remember her being very straight forward and honest,” explained Tracy.
Tracy was also an actor, athlete, dancer and musician throughout her high school years. She kept busy with extra-curricular activities, which provided her with many memories.
One of those memories was the “Water Cracker Club”.
“It was basically a group of us who would go to Niemerg's after play practices and sit around and drink water and eat crackers,” explained Tracy. “We would just have a fun time hanging out.”
Tracy then soon took on the role as a college student when she graduated from EHS in 1997. She attended Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville where she received a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies.
According to Tracy, she admits she never really thought of pursuing a career in theatre. Though she loved theatre in high school, she never thought she could make it a career.
“I was so bad at theatre while in high school,” Tracy confessed. “But the great thing about college is that you get to redefine yourself. I spent my time at college doing theatre very differently than I did in high school.”
She originally went to college to become a teacher, but on the orientation day she was asked about her major and she would just tell people her major was theatre.
“I didn’t even really know why I said it was theatre,” said Tracy. “It just kind of fell out of my mouth.”
Looking back, Tracy does not regret her slip of the tongue moment.
During her time in college, she also took on the life of an intern at The Muny, short for The Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis, the outdoor musical amphitheater located in Forest Park.
She spent three years interning at the theatre before receiving the chance to be the Production Manager.
“I felt that at the time, I was highly-underqualified,” Tracy laughed. “I ended up taking the position and within two weeks, I realized that this is what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like I had a sense of direction in my life.”
As a Production Manager, Tracy oversaw all the different departments and refers to her position as “the no person.”
“We try to meet the vision of the creators and designers within the time limit and budget. I don’t like to necessarily say ‘no’ all the time. I like to say ‘we can’t do that but we can do this,’” explained Tracy.
Tracy enjoyed the production manager position for four years, until she had the urge to try a different life.
“I thought to myself how I would love to be in the position for a long time, but I also wanted to see how other theatres worked,” said Tracy.
Over the next few years, Tracy had a hard time remembering all the different “lives” she lived.
She held jobs as an event planner, did design work, worked for Home Depot, cleaned houses, worked in other theatres such as the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville.
It was during this time that Tracy found two of her favorite “lives” that she gets to enjoy every day. The life of a mom and wife are two she never plans on leaving. Tracy met her husband, Jason Myers, in St. Louis and they soon welcomed two little girls who are now two and five years old.
Since taking on the role as mom and wife, she has applied the same lessons she learned in Effingham to her own parenting.
“We volunteer and support our girl’s school community similar to how my parents supported the community of Effingham,” explained Tracy. “Even in a big city, we still want to do good for our community and we have been lucky to have found a community where we feel at home.”
From there, Tracy ended up returning to the The Muny sooner than later to resume her position as Production Manager.
“I knew I could do this job better than the first time,” Tracy admits. “I knew I could make a bigger difference at the theatre. We have a great time making the theatre successful and I think our hard work is seen through the productions that occur at the theatre.”
Tracy now spends her time preparing for the summer line-up which consists of seven different Broadway-styled musicals, which are performed in 10 weeks.
According to Tracy, she is proud of the work she has done as the Production Manager. But like she has done for her entire life, this job is just another “life” that she’ll embrace until she feels it is time to move onto the next.
“I enjoy my job. I work with amazing people who really become like a family,” explained Tracy. “It is not the easiest job and it definitely requires a lot of effort and time. But I hope to be here for another five to 10 years to see The Muny through its 100th year and have a hand in planning the next 100 years. But I’m sure I’ll move on and have a different experience somewhere else.”
Though Tracy has experienced many “lives” so far, it’s still the lessons she learned and foundation she established in Effingham that she takes with her wherever she goes.
“I learned how to work hard and that I could do whatever job I wanted to make money for myself,” expressed Tracy. “It was my family who instilled those values in me that I now bring with me and try to instill into every aspect of my life. I work hard and give back to the community in which I feel at home in.”