Ann Aiko Bergeron’s Life is Filled with Theatre, World Travel, Animal Training and Competitions

DD ARTIST PROFILE SERIES - Ann Aiko Bergeron - Director and choreographer for Duluth Playhouse production of "9 to 5 The Musical" July 12-28

One of Ann’s home-away-from-home is backstage, getting ready for another show. Photo submitted.

Ann Bergeron has lived an exciting life, always busy with theatre, dance, teaching, travel, and dogs. Born in Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California, she started being involved in theatre in high school in variety of roles, including as an actress, dancer, choreographer, and as a director.

“I have pictures and videos from my parents that are evidence that I was dancing and singing long before high school,” Ann said. “I enjoyed doing it all, but at the time I didn’t think of it as a career path. When it came time to choose a college major, it was what my passion was, so I took the dance path.”

After graduating with a BA and MFA in dance, she taught for a few years, and realized how much she missed the collaborative nature of theatre. So she went back to school to get an MFA in Drama/Directing.

Cast members in “Crazy for You” at UMD included Ann’s dog, Ninja. Photo submitted.

After getting her job at UMD, in her 33 years there, she directed or both directed and chorographed 44 shows, choreographed for another 12, and choreographed 29 concert dance works.

“My husband Brad and I came to Duluth in 1986 thinking we’d stay five years or so…well, here we are, and this is home. We live on Lake Superior. The artistic community is vibrant and growing.  We have space, clean air, and water. The rest of the world can be explored by a 20-minute drive to the airport. And I have good UGG boots to get me through the winter,” she noted.

Teaching by Sharing

Ann said, “Along with being a creative artist, I always loved teaching. But I actually do not think of it as teaching, rather, the privilege of getting to continue to grow by sharing with others. I always loved school, so it was pretty wonderful to continue to be a student. The rewards were infinite.”

Of her career at UMD, Ann said, “Being able to work with students for four years meant seeing real growth. And honestly, they became family.”

“Beyond the classroom, the most rewarding thing for me during my academic career was the opportunity to open the world up to some of the students. I traveled with them to Hungary, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Finland, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, and Cyprus. Those are some of my fondest memories.”

A Distinguished Career

Among many awards and recognition, Ann is a Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor of Theatre and a two-time Fulbright-Hays Seminar awardee, representing American dance and theatre educators both in the People’s Republic of China and in India.

While in India for a Fulbright-Hays Seminar, Ann had the great honor of meeting Mother Theresa, a few months before she passed. Photo submitted.

Ann was recognized as a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival National Teaching Artist. She was also the recipient of the Albert Tezla Teacher/Scholar Award and of a Lifetime Artist Award from the Depot Foundation’s Circle of Friends.

Travel as the Best Classroom

Finishing up what Ann calls an “extreme last two years of travel,” she explained that she has been to Brazil, Canada, Italy, Greece twice, Mexico twice, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Turkey, Alaska, Qatar, Thailand, Laos, Bhutan, Nepal, Panama,

Colombia, UK twice, Belgium, Sweden, Ecuador, and Chile

Ann stated, “Travel is a way for me to stay in ‘beginner’s mind,’ to see the world with fresh eyes and an open heart and mind.”

While in Bali, Ann studied mask carving. Photo submitted.

She has recently officially qualified for the Travelers’ Century Club, by visiting 100 countries and territories. She said she is not done yet, with so much more to explore.

“I enjoy finding ways to visit a country and learn a new skill or be a part of a local celebration. My latest fun journeys were to Benin for the Voodoo Festival and Nepal for Kukur Tihar (where dogs are honored and celebrated). Some challenging learning travels include studying Taiko Drumming on Sado island in Japan, traditional drumming and dancing in Guinea, and mask carving and shadow puppetry in Bali.”

Four-Legged “Students”

“I am kind of obsessed with dogs, Ann said. “When I was a child we had Silky Terriers. I recently found some very old film footage of me ‘training’ one of them when I was about 5 years old. I know I didn’t have a clue, but there was the dog, doing tricks!”

Ann with her dog Banzai as he prepares to dock dive. Photo submitted.

“My husband Brad and I adopted our first dog, an Irish Terrier, when we moved into a real house with a yard. After that, an Airedale, and now we have our third Border Terrier. The Borders are like a big dog in a small package.”

Ann and two of her prize-winning dogs are proud of all their ribbons. Photo submitted.

“I’ve done a lot of dog sports with them as they are incredibly versatile!” She added, “Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of any of my dogs is that my second Border Terrier, Banzai, was inducted into the AKC North America Diving Dogs Hall of Fame. He was a little dog with an indomitable spirit! My first Border Terrier, Ninja, was my artist dog, and performed in two of the musicals I directed.”

Ann is also a certified teacher and leader in clicker training with dogs and a variety of other animals, a method of training for a variety of positive behaviors She also hit upon the idea of “TagTeach” clicker use with her dance students; they loved it and found it helpful in their dance studies. Ann has taught workshops and written about Tag Teaching, sharing the techniques with other dance teachers, choreographers, and animal trainers.

Ann enjoys working with a goat on clicker training at  THE RANCH: KAREN PRYOR NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER. Photo submitted.

“9 to 5 The Musical”

Ann is currently directing the Playhouse’s summer show “9 to 5 the Musical.” She explained, “At first, my goal with the show was purely to entertain. But that has changed dramatically. I believe that Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin had a mission when they first created the movie to weave some serious social issues into a commercially successful package of entertainment.”

She added, “The 9 to 5 movement was an historical movement that bears recognition. ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ catapults the issues through humor, camp, music, and dance, and we hope the audience leaves with a spark of empowerment and/or impetus for change.”

“I have worked with several of the cast before. Seven of them are former UMD students and after you see the show, you will know why I am absolutely over the moon to work with them again! I’m just excited to be able to share the show with the public, and to stand tall with artistic pride and joy, hand in hand, with such an amazing cast,” Ann said.

Actress Alyson Enderle has worked with Ann on several productions, including the current show in rehearsal at the Playhouse, “9 to 5 The Musical.”

Enderle said, “Ann gives you a lot of freedom as an actor because she understands how important play and discovery are in the artistic process . . .

I believe, her non-judgmental attitude and her passion for telling a story creatively and with a lot of honesty is what keeps bringing us together. We share a lot of the same values, and she also just has so much trust in her actors.”

Information for “9 to 5 the Musical”
“9 to 5 The Musical”
Director and choreographer Ann Aiko Bergeron
Music & Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick

Performances July 12-28 at the Duluth Playhouse  211 E. Superior Street
Thursdays – Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Saturday Matinee on July 13 at 2pm
Sunday Matinee on July 21 and 28 at 2pm
Audio Description: July 13 @ 2pm (Paul Ranelli)
ASL Interpretation: July 26 @ 7:30pm (Interpreters: Rebecca Rick & Emily Engel)

Tickets available online at Box office hours 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. For more information, call 218-733-7555 or visit:

From the Duluth Playhouse website: “An unpredictable story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era, ‘9 to 5 The Musical’ is an outrageous look at the life of the ‘working woman.’ Pushed to the boiling point, three unlikely friends take control of their office and learn there is nothing they can't do. With jubilant music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, this hilarious, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic Broadway hit is based on the iconic 1980 movie.”


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