For 2012 alumna Caitlyn Larsen, work means playing with fire.
Larsen is a stuntwoman for “Marvel Universe LIVE!,” a live-action stunt show featuring characters from Marvel storylines. Larsen plays Nebula, a character from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“I basically grew up and decided I was going to keep playing with toys for a living,” Larsen said.
Trained in eight different forms of weaponry, including fire fans, pyroswords, and staff, Larsen is part of the United Stuntmen’s Association, the Advanced Actor Combatant in the Society of American Fight Directors, and has an orange belt in Filipino stick fighting.
A typical day for Larsen begins when she arrives at the theater at 9 a.m. and prepares for the first show of the day. On Saturdays, Larsen performs in three separate shows.
“It’s really taxing on the body,” Larsen said. “I take a solid beating every show.”
“Marvel Universe LIVE!” features over 25 Marvel characters in a live stunt show centered around a plot bringing characters from all storylines together. The show is currently touring the nation with around 150 cast and crew members.
“Each city has its own flavor,” Larsen said. “Each city is distinct and notable when you see them back-to-back.”
Larsen said her favorite city has been Denver.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of entertainment industry there, otherwise I would move there in a heartbeat,” she said.
Touring 36 cities in a year brings the cast and crew together, Larsen said.
“There’s not a lot of privacy,” Larsen said. “It make a very tight family environment.”
While at Hillsdale, Larsen double-majored in economics and theater.
“She was a good student and a very fun, upbeat person,” associate professor of economics Charles Steele said in an email. “I am pleased to see her successful in such an interesting career.”
Steele said he saw signs of Larsen being a stunt woman early and even loaned her some exercise equipment when she showed an interest in it.
“We were talking about fitness training after class, and I started going on about kettlebells. Caitlyn was interested so I loaned her my kettlebell video with Pavel Tsatsouline, the Russian kettlebell expert,” Steele said. “She seemed to get a kick out of it. But I think she the loaned it to Dr. Blackstock, and I never saw it again. Yet it was worth it if it helped her get where she is today.”
Steele said he looks forward to any potential visits.
“She has promised me that in one of her future visits to Hillsdale, she will train the Econ faculty in stage combat and pyrotechnics,” Steele said. “I can hardly wait. The rest of the campus better watch out.”
Larsen said the diversity of the theater program helped her understand the jobs of — and get along with — members of both cast and crew.
“You have to work all five of the spectrums of theater,” she said. “I’ve been able to get along really well with crew because I recognize their jobs as well.”
Carly Hubbard ‘16, Larsen’s sister and the owner of local coffee shop Rough Draft, said she had never really seen a show like her sister’s.
“I was so impressed and nervous watching her,” Hubbard said. “I try to avoid any and all bodily danger and she’s the opposite.”
Hubbard said she was especially impressed because when she saw the show, Larsen had recently sustained a wrist injury. Hubbard added that although most of her relationship with her sister is currently long-distance because of Larsen’s traveling schedule, it’s been exciting to watch.
“Caitlyn is so courageous and bold and fierce that the last thing I ever want to do is get in the way of what she’s passionate about,” Hubbard said.
Larsen said her Hillsdale education prepared her for more than her career in entertainment, though.
“They absolutely gave me the ability to be a real human being,” she said. “Hillsdale teaches you to be a real community player.”
Larsen views her job as more than just stunts, though.
“Art is an important medium that can favorably impact society,” she said. “If one day I can make a message that can impact the world…that’s a life goal.”