She’s a nurse by day; actress by night

Since high school Betsy Norton has had an interest in music. She went on to get her degree in nursing and now she’s back on the local stage. This month she is busy rehearing for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s annual holiday show, “Yuletide.”

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

Ask Betsy Norton how acting has made her a better nurse and she’ll say: “Actually nursing has made me a better actress.”

Her life is a 50-50 split between nursing and acting.

A 2003 graduate of Mooresville High School she was a member of the school’s “Spotlighters,” a show choir with numerous competitions throughout the year. But her introduction to acting actually began in fourth grade when she performed in the Civic Theatre production of “Babes in Toyland.” She continued singing in school productions and even did some commercial work, until she started college at IU Bloomington.

“I had a few different majors my first year. I really like interacting with people and I had taken a lot of science classes so the beginning of my sophomore year I switched to nursing,” said Norton. “I think my communications skills are among my stronger points. In the nursing world I deal with a range of people with different diagnoses. I think that has carried over into acting. I meet so many people from different walks of life – everyone is going through something different.”

She started at IU Health North 11 years ago in surgery and now works in the general surgery patient care team with Dr. Attila Nakeeb. Her primary role is educating patients and serving as a point person before, and after surgery.

“I like the idea of having so many areas within nursing to choose from and this job gives me the flexibility to perform in theater,” said Norton. “It also helps that Dr. Nakeeb and his wife are huge supporters of the arts. We’re always talking about shows we want to see and they come to see most of my productions.”

In the past 10 years she has performed in a variety of musicals with Civic Theatre, the Phoenix, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre and the Actors Theatre of Indiana. Her musical productions include “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Bright Star,” a musical composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. She also performed in Phoenix Theater’s production of “Hotel Nepenthe” a play set in Hollywood’s golden era – about 19 characters that live and work around the Hotel Nepenthe. She was recently cast by one of Indianapolis’ newest company’s American Lives Theatre, for a modern thriller “Boy Gets Girl” that will be performed at Indy Fringe Theater in March.

This month she is in rehearsals for an Indianapolis seasonal favorite – the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s “Yuletide Celebration.” In its 34th year, the holiday musical includes such traditional numbers as the “Holly Jolly Dollies,” “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the “Tap Dancing Santas.” The production has a 28-show run beginning November 30. This is Norton’s second year to perform with the 40 plus member cast.

“I have eight incredible gowns that I get to wear. It’s a high energy performance that everyone looks forward to at the holidays,” said Norton.

More about Norton:

  • In April she married Ryan Ruckman, a theater teacher. They met at a show they did together during the Indy Fringe Festival. They were married on the Grand Hamilton Stage in the historic Neidhammer building. They have three dogs.
  • About nursing in the theater: She once helped calm someone down who suffered a panic attack brought on by stage fright. Another time she administered an allergy shot to a fellow cast member and she hastily ordered up Ibuprofen, ice and a wrap when she tore a calf muscle and hobbled off stage of a Civic production several years ago.
  • Her three favorite musicals: “Hamilton,” “Chicago,” and “Les Miserables.”