Louise "Frieda" Bormann
One of the icons among South High School teachers is retiring once school lets out for the summer.
That’s Louise Bormann, who has directed roughly 40 theater productions at the school, while teaching language and arts classes there for more than 20 years.
Bormann may not be as well-known as some of her acting alumni. They include such local stage stalwarts as Nathan Keepers and Emily Gunyou Halaas, plus Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook, who went on to movies.
Why did she get into teaching more than 35 years ago? “I was born that way, to quote Lady Gaga,” the Bloomington resident said. Several relatives taught, including her mother and sister. “ It was kind of a calling,” she said.
She began teaching in Freeman, S.D., a town with a population about 500 fewer students than South’s enrollment of more than 1,800 students. Among her students there was Steve Epp, who went on act with Keepers in Theatre de la Jeune Lune and elsewhere.
Bormann moved next to Pierre, S.D. where Carla Bates, now a Minneapolis school board member was one of her students. “She had us reading Moliere out there in the middle of the Dakota plains,” Bates said. “Her commitment to educational theater was really wild.”
Bormann got the theater bug after her mother put a small stage in the basement of the family house. She was a double major in theater and English at small Yankton College. Her class list at South ranged from the basics to the arts, including literature, mass media, film, humanities, theater, grammar, acting, playwriting, composition, dance and creative writing.
Although she labels South as “awesome” and teaching as “the greatest life anybody could have,” Bormann also saw the profession changing in ways she doesn’t like. “I would prefer not to teach from a script,” she said. “There’s too much testing and not enough conversations.”
She has no grand retirement plans, planning to just hang out, and finally finish a play script.
No tale about Bormann would be complete without the story of how she got the nickname that a generation of students has known her by: Frieda. She confessed that she’s old-fashioned enough to prefer that her students not call her by her first name, a common practice at some of South’s feeder schools. One day, when she wore her hair longer and in braids, a German exchange student dubbed her a Frieda. The name stuck.
“I am going to put it on my tombstone,” she vowed.