Nathan Irwin: Using His Voice for Work and Play

WCBU radio host and actor Nathan Irwin

By Amanda Stoll / Photography by Craig Stocks

For someone who talks for a living, you would think he would be interested in giving his vocal chords a rest on days off, but that’s not so for Nathan Irwin. His career in radio broadcasting brought him to Peoria to work at WCBU radio where he is the program director and an on-air host. But his interest in performance plays on in community theatre.

Nathan was born in upstate New York and moved quite a bit due to his father’s job with the State Department and his mother’s teaching career. He spent time living in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Pakistan.

He attended high school in North Dakota and began studying theatre at the University of North Dakota. After a year and a half, however, he switched his major and began studying political science.

Since 1994, he has been working in broadcasting. “I think that my stage background helped a little bit,” said Nathan. “I was used to things like projecting and enunciating and using my voice in a deliberate way.”

For Nathan, public radio is a way of communicating that is more important and meaningful than the top 40 stations.

“It is a way of doing radio that is intelligent, that is engaging intellectually,” he said. “In public radio there’s also an attention to the preforming arts that you don’t see a lot of elsewhere in broadcasting.”

His family plays a large part in his interest in theatre, which ties into his career in broadcasting. Nathan’s mother was a college voice professor, and his father sang in community theatre.

“I grew up with that as part of the atmosphere,” said Nathan, who still enjoys being involved with local theatre at Corn Stock Theatre and Peoria Players.

Work blends with his interest in theatre when he interviews local artists on the air during the weekly “Out and About” segment, which is hosted by Nathan and Suzette Boulais, Executive Director of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois.

“I have really come to enjoy it over the past few years,” said Nathan. “It means that I’m connecting on a regular basis with other artists, other people in the performing community.”

Performance has always been a part of Nathan’s life. Singing when he was young got him into theatre in high school, and then theatre in college. Even after changing his major and beginning his career, he still comes back to performing on stage.

“I had this impulse towards performance, which I get to play with in a small way when I’m on the radio,” said Nathan. “It tapped into that same basic need, psychologically, for me… Both the work I do as a broadcaster and my recreational activities as a performer, sort of connect and overlap in that sense.”

Some of his favorite shows to preform in were “The Twelfth Night” at Corn Stock Theatre, in which he played the part of Malvolio, and “Private Lives”, also at Corn Stock Theatre, in which he played the part of Elliot.

“It’s easy to play a nice guy,” he said, “but there’s a lot of fun to be had in playing an unlikable character to the best of your ability… I find the flaws in my characters more interesting than their virtuous traits.”

It’s really about being on the stage, and experiencing the performance from the other side for Nathan.

“I really love the opportunity to be engaged in this piece of art. Whether it’s a choral piece that I’m singing with a choir, or a really great play,” he said. “You can always listen to a symphony, you can always watch a play… but I find that it’s so much more pleasurable to be inside the performance, to be inside that experience.”

Keep track of all of the performances playing in Peoria by visiting the ArtsPartners website at and the Live Theatre League website at Both websites provide a calendar of events and offer the opportunity to sign up to receive a free newsletter.

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About Craig

I have a passion to create, and I'm fascinated with the tools and technologies of creativity. My process is to interpret the scene through a combination of camera position, light and post-processing to present my unique vision and share the emotion I feel.