WNC’s Mary Poppins opens next week
As the Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company celebrates its 25th anniversary with a long-awaited production of “Mary Poppins,” weekends, Nov. 6 through 21, the company is also reflecting on the impact it has made in Northern Nevada.
In addition to the high quality theatre that it has offered the region, many former student/performers have gone on to careers in Hollywood, on Broadway, in academia and more. But they haven’t lost the love of their forays into theater, dance and music at Western Nevada College. Director and Producer Stephanie Arrigotti, along with choreographer Gina Kaskie-Davis, have not forgotten them either.
As the curtain rises in Carson City, the regional company plans to honor the 50-plus performers who entertained many local audiences, and have gone on to professional careers in the arts.
Jennifer Martin is one of them.
“WNMTC solidified my love for theater,” said Martin, a theatre faculty administrator at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif. “A love that would lead me to my B.A. in Theatre, my M.F.A. in Acting, start a professional theater company and become an actor and teaching artist. Stephanie taught me that it only takes one person with a vision and a stubborn commitment to making dreams a reality to create community and to make stories come to life.”
After being transplanted to Northern Nevada via Southern California, Martin connected to Carson City immediately when she joined WNMTC productions in her youth. She was cast as a Boylan Sister in “Annie,” Mistress Mary in “Babes in Toyland,” Bet in “Oliver,” Minnie Fay in “Hello Dolly” and Cinderella in “Cinderella,” to name a few.
“WNMTC was pure magic,” Martin said. “It was a diverse family created from members of the surrounding community who loved stories and the process of creating. Stephanie created an atmosphere of excellence and acceptance. People worked hard because they loved theatre and because Stephanie wouldn’t let them get away with anything else.”
Enamored with dancing in middle school in the mid-1990s, Christina Bourne reminisced about how her friends talked her into auditioning for a WNMTC play. They didn’t have to ask her a second time.
“I landed a role and had the time of my life, and performed with the company all the way through high school,” said Bourne, who has taught in the Carson City School District since 2003 and currently is the music instructor at Mark Twain Elementary School. “I remember enjoying the magic of the stage and how as an actress or actor you get to go into another world and become another person. Then you share this magic with the audience and bring them into this story world, too.”
One former WNMTC youth cast member has reached the lights of Broadway. Chip Abbott performed in “Oliver” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” His assessment – “Stephanie was amazing and so good at pushing me to do roles I didn’t think I was right or ready for,” Abbott said.
Kaskie Davis, who has trained hundreds of local students in dance and choreography for years, was also an essential ingredient in his success.
“Growing up with Gina Kaskie Davis had a massive influence on the person I was to become,” Abbott said. “I am so thankful for the knowledge and preparation she gave me as a dancer. I see her in my choreography, my technique and my joy for dance.”
Abbott has since blended his contemporary and classical dancing background with musical theater and jazz dancing en route to a teaching and professional performing career in New York City. His hard work and perseverance ultimately has led to him serve as an assistant choreographer, dance coach and swing for the Broadway production of “On the Town.”
“It’s tough and not for the lighthearted,” Abbott said. “It’s a lot of work, consistently training; even when you are working, you are training. It takes a pretty tough skin. You go to a lot of auditions and it takes lot of noes before you get a yes.
“But I’m so happy when this happened and that I was old enough to really appreciate it. And I couldn’t be more proud of the show I made my Broadway debut in.”
Abbott’s theater credits include “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” “West Side Story,” “Never Gonna’ Dance,” “42nd Street,” “Hello Dolly” and “The 101 Dalmatians Musical.”
“A lot of shows that I did growing up, I’m doing now as a professional,” said Abbott, who developed his dancing skills at the Western Nevada Performing Arts Center in Carson City. “It definitely helps to know the back story and material, but if anything, it has a special place in my heart when I do a show that I’ve done before.”
Abbott also serves as a guest instructor at the Broadway Dance Center; an artist in residence at University of Central Oklahoma; and master instructor at Michigan State University, University of Tulsa and Oklahoma City University.
As of Oct. 13, Abbott began a national tour with Broadway’s “Cinderella” in Memphis, Tenn.
Former WNC student Sierra Scott earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Webster University. She moved to New York City and worked as a touring actor for 10 years. More recently, she transitioned into a career as a casting director in Los Angeles. She has been involved with several projects that hit home with most Americans, including the Clint Eastwood mega-hit movie “American Sniper” and the TV show “The Resurrection.” Scott’s latest venture is the TV program “The Family,” which airs on ABC in January.
“It’s a really hard industry to be in,” she said. “WNMTC was integral in giving me the confidence to pursue a career in the business. What I learned at WNMTC and the amazing support they give you when growing up and figuring out where your passions are, they were a huge part in why I was a working actor for so long, and able to transition into other parts of the industry.”
Scott joined WNMTC and performed with the company from middle school all the way through high school. Through such performances as “Annie” and “The Secret Garden,” she cultivated relationships that remain today.
“I’m actually close friends with a lot of kids who were with the company then,” Scott said. “The sense of community was amazing, and those are relationships that have stayed with me for years and years.”
Some of WNMTC’s youth performers come back home, such as Bourne. She’ll perform in WNMTC’s highly anticipated production of “Mary Poppins”.
“This company is unique,” said Bourne. There aren’t as many companies that are as professional as WNMTC,” As an adult, Bourne was selected as her school district’s teacher of the year in 2009 and the Rotary Club Teacher of the Year in 2010. “It is so outstanding that it is a launching pad for not only artists in this area, but there are so many who grew up in this company who have gone on to performing professionally.”
Even though Martin has lived on both sides of the country, there is no doubt in her mind where she feels most comfortable.
“When I come back into town, I realized that home, for me, is WNMTC,” Martin said. “It is a lighthouse to many lost youth and adults. It is a pillar of strength where people can come and feel a part of something and create something to give back to their friends and neighbors.”