They have gone on to careers in Hollywood, on Broadway, in academia and more, but they havenâ€™t lost the love of their forays into theater, dance and music with the Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company of Western Nevada College. Director and Producer Stephanie Arrigotti, along with choreographer Gina Kaskie-Davis, havenâ€™t forgotten them either.
As the WNMTC celebrates its 25th anniversary with the production of â€œMary Poppins,â€ in Carson City on weekends, Nov. 6 through 21, 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.
â€œWNMTC solidified my love for theater,â€ said Martin, a theatre faculty administrator at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif. â€œA 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.â€
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 â€œAnnie,â€ Mistress Mary in â€œBabes in Toyland,â€ Bet in â€œOliver,â€ Minnie Fay in â€œHello Dollyâ€ and Cinderella in â€œCinderella,â€ to name a few.
â€œWNMTC was pure magic,â€ Martin said. â€œIt 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 wouldnâ€™t let them get away with anything else.â€
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 didnâ€™t have to ask her a second time.
â€œI landed a role and had the time of my life, and performed with the company all the way through high school,â€ said Bourne, who has taught in the Carson City School District since 2003 and currently is the music instructor at Mark Twain Elementary School. â€œI 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.â€
One former WNMTC youth cast member has reached the lights of Broadway. Chip Abbott performed in â€œOliverâ€ and â€œCharlie and the Chocolate Factory.â€ His assessment – â€œStephanie was amazing and so good at pushing me to do roles I didnâ€™t think I was right or ready for,â€ 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.
â€œGrowing up with Gina Kaskie Davis had a massive influence on the person I was to become,â€ Abbott said. â€œI 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.â€
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 â€œOn the Town.â€
â€œItâ€™s tough and not for the lighthearted,â€ Abbott said. â€œItâ€™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.
â€œBut Iâ€™m so happy when this happened and that I was old enough to really appreciate it. And I couldnâ€™t be more proud of the show I made my Broadway debut in.â€
Abbottâ€™s theater credits include â€œJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,â€ â€œThe Radio City Christmas Spectacular,â€ â€œWest Side Story,â€ â€œNever Gonnaâ€™ Dance,â€ â€œ42nd Street,â€ â€œHello Dollyâ€ and â€œThe 101 Dalmatians Musical.â€
â€œA lot of shows that I did growing up, Iâ€™m doing now as a professional,â€ said Abbott, who developed his dancing skills at the Western Nevada Performing Arts Center in Carson City. â€œIt 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 Iâ€™ve done before.â€
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 Broadwayâ€™s â€œCinderellaâ€ 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 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 â€œAmerican Sniperâ€ and the TV show â€œThe Resurrection.â€ Scottâ€™s latest venture is the TV program â€œThe Family,â€ which airs on ABC in January.
â€œItâ€™s a really hard industry to be in,â€ she said. â€œWNMTC 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.â€
Scott joined WNMTC and performed with the company from middle school all the way through high school. Through such performances as â€œAnnieâ€ and â€œThe Secret Garden,â€ she cultivated relationships that remain today.
â€œIâ€™m actually close friends with a lot of kids who were with the company then,â€ Scott said. â€œThe sense of community was amazing, and those are relationships that have stayed with me for years and years.â€
Some of WNMTCâ€™s youth performers come back home, such as Bourne. Sheâ€™ll perform in WNMTCâ€™s highly anticipated production of â€œMary Poppinsâ€.
â€œThis company is unique,â€ said Bourne. There arenâ€™t as many companies that are as professional as WNMTC,â€ As an adult, Bourne was selected as her school districtâ€™s teacher of the year in 2009 and the Rotary Club Teacher of the Year in 2010. â€œIt 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.â€
Even though Martin has lived on both sides of the country, there is no doubt in her mind where she feels most comfortable.
â€œWhen I come back into town, I realized that home, for me, is WNMTC,â€ Martin said. â€œIt 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.â€
Former WNMTC Youth Stars Now Employed in the Arts
1. Chip Abbott: Broadway performer and associate choreographer
2. Andie Anderson: High school drama instructor, company director – Carson City
3. Rachel Anderson: Professional dancer – Atlantic City
4. David Arrigotti: Theatrical agent – Hollywood
5. Maria Arrigotti: College music instructor and professional soloist – Reno
6. Cade Ball: National tours
7. Alex Biber: Professional dancer – Sacramento
8. Ann Libby Black: Grants administrator – Nevada Arts Council
9. Christina Bourne: Elementary school music instructor, professional soloist – Carson City
10. Emzy Burroughs: Musical theatre performer – cruise lines
11. Suzy Cassidy: Professional dancer, New York, Los Angeles
12. Jen Coogan: Professional musician – San Francisco
13. Alyssa Corda: Dance instructor – Reno
14. Grant Davis: Movie Actor – San Diego
15. Haley Davis: Dance instructor – Carson City
16. Suzie Elias: Music videos – Los Angeles
17. Hana Freeman: Musical theatre performer – national tours
18. Morgan Gillott: Professional dancer and performer
19. Whitney Giron: Professional dancer – Las Vegas