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    Posted May 14, 2010

The Roger Sturtevant Award

Equity Membership Candidates Jessica Taige and Isaac Benelli Win 2010 Roger Sturtevant Award

Actors' Equity is pleased to announce that Jessica Taige and Isaac Benelli are the recipients of the sixth annual Roger Sturtevant Musical Theatre Awards, named for the beloved casting director who passed away in 2003. The award is given to Equity Membership Candidates (EMCs) who have demonstrated outstanding abilities in the field of musical theatre. The award consists of a certificate accompanied by a $1000 check.

Sturtevant Award winner Jessica Taige

Jessica Taige has been interested in theater since the third grade. "My mother always tells me the story of when we went to see SCROOGE at the Davis Discovery Center in Columbus, OH. Supposedly, I turned to her after the show ended and said that that was what I was going to do with the rest of my life. She helped me and supported me in my theatrical endeavors ever since, and clearly, the dream has yet to change."

Inspired by SCROOGE, Jessica began auditioning at age 8, and after three years of rejection was finally cast in her first production. "The show was called THE LAST CHRISTMAS CAROL by David Meyers and I played the role of Ensemble/Stage Hand Billie. It was a small part but I didn't care. I got to be on stage and even had a solo, which was extremely exciting."

While remembering her first audition is somewhat vague, Jessica definitely remembers when she was cast in a production at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre West in Mesa, Arizona. "I think my favorite role thus far would have to be Esther in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Esther is just so spunky, and to be honest, I found quite a bit of myself in her. This lighthearted and uplifting story takes you back to a happier, simpler time; being able to see the audience during curtain-call as they sang along while tears slowly ran down their smiling faces made the entire experience extremely fulfilling. It meant so much to see that I played a part in making their day a little bit brighter, that I was able to affect them in some way. Couple that with a fantastic cast and you get a taste of what made that show and role so wonderful."

When asked if there are any characters she is eager to play, Jessica replied: "There are so many! However, for some reason Millie in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE really sticks out. But most roles originated by Julie Andrews or Sutton Foster are at the top of my list."

Jessica is extremely honored to receive the Roger Sturtevant Award. "Musical Theater is my passion and I am always striving to better myself and continue to grow in my craft. This award is a confirmation that all my hard work is not in vain. It makes me want to keep working and learning to see how much more I can grow and how much further I can go."

Jessica just finished performing as Esther in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster, PA. She is currently a "new" New York resident and plans on auditioning and participating in dance, acting and voice classes/workshops until her next contract at the Merry-Go-Round Theater in October.

Sturtevant Award winner Isaac Benelli

Isaac Benelli has been interested in musical theater for about 4 years. His first musical theater audition was for WEST SIDE STORY at San Francisco State University. "It was my third show! The first two were operas and there wasn't really an audition. They basically told me I was playing "Messenger" and "Man in Armor" and I said ok. One of my friends told me I should audition for WSS and I told him I was busy helping another friend move. He insisted so I called my friend, who was moving, and he said he could go without my help. I had never seen a musical let alone auditioned for one. Doing musicals was the farthest thing from my mind. We had to sing Maria. I had never heard of the song before. I ended up getting the role of "Tony" and I fell in love with theater."

Isaac has performed in such shows as THE WHO'S TOMMY, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, but his first production of WEST SIDE STORY remains his favorite thus far. "Not only was it my first musical, and what a first musical, it was also one of the best all around cast and crews that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Also, even now, four years later, it's hard to find a more complete show than WSS. Timeless story and beautiful music!"

Isaac would love to play "Fabrizio" in LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA if given the opportunity.

While working at his day job, Isaac received the phone call that he had received the 2010 Roger Sturtevant Award. "I really didn't know what to say. I was just so happy. I didn't really think I would win, I mean of course I was hoping but… I just wanted to be able to put myself out there and be seen."

This award doesn't just mean a lot to Isaac. His family couldn't be happier for him. "I had a very late start in theater but once I found it I knew this was what I was supposed to do. Me and my wife both work full time and we have a three year old son. It has been a difficult road over the last few years trying to balance pursuing theater and being a good husband and father. My wife has been my constant support and has always believed that I have a future in theater. Receiving this award has been such a validation of all of the hard work and sacrifices her and I have made. It has given me a fresh hope and drive to pursue my dreams to one day make a living and provide for my family doing what I love."


Award pages:

Arizona Theatre Service
Diversity on Broadway

Roger Sturtevant began a show business career as box office treasurer (and sometimes as casting director) for summer theaters in the northeast, including the New London Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire and the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome, PA. On Broadway he served as assistant treasurer in several theater box offices, including the Winter Garden during the original run of Follies, his favorite musical. After his passing, Roger’s family contacted Equity’s Foundation to set up the award. Jane Sturtevant Johnson notes, “Inspired by the many expressions of gratitude and heartfelt appreciation, we are proud and happy to announce the establishment of an award in Roger’s name to be given to talented new actors and actresses in the musical theatre.”

The award was established in 2005 and is supported by donations from Roger's friends and family.

Recipients of the Roger Sturtevant Award are:

Year Recipient
2005 Meegan Midkiff
Nick Verina
2006 Erin Driscoll
John Pinto
2007 Janine Romano
Scott Reardon
2008 Chelsea Cree Groen
Ricardo Rust
2009 Kalyn Hemphill
Aaron Reeder
2010 Jessica Taige
Isaac Benelli
2011 Dayna Dantzler
Edward Miskie
2012 Emelie Faith Thompson
Matthew Elliott
2013 Katie Wesler
Robert Ariza
2014 Amelia Millar
Daniel Hines
2015 Amanda Hartley Urteaga
Nichalas Parker
2016 Jasmine Easler
Antonio LeRoy King

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