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    Posted June 3, 2013

The Roger Sturtevant Award

Equity Membership Candidates Katie Wesler and Robert Ariza Win 2013 Roger Sturtevant Musical Theatre Award

The Actors' Equity Foundation is pleased to announce Katie Wesler and Robert Ariza are the recipients of the ninth 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 $1,000 check.

Katie Wesler

Katie Wesler was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama studied musical theatre at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). She has been interested in musical theater since she was in third grade. "My parents took me to see the National Tour of LES MISERABLES, and as soon as the show ended, they say that I immediately announced that I was going to do that show someday. And "someday" has arrived as it's one of the shows I'm doing this summer."

Katie's first audition was for OLIVER when she was six years old. "I remember being nervous, yet I was told "great job" by the director. I recall loving the positive encouragement especially when there were so many bigger kids at the audition. I got the role of the Artful Dodger, so yes, my first role was playing a boy."

Her favorite role thus far has been playing Peggy Sawyer in 42nd STREET. "It's the life that any dancer would want-a young girl moves to New York, wanting to book a job in the chorus and ends up as the lead in a Broadway show! Plus, the choreography included some incredible tap numbers."

There are so many characters that she is eager to play: "Cosette in LES MISERABLES; and several dancing roles including Charity in SWEET CHARITY or actually anything Fosse would be a dream; Kathy in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN; and Katherine in NEWSIES. Later in life I hope to do A CHORUS LINE as I'm such a Cassie wanna-be."

Katie was on the treadmill at the gym when the call came about winning the award and she saw the New York area code pop up on her phone. "I actually laughed and said "Broadway's calling!" I answered it thinking it was going to be a telemarketer, but once I was told it was in regard to Actors' Equity, I really felt that 'Broadway' had called. It was the best reason to step off that treadmill and bag the rest of the workout."

This summer Katie will be a Resident Company member at Music Theatre of Wichita in their productions of SPAMALOT, LES MISERABLES, THE KING AND I, BETTY BLUE EYES, and MARY POPPINS. "I'm excited to be a part of these productions and I'm thrilled to have received this award and honored to become a part of the Roger Sturtevant legacy."

Robert Ariza

Robert Ariza grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens and attended LaGuardia Arts High School as a Vocal Major. After studying Voice and Drama at the Aaron Copland School of Music at CUNY Queens College, he transferred to the University of Michigan for Musical Theatre where he will graduate in 2014. Robert has been interested in musical theater since the summer before his freshman year of high school. "My aunt took me to see my first Broadway show: DRACULA. However, I didn't "know" I wanted to pursue musical theatre until I saw WEST SIDE STORY during my freshman year at LaGuardia Arts H.S. That show changed everything for me."

Robert's first audition was that same summer. "The local community theatre group was doing FOOTLOOSE, and I had no idea what it was or what I had to sing, so I sang "Piano Man" by Billy Joel. I even brought in a harmonica for the intro of the song." He was cast in the ensemble of this production.

Robert has played many roles that he has loved. "They are ALL my favorite! But, since I have to choose: ONE of my favorite roles was Jaime in THE LAST FIVE YEARS. It was a huge step for me as a performer, and it was so much fun to delve into (not to mention being able to sing that glorious score!). ONE of my favorite shows that I have been in is HAIR. I did this show my sophomore year of high school at LaGuardia, and it really changed me. I felt like I completely transformed into someone else whenever I rehearsed or performed in that show. I saw the world very differently after that production. I learned a lot about myself and I did a lot of growing up during that time because of it. Again, just to re-iterate: I do not pick favorites. Ever."

Robert heard about the Roger Sturtevant Award from his mentor and professor at University of Michigan, Mark Madama. "After getting my EMC card over the summer, I was encouraged to apply by some of the faculty and Equity Councillor Judy Rice." He received the phone call to let him know he won, from Anne Fortuno, Foundation Coordinator, while he was at home. "I was home alone in my living room, and I was practically dancing around the room while still on the phone. This award is truly one of the greatest honors I have ever received. This award means that I am not making a mistake pursuing my dreams. This award means I can take a breath and not pinch pennies as desperately as before. This award is proof that hard work and perseverance DOES pay off!"

Coincidentally, this summer Robert, along with co-winner Katie Wesler, will be performing in the resident ensemble of Music Theatre of Wichita in LES MISERABLES (June 26-30), THE KING AND I (July 10-14), BETTY BLUE EYES (July 24-28), and MARY POPPINS (August 9-11 & 14-18).


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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