Skip to main content

With the goal of creating connections, WVU performing arts students prepare for NYC industry trip

A group of female actresses perform Cinderella in brightly colored costumes.

Cadee Mae Green (left), a WVU senior in musical theatre from Madison, performs as the lead of “Cinderella” at the Canady Creative Arts Center. Green and fellow seniors in acting and musical theatre are also hard at work preparing for the Senior Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting/Musical Theatre Showcase which will help them share their talents and skills with industry professionals during a May trip to New York City. (WVU Photo/Alyssa Reeves)

Download full-size

Ahead of graduation, West Virginia University students in the performing arts are getting helping hands from supportive College of Creative Arts faculty and a successful alumna in making the kinds of strategic industry connections that could potentially launch their artistic careers.

Each spring, seniors in acting and musical theatre in the School of Theatre and Dance embark on a transformative journey to New York City. They are guided by Lee Blair, associate professor of acting and musical theatre and director of performance, and Ryan Scoble, assistant professor of musical theatre, who are both on a mission to help their students break into show business. This year’s trip is scheduled for early May.

The trip is part of a project known as the Senior Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting/Musical Theatre Showcase, an effort that aims to capture the talent of soon-to-be graduates through live performances for industry representatives. During the trip, students also have opportunities to meet one-on-one with interested talent scouts, casting directors, agents and other industry executives.

Musical theatre major Cadee Mae Green from Madison is both excited about the process and confident the comprehensive training and developmental opportunities she’s received at WVU have prepared her well for the road ahead of her.

Showcase is something I’ve looked forward to being a part of since my freshman year,” Green said. “For me, it’s like a goodbye and a hello all in one — goodbye to our time at WVU and our cohort as a whole, but hello to the next step of our lives. I hope for me that includes singing, acting and dancing for the rest of my life and Showcase helps to make that possible.”

WVU alumna Dawn DeNoon, an award-winning television writer and producer based in Los Angeles, remembers being in Green’s position. In the late 1980s, she packed up her car and headed west to Hollywood armed with a degree from the College of Creative Arts, a dream and a heavy dose of determination.

She knew no one in Los Angeles and, in her words, “floundered” for 13 years before finally getting her big break. She would spend the next 20 years writing for hit TV shows like “Law and Order: SVU,” where she was one of the original writers, “Blue Bloods,” “The Blacklist,” “Designated Survivor” and others.

Success might have come more swiftly, DeNoon admitted, had she had the opportunity to get in front of agents and casting directors long before her cross-country trek.

To help current students on their own paths, she’s made generous donations to her alma mater through the WVU Foundation over the years, creating an endowment that helps to support the annual Showcase.

Participating students carry little, if any, financial burden for the Showcase production, associated travel and networking opportunities with industry insiders while they’re there.

Blair said the University’s Showcase can have a transformative effect on his students’ futures not only by allowing them to demonstrate their skills and talents for important people, but also by facilitating valuable connections within an industry that is all about connections.

“The ultimate goal of these events is to help students secure industry representation or establish meaningful relationships with agents and casting directors before they graduate,” Blair said.

“We’ve had a lot of success helping to make those connections happen. Plus, the exposure to New York and the industry there helps students make decisions about their next steps, their next locale. Some head to the city, but others, after this trip, decide that Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta or Washington are better fits for them.”

Megan Chacalos, a 2019 graduate, is a Showcase success story. Her performance earned her face time with an agent once she moved to New York following graduation. That initial relationship, and a WVU-connected network of people working in the industry, led her from one opportunity to the next.

“When I go into casting rooms, even today, I see the agents that were part of our Showcase,” she said. “They always have tremendous things to say about the program at WVU. It’s very up-and-coming, a diamond in the rough on the East Coast.”

In addition, WVU is so well represented in the city that Chacalos runs into fellow alumni everywhere. She recently worked on the show “She Kills Monsters,” directed by a WVU graduate with two WVU graduate leads and a stage management team full of WVU alumni.

“The experience really made me feel like I was back in the Canady Creative Arts Center doing scene study on a Friday afternoon,” she said. “And I’m OK with that because I remember my days in the CAC so fondly.”

As this year’s seniors continue work on their Showcase, Blair noted the whole project would not be possible without support from College of Creative Arts Dean Keith Jackson and generosity from alumni like DeNoon, who will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during Commencement Weekend.

DeNoon said it’s important for her to extend a helping hand to her fellow Mountaineers.

“I would have killed for an opportunity like Showcase when I was in school. It’s that first step in the door that could make all the difference in an industry with fierce competition and the need to be in the right place at the right time,” DeNoon said.

I hope all our graduates find some success or connections through the Showcase experience. It feels really good to see that happen for young people.”



MEDIA CONTACT: Bernadette Dombrowski
Interim Director of Communications and Marketing
WVU College of Creative Arts


Shauna Johnson
Director of News Communications
WVU University Relations

Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.