Stephanie Canesssa ’92 can almost still feel the jitters she had when auditioning for her first O’Dowd production, Amadeus. “The audition was in the Drama room, next to the baseball field,” she said. “I was very nervous as I had never auditioned before. I sang The Star Spangled Banner and prayed that my nerves would not get the best of me,” she said.
Stephanie was ecstatic when she was cast, and she went on to land roles in several other plays, including her favorite – Fiddler on the Roof. “The music was iconic and the production was one I will never forget,” she said.
“My experience in the O’Dowd drama program had a significant impact on my life. It gave me the belief in myself to be a confidant leader, performer, business owner and mother,” she said.
As auditions for the spring musical, Working, got underway earlier this month, we reached out to alumni who were active in performing arts and asked them to share memories of their experiences.
Christopher Ferreira ’90 remembers taking drama as an elective freshman year, thinking it would be an easy class – but he was wrong. “I had no prior experience in theatre and getting in front of my peers and improvising a scenario was absolutely terrifying for me!” he said.
Drama Director Dennis Kohles ’69 suggested that Christopher audition for the spring musical Hair. “I think he just needed guys with big hair. But I made the cut, and from then on I was a drama convert.
Christopher went on to play Danny Zuko in Grease and Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as well as other smaller roles in various shows.
Christopher Ferreira ’90 as Pseudolus, examines the ring of old man Erronius (Devin Scott ‘90) while Hysterium (Matt Colgan ‘92) looks on.
“I found a real home in our drama group through those high school years. It gave me a feeling of belonging and striving for something greater that I was missing elsewhere in my young life,” he said.
“Looking back, my experiences with Dennis and participating in theatre at O’Dowd were foundational for who I am today. I learned that with hard work, the impossible becomes possible. I learned the process of creative refinement. I acquired a strong work ethic. Today I am a composer and recording artist. I just completed my upcoming solo piano album, titled Miniatures and Collectibles. Finding my musical voice came well after high school, but I think of my experiences in the theatre program at O’Dowd as the beginning of my creative path in life,” Christopher added.
In addition to Amadeus and Fiddler on the Roof, participated in The Paper Chase and, coincidentally, Working. She also was part of the backstage crew.
Today Stephanie operates her own insurance agency but remains involved in musical theater – a love she discovered through her participation in the O’Dowd drama program. “I sing in a Sweet Adelines women’s barbershop chorus in Walnut Creek, and shared my love of music and theater with both my daughters. They both participate in a youth drama program and also sing in the Danville Girls Chorus,” she said.
Working will be staged May 3-12. Watch for ticket order information in upcoming e-newsletters.