Since I’m a big fan of educational theatre of any level and always on the lookout for a good story about the performing arts, I was immediately interested when Krissa Hatfield, parent of a Carmel Middle School student, contacted me to pitch an idea that intrigued me. She informed me that the school was presenting a youth production of “Curtains,” in which her daughter Caroline was appearing (Jessica Cranshaw). And to pique my interest further, she informed me that Megan Sikora, who originated the role of Bambi Bernet in the show’s Broadway production, would be lending a hand with the grades 6-8 student production. It happens that Sikora was a dance teacher and friend of Trisha Scheidies, the show’s music director and choreography. The two are both from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, which is near Pittsburgh. Another local tie for Sikora is her parents, who live in Lafayette, Indiana.
Sikora, who is a 20-year resident of New York City, is a Point Park University alumna. Married to fellow performer Barrett Martin, who is currently in “Chicago” on Broadway, the couple has a six-year-old son, Elliot. Sikora, who started dancing at the age of three, has an enviable list of Broadway credits that include, in addition to “Curtains,” shows such as “Holiday Inn,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Wicked,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and many more. Sikora has also done national tours, regional theatre and has appeared in films and on television. Sikora’s professional career began the summer after her freshman year when she was accepted into the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera ensemble and hired to perform in 12 weeks of back-to-back shows after which she earned her Actors’ Equity card at the end of the summer.
As for “Curtains,” the show is a musical-mystery comedy, with a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes. A spoof of backstage murder-mystery plots and set in 1959 Boston, it follows the fallout when Jessica Cranshaw, the untalented star of “Robbin’ Hood of the Old West,” is murdered during her opening night curtain call. It is up to Lt. Frank Cioffi, played by “Frasier” star David Hyde Pierce, a police detective, musical theatre fan and would-be actor, to save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, without getting killed himself. Ambitious chorine Bambi Bernet, the character portrayed by Sikora, is in the chorus and the daughter of lead producer Carmen.
I sat down with Sikora a few weeks ago for a brief interview in a hallway at the school and chatted about her Carmel trip and the middle school production. She had just returned from a visit to Carmel High School where she talked to a small group of students, all of whom were planning to be musical theatre majors in college. “I worked with them privately on audition songs for two days and shared what it’s like to be professional, the ins and outs, living in New York and my personal journey. The younger ones wanted to know who the famous people were that I worked with,” laughed Sikora. She added, “The students asked good questions, such as ‘How do I audition?’ ‘Do I need an agent?’ And we also discussed how to make connections and the importance of a good reputation.”
Regarding working with the budding artists in the Carmel Middle School “Curtains” production, Sikora said, “It’s is so much fun and wonderful to see the show through their eyes. Because they are kids and wrapped up in the idea of my looking at them. I tell them not worry about performing for me. I don’t care if you mess up. Think about what you are saying and look each other in the eye and play a real scene.’”
As far as the entire experience, Sikora said, “It’s a beautiful reminder why I started doing this, why I do what I do, why I love the art form and to remind myself that I have done a lot. I have a lot to offer and I can help them on their path. Throughout my career, there have always been people who were kind enough to help me along the way and if I can repay them this way, I am happy to do it.”
When asked about her friend Scheidies and teachers in general, Sikora said, “I think Trisha is a spectacular teacher. She’s a go-getter and thinks big and these kids are benefiting greatly from it. Teaching is an amazing profession and a tricky position to be in. Teachers here are really impressive and very supportive, but straightforward. You need to have a bit of a firm hand. Discipline is very important when it comes to art forms. I wish I had been exposed to someone from the outside. It is very easy to get stuck in your way of doing things because of the bubble you are in and doing the same thing over and over. It’s about growing, moving and changing and it is important to include other people and get a fresh perspective.”
Concluding our conversation, I asked Sikora if she had a message for parents. In her own case, she said her parents pushed back when she decided to pursue a career in show business, but that she used their initial resistance toward achieving success. As far as other parents, she said, “Offer as much love and support as you can to your kids. Even though you think you are being helpful, keep your nose out of it. If they are real, budding artists, they have to figure this out by themselves. They have to dig deep and figure out who they are. In this world. How can you step into someone else’s shoes if you don’t know who you are?”
“Curtains” will be presented on Friday Nov. 9 & Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Carmel Middle School is located at 300 S Guilford Rd, Carmel, IN 46032