BWW Interviews: Dance as Liberation - Eric Sciotto and Kristen Martin Star in FOOTLOOSE
"Dance is a metaphor for expression, for freedom. In Footloose we use dance to express ourselves when we have no words. [As characters] we are all closed off, and finally at the end of the story, we are loosened; we become individuals again."
Speaking is Kristen Martin, who plays Ariel in Maine State Music Theatre's final season production of Footloose, which runs from August 6-23. Her co-star, Eric Sciotto, agrees that his character, Ren, is "on a journey to find himself after being abandoned by his father. Ren sees in Ariel a troubled soul who reminds him of himself. They recognize immediately that they are kindred spirits."
For these two actors, Footloose, as Martin puts it, is "a beautiful story with so much heart. It's a story of growing up, becoming an adult, finding your voice, and feeling strong in that voice." In the musical it is dance which becomes the liberating force for Ren and Ariel and the kids from Bomont, Texas, and for both Sciotto and Martin, musical theatre and dance have played crucial roles in their own growing up.
Sciotto, who originally hailed from Canton, Ohio, says that "As a kid, I couldn't stand still. It was my early ambition to be a dancer like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I watched all the movie musicals with my dad, and I was blown away by that world! After seeing Gene Kelly in Brigadoon, I knew that's what I wanted to be. I would run out to my garage, stick a mop in a roller skate and imagine she was my dancing partner!" Sciotto fulfilled his inclinations by participating in community theatre, beginning in fourth grade. Among the shows he began with were the musical of A Christmas Carol and Peter Pan, and he always danced with the cast, even though he had no formal training yet. "I could pick up combinations very fast." Sciotto eventually took private tap lessons in high school - "I signed up for every dance class they offered to avoid PE " - and he continued on to the University of Cincinnati where he earned a BFA in Music Theatre.
Born is Owasso, Michigan, Martin's path was similar. From the time she was three-years-old, she danced. "My mom was a ballet teacher, and I went to her studio, and I also did competitive gymnastics and took voice lessons." Martin says she discovered her vocation early and was lucky to be able to enroll in the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy as a theatre major with minors in voice and dance, and then continued on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Since graduating the Academy and moving to NYC, Martin has worked on both Broadway and in regional theatres. She has played Val in the national tour of Chorus Line, Demeter in CATS, and created the role of Crystal in City Club off Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre. But, perhaps she is best known for her long run in Spider Man, where, in addition to being in the ensemble, she went on as Mary Jane in 190 performances.
Sciotto over the last fifteen years has assembled a distinguished resume of Broadway, off-Broadway and regional credits. Fresh out of college, he toured with Chorus Line, after which he fulfilled a lifelong dream by making his Broadway debut in 1999 in Annie Get Your Gun with one of his idols, Bernadette Peters. Sciotto tells of his reaction when he got the call after his audition: " I had to bite a pair of jeans to stop screaming!"
From that opportunity, Sciotto went on to dance, sing, and act in Broadway shows like Sweet Charity, Pal Joey, 42nd Street, Rock of Ages - ("I loved hearing that one every night!") - Cry Baby, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and in his most recent critically acclaimed success as in Edwin Drood, where he played Mr. Alan Eliot, and understudied several other crucial parts. Drood was memorable to the actor:"it was a spectacular, small ensemble with many stars, and it gave me a chance to do lots of singing, as well as dancing, and work with this amazing cast."
Not only did Sciotto garner notice " as a standout" in the show, but he also realized another one of his dreams - "to dance with Chita Rivera. I had met her once in a city where we were both performing," he recounts, "and she was nice and I got to play with her dog and talk to her, and I thought, 'This experience is going to have to be enough for me.' But when my agent called and told me we had booked Drood, he said 'the cast was terrific - Will Chase, Stephanie J. Block, and Chita Rivera.' I started crying, and I didn't stop for three days. She is the nicest woman in the world, so humble, so amazingly powerful, so welcoming," Sciotto recalls. "When she told me I was an amazing dancer, I cried again in the hallway. And we just clicked as 'show buds.' I find that people who are mega legends are some of the nicest people ever, and to watch their work ethic is life altering."