March Good News

Johan Espinosa on stage with scene partner for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions competition.
Jared Libby

Theatre Student Attends Irene Ryan Finalist Competition

Within most of us lies a desire for our talents to be seen, felt, and heard. Not for the recognition it brings us personally but to convey stories, perspectives, emotions, and discipline in a venue where the connection between presenters and audience weaves together to create understanding. The TMCC Theatre Program shares these narratives with relatable characters, inviting the crowd to an empathic experience of such tragic or joyful tales witnessed through a modern lens.

Student actors have the formidable challenge of bringing a fictional identity to life through their performance, immersing themselves as we, too, sense loss, love, sadness, happiness, affliction, and redemption as events unfold. The words spring off the page and suddenly manifest, and you can’t help but be in awe of the artistic vision. We appreciate these passionate entertainers slipping into roles where they have the imaginative freedom to become someone else. These productions voice moving themes with our community, and their stars are reaching new heights thanks to supportive coaches and a spirit for escapism.

Johan Espinosa is one such student actor whose work on his craft has led to unexpected and welcomed successes. Lighting up the plays That Day in Tucson and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead alongside castmates with the unwavering direction of Shea King and designs by Jared Sorenson, Visual and Performing Arts Instructors, it’s safe to say his adventures would rival even a saga penned by Alexandre Dumas himself. As fate would have it, a summons to the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions wasn’t far behind, an unforgettable day for him and TMCC, celebrating the marvel of student representation at the Region 7 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF).

“It’s remarkable for a student with so much raw talent but relatively new to his training. Johan has been working on his audition materials for this competition since late October. He came in memorized, researched, and fully prepared for anything I had in store for him. It wasn’t an easy rehearsal process, but he took my expectations and leaped over them with how much effort and skill he brought to the room,” King said.

“Johan takes everything as an opportunity to learn and grow as a young actor. He put the work in and showed up in a major way at the festival. He has a genuine dedication to acting, theatre, and film. I’m incredibly proud of him. His peer Leyla Perales Rizo also made it to the semifinal round, and each of them has received callbacks to several professional theatre companies, advanced training programs, and four-year institutions offering support for them to transfer,” continued King.

Auditionees were allowed a scene partner, and fellow major Justin Correll gladly accepted this prolific responsibility. “Break a leg!” are three profound words in the industry. While meaning “Good luck!” they also embody a culture residing in the hearts of any dynamic company. One sublime moment of anticipation behind the red curtain, and then it rises. After powering through the preliminary and semi-final rounds, Espinosa received the chance to captivate the live gathering again, enacting two contrasting monologues and one scene for his shot at victory. While ultimately, another competitor would take home the gold, the honor of participating in this event never left his mind, and TMCC’s pride in him for his effort remains resolute.

“I was a little bummed when they didn’t call my name for the award, but it wasn’t until after the festival on the ride back home that I began to ponder, and it all hit me. I was the only Hispanic in the finals, my director Shea’s first student to make it, and I’m from a community college competing with graduate students,” Espinosa said.

Not every day do students from our Theatre Program get an opportunity to join a prestigious national convention where icons like Viola Davis have won, rewarding us with the most brilliant onscreen presences of our time. This milestone will serve him in his future career, an accolade exemplifying his ambitious spirit and fire for performing. King recounts how one of the judges, the director of Stella Adler Studio of Acting, told him, “That young man has something special.”

“It was a true delight and blessing to be a finalist. Although I may not have received the award, a piece of paper doesn’t amount to the hundreds of people who approached me saying I changed them. That’s why I do it. It’s about your performance’s impact on others,” Espinosa said.

TMCC Alumnus Publishes Research Paper in University Journal

Undergraduate research opportunities are stellar ways to earn cash for higher education while harnessing your studies in real-world environments and creative activities related to your major. As you delve deeper into the complexities of professional work outside the classroom, you gain an authentic understanding of what to expect after graduation. Employers look for those with worthwhile experience in their chosen field, but the irony is that to build upon your skills, you first need to get hired to do so.

For Jacob Rosenbaum, TMCC alumnus and recent Environmental Science graduate at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), 100 hours of juggling courses while compiling an accurate report on the Truckee River Watershed was worth a bonus of $4,000 and the distinction of a published paper in the Nevada State Undergraduate Research Journal. Sameer Bhattarai, TMCC Physical Sciences Professor, supervisor, and mentor, encouraged Rosenbaum to sign up from day one, a shot at sharpening his talent with steady instructional motivation.

The academic investigation evaluated the expanding nature of Truckee Meadows, and Rosenbaum took the position to restrict this excessive growth instead of defending economic profits. As he proves in his report, the sparsity of water in our region is a concern. As the driest state in the nation, rainfall is rare, and without the buffer from Lake Tahoe’s reservoir, an arid landscape like Fallon would be the standard in Northern Nevada. He believes we have seven years of comfort without pumping over the dam.

TMCC Alumnus Jacob Rosenbaum.

TMCC Alumnus Jacob Rosenbaum

“I saw all this growth with apartment and commercial buildings in my local meadows. All those properties are going to need water. There isn’t enough to go around, especially if we keep prior commitments to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. We’re obligated to give them a certain amount,” Rosenbaum said.

A realization came to Rosenbaum as he intently sat behind his computer screen, exploring the severity of groundwater shortages in rock bodies and sediments. Tapping into these depleting aquifers when there isn’t enough rain causes an unsettling geological phenomenon known throughout millennia: sinkholes. It could take centuries to recharge, but only years to drain them.

“If you have a bunch of cavernlike voids or soil saturated with water, and you suck all of it out, not too surprisingly, there’s an opportunity for the land above to collapse. That can manifest as an abyss. Earth opens up and swallows you whole,” Rosenbaum said.

Compiling the sheer mountain of data he’d accumulated was the next task, requiring concentrated cross-examination and fact-verification. Rosenbaum faced a minor problem while attempting to remain accurate: Publishing in a scientific journal doesn’t necessarily give it validity. It may have been at the time, but new figures mean he would be obliged to update them. All this hustle while still finishing his classes at UNR. His writing strategy focused on short, sweet, and to the point. It was now a matter of transferring the knowledge in his head so the readers could interpret it for themselves. The abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion fit like jigsaw pieces into his document as its skeleton took shape. Beginning on page 25, Accounting for Long-Term Drought in the Development Process in the Truckee Meadows Watershed finds its place at last.

“It’s about getting over those assumptions about what the reader does or doesn’t know, trying to give them the broadest possible view of your data and research without going overboard into the realms of extreme where the paper is 50 pages long,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum’s mother, Dr. Marijke Bekken, is his utmost source of inspiration. As a college student at 15, she adored learning and was immensely educationally inclined. Growing up, he played musical chairs with budding pursuits like biology, entomology, and mycology until the only interest left was Environmental Science. He gives credit to Jia Feng and Tianwen Hui, Geography Professors at UNR, the former stirring him to study urban and natural resources management and planning as his emphasis, the latter taught advanced geographic information systems, an excellent transition as he progressed in his collegiate journey.

“Sharif Rumjahn, [TMCC] Biology Professor, and Joe Demetrovich, [TMCC] History Instructor, had enjoyable classes, even if one wasn’t science-related. Honestly, I appreciate TMCC professors more than those at UNR. It’s a community college, so there’s a personal aspect you don’t see at most universities,” Rosenbaum said.

Of course, he’d be remiss if he wasn’t grateful for all of Bhattarai’s seasoned guidance.

“Sameer Bhattarai guided the whole process and helped motivate me to stay focused, not fall behind, and hit my deadlines. Our meetings were quite productive. I even met his beautiful family during some of those,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum is going into the world, his sights set on an ecological government agency like the Nevada Forestry Division or Nevada Department of Wildlife, where he can implement tangible change for our state. He urges students to submit scholarship applications, and while not a cakewalk, the invaluable exposure is a boon you can refer to in your resume for future companies. There’s no time like the present!

“I got the money, but I wanted to publish the paper after I finished it to say to a future employer, ‘I did this project. Look! It’s in a journal.’ It may only be at a university, but still. That shows them commitment and a willingness to accept and complete challenges, and when searching for hires, that’s what they want. Someone who puts their mind to something and works to achieve that goal,” Rosenbaum said.

For more information, please visit the Theatre and Environmental Science websites.