Meet Matthew Wautier-Rodriguez, an alum of the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program. Matthew was a participant in the Center Stage Program since its inaugural season in 2016 until he graduated from Green Bay Southwest High School in 2019. In his last year of the program, Matthew was one of two nominees chosen at the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Showcase to represent the program at The National High School Musical Theatre Awards® (the Jimmy Awards®) in New York in a national showcase. Since his time in the Center Stage Program, Matthew continues to develop his theater skills, acknowledging the deep impact of the Center’s education program. From school to the stage, Matthew has been able to put into practice what he has learned from the Center Stage Program.
Besides building self-confidence, creativity and collaboration skills, as well as long-lasting friendships, the Center Stage Program focuses on connecting students with touring and local arts professionals by offering a variety of educational opportunities for them to engage in including workshops. The workshops provide program participants with a look into the world of theater both on and off the stage. “Those workshops gave me the chance to not only perform, but to watch and learn from my peers,” Matthew shared. “Not only did you learn from the feedback you received, but the feedback our peers got as well.”
Another benefit of participating in the Center Stage Program is educating students on what performing arts experiences they can attend at their Fox Cities P.A.C., sometimes at the student rush rate. Matthew was able to experience his first Broadway performance by being a part of the program. “I saw Les Misérables from the second row on student rush tickets my junior year of high school, and to this day, I can remember the goose bumps I had during the entire show,” Matthew reflected. Finding ways to be moved and inspired through the arts, Matthew shows that impact that the arts have.
Matthew was able to take what he learned from spending a few years in the Center Stage Program and use it to better his performing talents, leading him to connect with his peers from across the country and perform in a medley number at the 11th Annual Jimmy Awards in 2019. “Going to the Jimmy Awards changed my life because it showed me that I had what it takes to pursue musical theater at a professional level,” Matthew commented. “The Jimmy Awards gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Always believe in yourself, regardless of what anyone thinks.”
Reflecting on his favorite memory, Matthew mentioned being a part of the Center Stage Program’s first Showcase was a highlight. “Because it was the first year, nobody had any idea what to expect,” he said. “I was a part of the Center Stage Ensemble that year and participated in the opening and closing numbers. My high school also was able to perform our “Beauty and the Beast” medley.” Matthew added that the cherry on top was watching from the backstage wing as his best friend, Felix Torrez-Ponce was selected as one of the two nominees to represent the program at The Jimmy Awards. “That whole night was one big celebration not only for our school, but for every school a part of the Center Stage Program. Always find the fun in what you’re doing,” Matthew remarked. “The reason I fell in love with theater was because of how much fun I had on stage with my friends.”
Still pursuing his love of performing on stage, Matthew recently graduated cum laude from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a BFA in Musical Theatre and is currently playing Frank Butler in a four-month run of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun at the Jackson Hole Playhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Following that, Matthew will head to Philadelphia to work with Quintessence Theater Group, playing The Fox in a two-month run of The Little Prince.
The Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program is an educational initiative of the Fox Cities P.A.C. with support from corporate partner Fox Communities Credit Union. Additional partners in this program include Johnson Financial Group, Nicolet National Bank, Angelo & Jennifer Ninivaggi, Schneider Foundation, Skogen’s Festival Foods, WFRV and Wipfli. Programs like the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program are also supported in part by contributions to the Center’s Annual Partner Campaign.
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center