The Catholic University of America

Dec. 16, 2014

Alumni in the Spotlight at Arena Stage

  Thomas Pedersen (sixth from left), head of the Musical Theatre Division, is seen with Fiddler on the Roof cast members (from left) Jimmy Mavrikes, Maria Rizzo, Parker Esse, Kurt Boehm, Jesse Plamer, Alex Alferov, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Barbara Pinolini.

The reviews are in and Arena Stage’s current production of Fiddler on the Roof is a hit. Much of the praise from local media has centered on the show’s strong cast, which includes seven alumni of The Catholic University of America.

Alumni cast members of Fiddler on the Roof include musical theatre graduates Alex Alferov (2014), Kurt Boehm (2005), Jimmy Mavrikes (2013), Tracy Lynn Olivera (1999), Jesse Palmer (2008), and Maria Rizzo (2013), as well as Barbara Pinolini, who earned her M.F.A. in drama in 1985.

The production is directed by Arena Stage’s Molly Smith, a 1974 drama graduate, and choreographed by Parker Esse, a Broadway choreographer who served as guest director for the Bejnamin T. Rome School of Music’s 2012 production of Finian’s Rainbow.

Tom Pedersen, head of the Musical Theatre Division, said he was “thrilled” to see so many alumni in the production. He added that Arena Stage is “truly one of the great regional theaters in the country supporting American arts and artists in the most exciting way possible.”

Mavrikes plays Yussel in the production. Since graduating in 2013, he has performed in Spamalot at Toby’s Dinner Theatre and Bat Boy at 1st Stage Theatre in Tyson’s Corner, Va. Fiddler on the Roof marks his debut at Arena Stage. He said what’s impressed him most about this show is the professionalism of the cast.

“Everybody is constantly on their A-game,” he said. “There’s no dilly-dallying. Everybody wants to work hard like I do.”

Though he didn’t know he would be working with other Catholic University alumni, Mavrikes said he has enjoyed getting to know others with similar backgrounds.

“It’s like a little family,” he said. “We all have something in common and we all know many of the same people.”

Alferov plays the fiddler in the musical. Though he has been working professionally in local theatres for several years, this is his first show at Arena Stage.

“It’s been fantastic and a dream come true,” Alferov said. “When I was in high school, my high school drama department worked out a program where we would go see a show at Arena Stage each year. I wanted to work there ever since, so I was really thrilled when I got that call right out of school.”

Alferov said his education in the Musical Theatre Division prepared him for this show by allowing him to focus on what he was passionate about and building local connections. The fact that there are so many alumni in this production is a “testament to our program,” he added.

“Going to a four-year conservatory program, where you’re just focused on singing, acting, and dancing all the time, was really nice because we were able to focus on what we were hoping to do in our profession,” he said. “Being in D.C. was really great for networking purposes. We had a bunch of casting people come to our senior workshop class and our showcase. The exposure was really nice.”

Pinolini said her time at CUA and the relationships she built there laid the foundation for a 30-year career as an actor, teacher, and casting director. One of her greatest mentors during her time as a student was Bill Graham, Sr., the former professor of acting and chair of the drama department who passed away in 2013.

“He encouraged me to recognize my faith within my work, he held a strong belief that the good of the whole is always more important than the needs of any individual,” Pinolini said. “He taught me how very much this art form allows us to explore and share our own humanity, with each other and with the audience. Having grown up in a Catholic home, this has especially resonated with me both in my work and also throughout my life.”

Pinolini said she only realized there were other CUA alumni in the Fiddler cast after spending time in rehearsals.

“Even though most of my fellow alums are several years younger than me, our common bond of similar beliefs and training has forged a strong connection and a continuing conversation about what we learned at CUA and how it has informed our lives since,” she said. “I especially enjoy finding a common bond of spirituality and generosity that is always evident in anyone I meet from CUA.”

Fiddler on the Roof will continue at Arena Stage until Jan. 11. For more information or to buy tickets, go to




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