Elon Music Theatre alumni find success beyond performing
Katie Zanca '14 and Alexa Magnotto '12 have forged careers in the are of casting following successful performing experiences at Elon.
By Haley McCormick '19
Katie Zanca '14 and Alexa Magnotto '12 are two music theatre alumni who have pioneered successful careers for themselves in the world of casting. Their performance experiences led them into the field and aided their knowledge, giving them the qualifications to work in casting. Both have gained headway in their careers and each is individually becoming influential in the industry.
Zanca is currently a casting assistant at Binder Casting, a full-service theatrical and commercial casting company in New York City. Her interest in casting began at Elon. “While my lifelong love for performing is what led me to Elon in the first place, it was during my time there that I realized there were other ways in which I could contribute from the other side of the table,” Zanca said.
She contributed to casting for Elon Cares, the benefit concert for Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids, and for the class of 2014’s senior show, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Following graduation, Zanca’s first job was as company manager at Flat Rock Playhouse, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, which allowed her to further explore this part of the industry.
After Flat Rock, Zanca returned to New York and interned at Binder Casting and spent a year at a talent management company exploring the representation side of the theater before returning to Binder Casting in 2017.
Magnotto is a voiceover casting assistant at Sound Lounge in New York City. Right after graduation she interned at Telsey + Co. Magnotto knew she wanted to pursue casting early on, but was unsure how to become acclimated with the casting world since there is no formal training. She built up her name as a freelance theatrical casting assistant and realized she had the directorial proficiency and the organizational skills required to audit and schedule auditions and casting.
Both Magnotto and Zanca say their performance training at Elon prevalent in the work they do every day. Coming from a performing background makes it easier to understand and relate to the terrifying task of auditioning, they say. The strong music theatre training from Elon provides a wide knowledge base of music theatre repertoire, how to mark cuts and sheet music and how to relay applicable notes to actors.
“It’s great to be able to coach actors and singers with an actual understanding of the technique that they are using to approach their audition,” Zanca says.
In this field, it is important to be able to translate what a director or producer may want if they themselves cannot properly communicate with the actor, as it could make or break a job offer. For both women, knowing how the actor feels in the room is pivotal, reacting in a constructive and positive way gives the actor a safe environment to put their best audition forward, without fear of judgment or failure.
Magnotto draws other similarities through the required energy for each task. “When performing on stage, your energy has to be 1,000 percentat all times," she says. "When I’m running a casting session I see a lot of people, and each person deserves the same attention and every I gave to the first person of the day,”
In all, though cliché, both Zanca and Magnotto point out that people on the other side of the table truly want you to succeed. “I want my client to have a hard time choosing who to book because everyone did such a good job,” Magnotto says.
One of Zanca’s favorite tasks at work is giving someone the news that they got the job.
The collaborative nature of theater makes networking and relationships so important in both performance and behind-the-table aspects of theatre. Magnotto often uses social media to understand more about who an actor is, how get in touch with them, and how to create a longer lasting following of actors. She believes you should “make relationships because you want to. You can always learn from someone.”
The Elon network in New York is something that has grounded each of them in their careers and even opened doors. Zanca states how any one of her Elon family member’s successes feels like a success for everyone. Using Elon relationships, and leaning on trusted friends in times of need is crucial to the longevity of a career in this industry.
Overall, both of these women are prime examples of having an openness to other theatrical avenues and thriving within them. Although your path may not be what you anticipated, it can lead you down an entirely new career path, so never close yourself off to any opportunity.
When asked what advice they have for students post-graduation, Zanca states, “Run your own race and don’t play the comparison game.” This is pivotal advice, especially for students at a top program like Elon. Students are cultivated as unique performers, and all follow their own timelines, so comparing “success" can be detrimental.
“I think when you commit to a performance BFA sometimes there’s a shame involved if you ultimately end up pursuing other career paths and I really wish that wasn’t the case. The things we are taught as Elon Music Theatre students translate into so many other jobs and fields, and if you find yourself interested in something then you should allow yourself to go for it!” (Zanca).
Zanca and Magnotto are thankful for the entire Elon faculty and Elon network, people who make New York a home for them. Magnotto credits Dean of Student Development Jodean Schmiederer with sparking her interest in leadership and business at Elon, Professor Cathy McNeela for providing the opportunity of an Elon education, and Associate Professor Linda Sabo with offering her heart and open arms. Zanca is appreciative of Adjunct Instructor April Hill, who worked with her as a voice teacher, as well as acting a therapist for life and self-care.
Zanca and Magnotto are examples how hard work can pay off, even if a career path a person takes is not the route they originally intended.