For Jenna Canfield, the acting bug bit at age 5; Chris Niemczyk discovered his love of theater when he was 12. Both Marco Island students plan to pursue careers in the arts and each received some financial assistance from the Marco Players to continue their education and follow their dreams.
The theater group awarded its first Chuck Daye Scholarship on Monday, May 9. Committee members originally planned on choosing one recipient, but were so impressed with both Canfield and Niemczyk that they awarded each $1,500.
“You couldn’t have asked for two better candidates,” said Marilyn Hilbert, chairperson of the scholarship committee.
Canfield and Niemczyk are regulars in the local theater scene. Canfield’s first performance was with during a summer theater camp with the Marco Players when she was just five years old. Since then, the home schooled student has starred in dozens of plays on the Island and with the Naples Players. With the support of her parents and the assistance of a talent agent, Canfield has taken on a host of modeling jobs, and even appeared in the independent motion picture “Phoenix Falling” which filmed in Miami.
“It’s my whole life,” she says of her dedication to acting. “That’s why I want to pursue it as a career. It’s risky, but since I love it so much, I decided to follow it.”
Canfield plans to continue her education at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and hopes to break into feature films one day.
For Niemczyk, it’s not the lure of acting on stage, but the behind-the-scene details that appeal to him. Participants with the Marco Players have known him since he first helped run the stage spotlight at age 12. Over the years, he’s assisted theater productions on the Island in a number of other ways. In the summer months, he helps kids ages 5-15 discover their own love of theater by volunteers with the Wish Upon a Star Foundation, which performs three plays in June, July and August at the Marco Players Theater.
“I love watching a play develop and watching the actors and actresses,” Niemczyk shared. The Lely High School senior is also an accomplished musician, who performs with the school’s jazz band and is a captain in the marching band. Niemczyk will use his scholarship to pursue a degree in multimedia arts at the University of Central Florida where he plans to be involved in campus theater productions.
Judy Daye, who established the scholarship to honor her late husband, a long-time performer, volunteer and board member with the Marco Players, was overjoyed with the winners.
“Chuck would be thrilled,” she said. “He loved the theater and liked working with young people and he’d be beside himself.”
Shortly after Daye’s death in 2009, Judy decided to create a scholarship for students wishing to pursue theater arts as a career. With the support of the Marco Players, she has organized fundraisers such as a performance by The Troubadours to raise money for the scholarship program, which will now be funded through the non-profit organization’s operating budget.
With the expense of college, Canfield and Niemczyk both say they are grateful for the financial assistance, and members of the Marco Players are delighted to have two selected deserving winners.
“They both express themselves beautifully,” said Hilbert, the scholarship chairperson. “It’s nice to see articulate young people.”