Not only was Durango High School student Curtis Salinger named the outstanding lead actor in a musical in the state, he managed to impress the judges at the National High School Music Theatre Awards enough to win two scholarships.
Before he traveled to the Big Apple, Curtis, who turned 16 shortly before the competition, wasn’t thinking about winning anything, he was just looking forward to the experience, which included a weeklong training with Broadway professionals.
“I would love to pursue musical theater and become an actor,” he said. “I think this theater intensive and this whole awards program is an amazing chance to network and learn, and I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Curtis, the son of Peter Salinger and Sally Zabriskie, was awarded a special recognition scholarship for $2,500 provided by Tams-Witmark Music Library Inc. Charlotte Movizo, from Ponderosa High School in Parker, Colorado’s other representative to the national awards, was also given a $2,500 special recognition scholarship. It was the first time any Colorado students had been recognized with scholarships in the four years the state has entered students in the competition.
Curtis was also the recipient of a full ride to the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama Pre-College Program. Valued at $7,500, the scholarship covers tuition, room and board for the program, which prepares students for a conservatory-style college experience. He will attend the program in summer 2017 after his junior year of high school.
He learned a valuable lesson during his first appearance on Broadway.
“The thing that I learned that I think will stick with me the most for the future is that the story is the most important part in theater,” he said. “You can sing like an angel, but if you can’t convey emotion and tell a story, it won’t get you anywhere.”
There’s no doubt Curtis, who won the state award for his performance as Emmett Forrest in “Legally Blonde,” is delighted to have won the two scholarships, but meeting a who’s who of Broadway may have been the biggest reward.
“I got to work with Jose Llana, who was the original Chip Tolentino in the ‘25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’ the third angel in ‘Rent,’ has been in ‘The King and I’ a multitude of times, and much more,” he said. “We also met Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber; the world-famous composer David Dabbon (‘Italian Bred,’ ‘Love and Information’); the music director for ‘On Your Feet’; Eden Espinosa (‘Wicked’); Gavin Creel (‘She Loves Me’); Ava Noblezada (‘Miss Saigon’); Zachary Levi (TV show ‘Chuck’ and ‘She Loves Me’); Karen Olivo (‘In The Heights,’ ‘West Side Story’); Bianca Marroquin (‘Chicago’); and more.”
Curtis also has the distinction of being the second Salinger brother Colorado sent to the national awards. His brother, Evatt, was named Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role in a Musical in 2015 for his performance as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables.” Evatt Salinger just completed his freshman year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
“He’s been incredibly supportive and loving and inspiring throughout my journey,” Curtis said, “and is very proud of me. I am honored to call him my brother, and am very proud of his successes as well. We’re both amazed at how much we’ve accomplished.”
A previous story in The Durango Herald about his win at the state level reached a lot of people, he said, with people congratulating him around town.
“The mom of a kid I’d worked with in a show last year came up to me on the street and congratulated me on winning,” Curtis said. “She told me her son looked up to me, and that I was setting a really good example for the younger kids. That was one of the most rewarding things that’s ever happened to me. I have a goal to help promote theater – especially for guys – and to hear that was amazing.”