Show time: Park Ridge teen makes Steppenwolf debut in 'Another Marriage'
It was the day after her Steppenwolf Theatre callback, and Nicole Scimeca was worried.
After working steadily for about 10 years, the 15-year-old actress had no projects scheduled. But that day, the Maine South High School student's chemistry quiz was her biggest concern, until she received a text from her mom.
"You booked it, Nicole," read the text, referring to the role she won in Steppenwolf's "Another Marriage." The excited teen texted back: "Mom, if I fail this chemistry quiz you'll know why."
She didn't fail the test. She aced it.
And now she's preparing for her Steppenwolf debut alongside ensemble members Ian Barford and Caroline Neff and TV and film veteran Judy Greer ("Ant Man," "Jurassic World," "13 Going on 30," "Arrested Development") in the romantic comedy by first-time playwright Kate Arrington. Scimeca plays Jo, the narrator, who shares stories about her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
The Park Ridge native, whose credits include playing young Anastasia in Broadway's "Anastasia," admits it's a bit intimidating working with such accomplished actors and under director and Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney. A representative informing her things can get intense in a Steppenwolf rehearsal room didn't exactly ease her mind.
"These people are so experienced," she said. "They dive deep into every line and intention in the script, which I'm not used to."
But the teen says her fellow theater artists have been amazing and "super welcoming."
The Maine South student was 2½-years-old when she first stepped onto a stage. It was a production with her aunt and uncle's community theater in Southern Illinois. She spent summers working with the company before making her professional debut at age 6. Steppenwolf's premiere marks her 10th professional production in a career that has included musicals at Drury Lane and Paramount theaters and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO dramas.
She's also active in high school productions, performing in "Chicago" her freshman year and working on stage and costume crews for other productions.
"It can be a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun," said Scimeca, a budding filmmaker who over the last two years received six Crystal Pillar Awards recognizing excellence by high school filmmakers from the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
"I love to do film," said Scimeca, whose videos are available on YouTube and her Instagram account at @nicolescimeca9.
Her interest in film sparked during the COVID-19 quarantine. She started out doing song parody videos and then moved on to short films. Lately, she's been inspired by Steppenwolf creative director Joel Moorman, who produces trailers, commercials, profile interviews and short documentaries for the theater. Not long after Moorman shot rehearsal video for "Another Marriage," Scimeca texted her mom: "This is what I want to do."
"He uses the term 'intersection of theater and video,'" said the teen, who hopes to one day pair her passion for theater with her passion for creating videos.
From the looks of it, she's on her way.
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When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, June 15-16 and 22-23; 2 and 7:30 p.m. June 17 and 24; 2:30 p.m. June 18; 7:30 p.m. June 21. The show opens June 25 and runs through July 23
Where: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1646 N. Halsted St., Chicago, (312) 335-1650, steppenwolf.org
COVID-19 precautions: Masks optional, required at certain performances