Young adult enjoys parish, performing arts roles
ROCHESTER — By day, Shannon Toot serves as the accounting administrator/webmaster/bulletin editor at St. Louis Church in Pittsford. In the evenings, she takes on another role — working in various aspects of Rochester’s performing arts scene.
Toot, who recently concluded her third year as a member of the ensemble in Geva Theatre Center’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” said her love for theater began when she was a student at Greece Arcadia Middle School. Her first show was the school’s production of “Oklahoma!”
“And I have been doing theater ever since then,” said Toot, 25, whose high-school resume included the productions of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Sound of Music,” in which she played the iconic role of “Maria” in her senior year.
Toot’s love of the performing arts carried over to college, where she pursued degrees in theater and media production at SUNY Brockport. It was during her junior year at Brockport that she became involved with Geva Theatre Center as an intern in the theater’s education department. As an intern, she said she used her media skills to create educational discovery guides for students seeing the shows at Geva.
During her senior year, Toot auditioned to be an actor in “A Christmas Carol.” Since graduating in 2015, she has performed in two other Geva “A Christmas Carol” productions, including this year’s show, which featured 42 performances between Nov. 29 and Dec. 29.
“I love being a part of the (Rochester’s Christmas) tradition. This show is really special,” she said.
In addition to performing with the ensemble this year, Toot conducted the show’s prologue. For 20 minutes before each show, with the exception of the student matinees, Toot provided historical information about Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and interesting facts regarding Geva’s production. She also fielded questions from the audience.
“I was a little apprehensive at first because I really didn’t have experience with public speaking, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” she noted. “It has been a lot of fun. I really love teaching people about the show.”
Also through her internship, Toot became an open captioner for Geva. The open captioning system provides patrons with hearing loss a text display of the words and sounds heard during a production and is available for three performances for each of the Wilson stage shows and a performance for all the Fielding Stage productions, Toot said. This is Toot’s third season as an open captioner.
Yet, despite her involvement with Geva while in college, Toot wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue theater as a full-time career. While discerning what her next role would be, she came across an opening at St. Louis Church, which was looking for someone with a media background to update its website and handle its social media accounts, Toot said. She originally started as the parish’s administrative support, assisting in various areas of ministry, such as faith formation and youth ministry. Toot said she also learned accounting during that time as well. Now in her third year at St. Louis, Toot is the parish’s accounting and media administrator.
“I already knew growing up that the church is a place that you can work in,” Toot said, noting that her mother, Mary, is the faith-formation director at Holy Cross Church in Rochester and St. Charles Borromeo Church in Greece. “I knew (working in the church) was something that I was interested in, and when I was discerning what kind of career path to take, it was helpful to have that knowledge (of working in the church).”
Toot also is a part of the contemporary music ensemble at Holy Cross, a ministry she has been involved with since she was in eighth grade.
“I always loved singing during Mass,” she said.
Now that the curtain has closed on “A Christmas Carol,” Toot said she isn’t sure what her next on-stage theater role will be.
“I don’t know what is on the horizon,” she said. “I just love doing anything in theater.”