Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Actor Proud of Topeka Roots ; Topeka West Grad Will Soon Be Seen in 'The Knick' on Cinemax

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Actor Proud of Topeka Roots ; Topeka West Grad Will Soon Be Seen in 'The Knick' on Cinemax

Article excerpt

Antwayn Hopper, who next weekend will both wrap up a role singing and dancing in Overland Park's New Theatre Restaurant's summer musical, "Smokey Joe's Cafe -- The Songs of Lieber and Stoller" and make his debut in a recurring role on the Steven Soderbergh- directed series, "The Knick," on Cinemax, says there must be something in the water in Topeka that fosters theatrical talent.

Hopper, a 2003 graduate of Topeka West High School, noted in addition to himself, who performed on Broadway in a revival of the musical "Hair," there are two of his contemporaries currently performing on Broadway: Jeff Kready in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" and in the cast of "The Book of Mormon," Tommar Wilson, who has earned a Drama Desk award for "In Transit."

Topeka also counts two Tony Award-nominated actresses among its former citizens: Drama Desk winner Jayne Houdyshell, who was nominated for "Well" and "Follies," and Sherie Rene Scott, who earned Tony nominations for "Everyday Rapture" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

When pressed, Hopper said the success of Topeka-born or -raised actors may not be the local water supply. Instead, he suggested: "The thing that I really cherish about the community of Topeka is they foster their youth when it comes to theater."

Hopper said his fostering came as early as the fourth and fifth grades when he got involved with the Topeka Youth Players, then directed by Amy LaGrone Sander, at Helen Hocker Theater and later, in high school, with its Bath House Players troupe, directed by Jo Huseman. He also developed his dance choreography skills at the Accent Academy of Performing Arts under the tutelage of Valdana L. Hayes.

At Topeka West, Hopper was directed by now-retired Douglas P. Goheen, who he credited with helping develop his on-stage skills.

However, when asked about his biggest influence in Topeka, Hopper quickly volunteered the name of Nancy Scrinopskie Epoch, his music teacher at Topeka West and musical director in several shows at Helen Hocker, Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy and Washburn University.

"She really pushed me and made me believe in myself," Hopper said of Epoch. …

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