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Episode 78 - Operation: Cheesecake. The Prelude (Part I)

UNC student, Jose David Reynoza, shares his unique journey of rediscovering UNC as a musical theatre major.

UNC student, Jose David Reynoza, shares his unique journey of rediscovering UNC as a musical theatre major.

My name is Jose David Reynoza. I am going into my senior year at University of Northern Colorado as a musical theater major and a dance minor here on campus.

What made you choose UNC? What's your history before UNC?

So before you and see it, it was a bit of a journey. I actually graduated high school in 2011. So, a little while back, so a few years ago and I actually was looking at about 16 different schools at the time because I did the Thespian conference audition and from there got a lot of call backs. Thespian society, the high school actors in the drama program, that's what it is in the West area, West end.

When you say West, where is West?

So Midwest to like a California area. And so we, we have Thesbian society and I mean New York and, and areas, but there's a lot of other little areas that don't have a Thespian society. But we did, which was great. So we were able to have a conference and the cool thing about that is you audition for a bunch of universities at once. Similar to how there could be Unified or other things. And so I did that.

It was really just kind of throwing something out there. I wasn't exactly sure if theater was going to be what I was going to pursue.

What was your, what was your second or third option?

I was just always on the entrepreneur a little bit with my dad. So when I was 11 years old, my dad had a cleaning business that he needed. He didn't speak much English, so I helped him. I was basically the main point of contact for the entire business. And so in part of that business then was actually going door to door to a lot of these, new developments and giving them some of the pens and notebooks and stuff that our cleaning company like was ordering online and stuff.

It's like a PR representative.

Pretty much for my father at age 11. So it was kind of what got me started with realizing that like my passion was a little bit of entrepreneurial work and a lot of like, 'find your success' in that sense. And so at age 16, my best friend and I had a photography company cause he had just graduated high school and so, and we both had taken a lot of photography classes during high school and his father was into a lot of art stuff and whatnot. And so him and I got into that and we did a lot of weddings and senior photos and a bunch of that stuff. And as it kept growing, he actually ended up moving away and that ended up dying a little bit.

But as I was graduating high school, I thought, ‘okay, I'm going to go either to school for business or just start a business.’ And the main purpose of it was because I'm a, I'm a DACA student, so deferred action for childhood arrivals. And actually in 2011, DACA hadn't even started yet. So in 2011, for me as I was looking at universities, I was looking at no help whatsoever. No secured status. I was basically undocumented. And most recently because the immigration stuff with my parents and everything that they were going through was there was going to be a required change in the process because I had just turned 18. So it was, it was a lot of stuff. And so with that in 2011, it made it almost impossible for me to think I'm going to go to college. And so I put that aside.

And so, so that's kind of a little bit of why I spent a lot of time, not really going to school. I kind of was just working at the, at the company that my dad was working at. At that company, it was another schoolmates dad helped me get a job there cause he was the main shop manager. It was a welding factory. And I just went in and started doing manual work for a couple of years. And while I was there, that's when deferred action for childhood arrivals, which was the program under the Obama Administration.And so I threw things out into the universe. I started actually, because I knew that I now had a different job I was working for some big corporations and stuff. Undercover security for Walmart Stores Inc.

Sorry, real quick. What does that look like? Do you just act like a customer and you just walk by and make sure that no one has sticky fingers?

Yeah It's called asset protection and yeah, it's basically, I just, I could go in my pajamas and have a cart around and I think that was where it sparked my acting back up. Cause it had been years that I hadn't really done anything with theater. But then when I got that job, I was like, well, I'll just happen to the actor I did in high school and I was just pretending I was a customer. I would pick up the phone, sometimes and pretend that I was talking to someone so that if people kind of saw me, like why did he walk around again a couple times, then I would on the phone. So I guess now that's a warning for anybody who goes.

Look out for people circling.

People who are there. They're usually pretty good at their job. So you can't really tell that they're watching you. But I'm doing that brought me some connections, some friends again that, that were doing theater. And as I looked at them again, I started doing auditions for a lot of Denver regional companies. And so I started doing shows just while I was working. And I've moved on to Verizon wireless. So now I was acting salesman and so, but still some type of performing.

Couldn't wear your pajamas.

Couldn’t wear my pajamas, and so, and that was a great time too. But something was still missing. It had now been like four for some years without really studying my craft, without really pursuing specifically a path of what I wanted to do. I wasn't even doing anything really entrepreneurial. I was just kind of working for the big boss at all these places.

But the one place I was happy every time was when I got into shows in some of these regional small regional companies in Denver. And in one of the shows I, there was a UNC student that that was in, in the show as well, that just brought back these memories of like, well, what if I tried going back to UNC? They were one of my options in 2011, but on top of that, like I loved the faculty at the time as well. Tom McNally one of the acting professors here and one of the people who originally started the theater program here was one of the main people that was trying to get me to be here then. And he was still here at the time, so I was pretty decided I was going to go back the following year. So this was in the spring of 2016 and thinking, you know what, auditions already passed, I'm going to try and see if fall 2017 I'll start school again and, and embark on that journey even if I'm now 23.

And so with that I just started telling some friends and one of my friends that ended up being a server for Tom McNally at a breakfast joint, I don't even remember which breakfast joint, but talking Tom said that it was the worst breakfast that he ever had just food wise.

We won't name name names.

We won't name names, but I don't remember. But with that my friend was a server and he said, 'my friend Jose Reynosa is looking at going back to school to the school that you're at. He was going to audition for next year.' And Tom tells him to call me while they're at breakfast. So they're at breakfast, I'm at Verizon and I get a phone call and I ignore it. And then it goes in three more times. So by the fourth time I tell my customers, 'give me just one second.' This might be an emergency. They, they're calling me four times, it might be something. So I stepped to the back and I picked it up and it said 'hi, this is Tom McNally from UNC,' that's my impersonation.

I didn't believe it at first. I was like, 'Jordan, shut up. Who? Who is this?' Cause I know this is really Tom. And I was like, 'Oh hey,' And he arranged an audition for the following week and I started that fall instead of waiting a whole other year.

So how many years was it from the last time you actually saw Tom to like him contacting you?

It would have been about three and a half.

So he remembered you from four years ago and he was ready for you to come back and audition?

And the biggest thing with that is that he had already mentioned like back then because I just didn't have any possible way because of the immigration and the DACA stuff. There was no financial means at the time, but I remember clearly words from Tom, which I'll always be thankful for, was that, he mentioned over the phone in 2011 he said, 'I'm ready to burn down houses to get you here.'

And that was just one of the most loving things that like faculty-wise from, cause I had options at other schools, but no one was really talking to me the way the faculty here was talking to me, which is why I was like, ‘OK, let me look at UNC first before I even look at anything else if I'm going to go back to school.’

So with that, like he lived up to his word with the fact that he was so passionate then that he did remember me and he set up the audition. I auditioned for the acting program, the musical theater program. I technically got accepted into both. I chose musical theater just for my passion for singing and dancing and everything together. And yeah, the rest was kind of a little bit of history with that cause now going into senior year, and it's almost like a dream feels a little bit like I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen once I graduate because I'm not sure what has just happened in these past four years.

You look back and think really did that actually had actually happen.

Yeah because everything has been like an opportunity arising from either a connection or a friend or something that kept going. Even going back to when I started auditioning for regional companies and stuff, it was somebody who had been a friend and mentor that was directing something at a company in Lakewood that called me. And so it was just always like something or other that I did not expect.

Seems like there's always a sprinkle of serendipity on every step that you had, just something, a domino effect of one thing leading to another and 'oh, what are the chances of this happening?'

Yeah. Yeah. I think that's, that's the best way to kind of describe it because I think, I think with the fact that I went into that welding company and then into Walmart and then Verizon and just working in a lot of big corporations, I had a great time working for companies, but it was very much, I thought I was settling now. I thought I would because I was at sometimes I was making as much money as my father. So it was like, I think I'm just gonna settle with this and this is life.

And so when these chances and a little bit of serendipity and everything, like it was like maybe that wasn't my life and maybe I should've explored it more. Even back in 2011 like maybe, to me then it seemed like everything was closed. But with the experience I have now, and just the way that, like if you do go and keep knocking and asking, sometimes there's an opportunity that you didn't think about. And I just saw all the opposition in 2011 then I was like, I don't think I can go to school. I just, it just seems impossible. I'm going to start working, but I didn't really try hard enough then just cause everything seemed against me and whatnot, and I'm sure it would've been harder than it was once the DACA program started and everything was going on. Like I'm sure that has made everything so much easier, but then at that time, but now I'm at UNC, finishing off and yeah

We're running out of time, so we're going to run over to the next episode.

Sounds great, yeah.


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