Vance-Granville Community College holds a special place in the heart of Spencer Nunn, who has returned to his alma mater as a member of the cast of the college’s upcoming Dinner Theater production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy, “Company.”
When the former Warrenton resident first enrolled at VGCC, he planned to complete an Associate in Science and transfer to a four-year university to study Marine Biology. As it turned out, his experience at the community college changed his career plans and, in fact, his life – dramatically.
“When I got to Vance-Granville, I was already into acting, since finding theater in my freshman year of high school,” Nunn recalled. “But I thought of theater as a hobby.”
One semester, he considered auditioning for VGCC’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but a Biology lab session conflicted with the audition time, so he missed it. “Fortunately, I knew one of the cast members and found out that somebody had dropped out of the play,” Nunn said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. I auditioned and got the part.”
Many more VGCC productions followed, including the first four Dinner Theaters. Nunn attended school part-time, while also working part-time. That meant he was enrolled for more semesters than some students, and he had more chances to appear in VGCC plays. “I might be the most prolific actor in Vance-Granville history,” he reflected with a laugh.
Along the way, after spending time studying with VGCC Theatre Arts instructor Betsy Henderson, something clicked for him. “I thought after a while, ‘this makes me happy,’ and I decided to pursue the theatre as a career,” Nunn said. His new plan was to transfer to a four-year university to complete a degree that would allow him to teach drama.
Nunn graduated from VGCC in 2016 and enrolled at William Peace University in Raleigh, where his professors marveled at the amount of college-level stage experience he had. He is set to graduate from WPU with his bachelor’s degree in Theatre Education, and a minor in English, on May 4, not long after the VGCC Dinner Theater. “Later, I’d like to get my master’s and teach at the college level,” Nunn said. “I was not on that course when I started at VGCC.”
There is another significant aspect to Nunn’s experience at the community college: the lasting relationships he formed. In addition to making many friends and gaining a mentor in Betsy Henderson, Nunn started dating one of his fellow student actors, Rachel Pottern, after they appeared together in "Zara Spook and Other Lures.” He proposed marriage to her in front of an awe-struck VGCC Civic Center audience at the conclusion of a Dinner Theater production, “Smoke on the Mountain.” She said “yes,” and they eventually wed in 2016. “So that’s something else I owe to Betsy Henderson and the college,” Nunn remarked. They even had their wedding on the VGCC campus. Originally set to take place in the gazebo outside, the ceremony moved into the Civic Center because of Hurricane Matthew.
His wife is an accomplished thespian herself and graduated from William Peace University right before he enrolled there. Among the four plays in which Nunn has acted at WPU, one was directed by Rachel. He has submitted a proposal to direct a play at the university after he graduates, just as she did.
Appropriately enough, in the new production of “Company,” Nunn plays “Paul,” a young man who is about to get married to “Amy,” played by Rachel. Nunn describes Paul as “a young banker in New York City; he’s very optimistic and overly affectionate at times, but he’s genuine, kind-hearted and loving.”
Spencer and Rachel Nunn are the only cast members in this year’s seventh annual Dinner Theater who were also in VGCC’s first such production (“Our Town”) back in 2013. Their involvement in the show as alumni is in keeping with the celebration of the community college’s 50th anniversary.
“The cast of this show is a lot of fun,” Nunn said. “The music is really challenging. Sondheim is known for complex music. If the cast was not so determined and ego-free, it could be frustrating, but we are all so supportive of each other.” In addition to Betsy Henderson directing and co-starring, Nunn noted that the production benefits from “a fantastic music director, Joanna Li; I feel I understand musical theater so much better after working with her.”
“Coming back to do this show feels like coming home,” Nunn added. “I never regretted going the community college route. I am 100% positive I would not be in the position I am, mentally, emotionally or in terms of maturity, if it wasn’t for Vance-Granville.” His heart, he said, “is at peace knowing I am doing theater because I realized how much it meant to me at Vance-Granville, and now, I want to get on a career path to be able to give that back. Going to the college is one of the best things I ever chose to do, and so many blessings have come from it.”
The dinner theater is scheduled for the evenings of Thursday, April 25, and Friday, April 26. Dinner will begin at 6 p.m. each evening in the Civic Center on the college’s Main Campus near Henderson. Tickets are available for $30 each through the VGCC website at www.vgcc.edu/dinnertheater.
Above: Spencer Nunn is seen here in 2016, rehearsing for his role in "Deathtrap," the last VGCC Dinner Theater production in which he appeared before graduating from the college, and the one he recalls as his favorite.