School of Music, Theatre and Dance

OU alum Mitch Aiello finds fulfillment in new role with Kansas-based theatre

As artistic and education director, Aiello has helped fellow OU graduates share their talents on stage

icon of a calendarAugust 12, 2022

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OU alum Mitch Aiello finds fulfillment in new role with Kansas-based theatre
Mitchell Aiello
OU alum Mitchell Aiello (BFA ’16) stands outside the Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kansas, where he is the artistic and education director.

Since earning his degree in musical theatre, Oakland University alum Mitchell Aiello (BFA ’16) has been busy performing as a professional singer and actor in regional theatres and on national tours across the U.S.

“Right after studying at OU and receiving my degree, I ventured out to Pennsylvania the day of graduation to jump right into my field of study,” Aiello said. “I had a six-month contract as a performer in two musicals right out of school and continued to audition for everything available. As my time progressed, I travelled around the country on back-to-back contracts until the end of 2018.”

During that time, Aiello performed in many different places with many well-known regional theatre companies and played some amazing roles such as Harold Bride (Titanic the Musical), Cat in the Hat (Seussical), Younger Brother (Ragtime), Pinocchio (Shrek the Musical), Geoffrey (The Lion in Winter), Smee (Peter and the Starcatcher), Ted (Disaster!), and many more.

“As I got to the end of 2018, I booked the national tour of Nickelodeon's PAW Patrol Live: The Great Pirate Adventure! as Cap'n Turbot,” he added. “Throughout the first six months of 2019, I travelled around the country performing in arenas and amazing theatres with Nickelodeon and VStar Entertainment.”

As that tour was coming to end, Aiello was asked to come act in, direct, and choreograph a few shows at Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kansas.

“I had been performing as an actor at Great Plains Theatre (GPT) on and off since the summer of 2017,” Aiello said. “When I was asked to take on more responsibilities such as director and choreographer for the 2019 season, I decided to take the chance and I moved to the middle of the country.”

But just as he was about to direct his first show at GPT, Aiello was promoted to artistic/education director.

Empires Fall
The cast of "Empires Fall"

“In this position, I inherited a new project of a show (world premiere) of a play called Empires Fall,” Aiello said. “The play is written by White House Press Secretary, Marlin Fitzwater. I was fortunate enough to adapt the script with his assistance to create a fully staged version of the show.

“The pandemic shut the theatre down for a chunk of time in 2020, but that did not stop me,” he added. “I found new creative ways to wear masks in the shows, be outside, stay socially distanced, and create art safely, especially for the kids of our region. We came back strong in 2021 with a full season of producing nine productions in one year.”

Throughout his time at GPT, Aiello has also been able to hold auditions at Oakland University for students looking for employment in their field.

"I love seeing the continued success of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at OU," Aiello said. "Following their stories is so exciting. Through all of the shows I produced in 2021, I am overjoyed that I employed eight professional actors that graduated from Oakland University. In 2022, there were five. All of these talented individuals come from OU classes spanning over the past five or six years, and I think this is a feature that needs to be told. The talent that comes from this school is outstanding and I am so proud of these performers."

Jersey Boys
Aiello with the cast of "Jersey Boys"

Some of the OU alumni who worked with Aiello this summer at the Great Plains Theatre include: Annika Anderrson (BFA '20), who appeared with fellow alum Clayton Sallee (BFA '20) in Jersey Boys; Stacie Sambrano (BFA '20), who appeared in Footloose; Joshua Steckelberg (BFA '16), who was in Matilda the Musical; and Stanley Misevich (BFA '22), who was in multiple productions throughout the summer, including Jersey Boys, Matilda, and Footloose.

“Bringing talent from Oakland University out to Kansas has been a blast and such a joy," Aiello said. "The talent created at the school is outstanding and I am proud of the individuals who share that talent and their personalities with our Kansas audiences.”

For Aiello, teaching communities through art and live theatre while creating a safe and comfortable space for youth has been one of his fulfilling roles yet.

“I believe that sharing art and changing lives of community members and the youth of this region is so impactful and important and it has been so exciting to have OU alum and students come experience that,” he said. “I am so proud of all we do in Kansas and look forward to having many more students and alumni come out and work here as a professional actor/technician. It really is true that you never know where someone's career may lead them and what position they will be in to share art, as well as offer jobs to other creative minds."

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