NCT/UNLV students offer help from their heARTS for one of their own, Isabella Rooks

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

By Lisa Story

Arianna Mercy, Lauren Tauber, and Keaton Johns and peers join the chorus of voices asking for help for Isabella.

When UNLV theatre alumna Isabella Rooks was stuck down on Oct. 2, 2018 by a mysterious neurological disease that rendered her paralyzed and unable to breathe on her own, her Friends Ruliko Cronin and Sydney Story wanted to do something – anything – to help their friend.

The two were conversing in the Judy Bailey Theatre (JBT) green room about what two poor college students could do to help. Almost as a joke, Noah Keeling, a fellow UNLV theatre major, suggested they “put on a show” in typical Glee fashion.

The suggestion led to multiple meetings with UNLV theatre department leadership and faculty to create the UNLV All Stars: A Benefit for Isabella Rooks on Dec. 2 – exactly two months after Isabella was admitted to the hospital.

“The benefit developed from an off-hand comment, but led to a night to honor Bella, our friend and fighter,” said Story, a senior in UNLV’s stage and screen acting program.

Professor and Actor Nate Bynum

Cronin and Story met with Norma Saldivar, UNLV Theatre Department Chairwoman, and Performing Arts Center (PAC) staff to secure a venue, a date, and handle details they never knew were required of such as event.

“We first thought about this from the performance perspective, but soon learned there were numerous logistics required,” Story said. She assumed because it was a benefit, there would be no charge for the venue, staffing and other hard costs that needed to be covered. While the UNLV PAC did what it could to provide services at no charge, there were still equipment and labor costs totaling a little more than $555.

“It was a learning experience for sure,” Story admitted.

“There seemed to be one curve ball after another,” Story added. “I wasn’t sure the benefit would actually happen until we stepped on stage.”

In addition to the logistical challenges, both Story and Cronin were juggling their student and personal commitments. Story was coordinating the benefit while taking 19 credits (seven classes) and opening in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at UNLV.

Meeting with faculty to plan the show and settle PAC business was fit in between classes, rehearsals, part-time jobs and life.