Theatre grad juggles roles working backstage and voice acting

4 – minute read

Actors get all the spotlights and applause. But for every aspiring stage star, there are countless people behind the scenes playing supporting roles in any theatrical production’s success. Scenic designers, props managers, lighting technicians, wardrobe supervisors and others keep a show running smoothly and safely – often without receiving an ovation for their efforts.


Anne Carncross, a Florida Gulf Coast University theatre professor, thought a graduating senior deserved a curtain call for his behind-the-scenes contributions to FGCU productions and generosity to fellow thespians. Take a bow, Roberto Mena.

“He is one of the greatest people ever,” Carncross raved. “He’s really kind, always helpful, has volunteered countless hours in our program to build scenery and hang lights — anything I would ask, he would do. He gives that to his colleagues, too. If they need anything he’ll do it.”


The care and compassion he showed classmates also paralleled his personal life, she said.


When he wasn’t on campus building sets or pitching in with his peers, Mena was at home helping his parents care for his grandmother. She has dementia and needs around-the-clock assistance, he said.

FGCU graduate Robewrto Mena
"The theatre community at FGCU felt like a family,” Roberto Mena said.

Why was this nontraditional student so giving of his time at FGCU? At 34, Mena had more life experience than most of his colleagues. After graduating from Fort Myers High School in 2007, he enrolled at FGCU intending to pursue nursing. After an unexpectedly challenging year, he left college and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, serving from 2009 to 2016. His last post was on a cutter stationed in Honolulu.


“I wasn’t putting enough focus on my schoolwork,” Mena recalled. “The jump from high school to college is a huge leap. There are a lot more responsibilities, and I wasn’t ready.”


By fall 2018, he felt ready. His military service helped him develop the discipline he needed to succeed at FGCU, Mena said. It also instilled the mentality of mutual trust and care that ties people who spend a lot of time together.

“We would do a lot of patrols and search-and-rescue missions,” he said. “When you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean for months at time, you have to rely on the person next to you if you’re going to see shore again. We’re all in the same ship. I would bring that to the theatre program as well. The theatre community at FGCU felt like a family.”

Mena had long been interested in pursuing a creative field.


The theatre curriculum in the Bower School of Music & the Arts balances performance and production skills.


The technical experience Mena gained building sets was complemented by learning acting techniques.


A class in voice-over acting included experiential learning in WGCU Public Media studios and led to discovering a talent for the craft. Encouraged by the staff, Mena eventually was paid to record audio clips for WGCU.


Mena possesses “a really good voice for radio,” Carncross said. “He’s one of those rare butterflies who’s equally good at both sides — with voice-over and backstage work.”


Ideally, he will juggle the two roles as the curtain rises on his next act. While working in set production at Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers during its 2023-24 season, he plans to continue pursuing voice-over work.


“I am an official, paid voice actor,” Mena said. “I have a home studio with a good microphone and mixer and spend a lot of time practice-reading at home. It’s fun.”


An animation fan —  “Avatar” and “Cowboy Bebop” are two of his favorites — Mena hopes one day to voice act in anime or video games.


“Being a fan of it and then going through the FGCU course and being told I have a knack for this, that it’s something I could get into,” he said, “That kind of put me on cloud nine a little bit.”

Subscribe to 360
Stay in the Loop
The FGCU360 email newsletter delivers the latest scoop twice a month.