Check back for new featured alumni throughout the semester and join our alumni database. This semester’s alumni features are recent graduates Allison Michalke Gupton, Chris Armbrister and Jake Boyd.
What have you been up to since you graduated? I cannot believe it has been over six years since I graduated! Since then, I’ve taught and choreographed throughout the metro-Atlanta area for several dance studios, choreographed for TV and film and judged dance competitions. For about a year and a half now, I’ve been the Administration Manager and a journalist for the dance magazine, Dance Informa. All of my jobs are different and interesting every single day, and I love it!
How do you think UA prepared you for what you are doing now? I feel UA prepared me for what I am doing now by helping me learn more about myself as a leader, teacher and dancer/choreographer. I’ve always known I was meant to be a teacher, so Sarah Barry helped me a ton in that aspect. I come from a family of coaches and always had that mentality of ‘suck it up’ and didn’t really understand a better way of leading until Sarah and Cornelius asked me to be the head counselor for the ABT summer intensive. It’s a hard lesson to learn that the way you’ve been doing things your whole life might not be the best way and I feel UA prepared me for what I’m doing now because I learned the balance between fun and discipline. My students really feed off my positive energy and can learn more because of the way I teach, which is so rewarding and something I feel I wouldn’t have in my teaching arsenal if it weren’t for my time at UA.
Do you have a favorite story from your time at UA? Some of my favorite memories were the football games, and being back stage for dance shows, having to climb those stairs in Morgan, and teaching ballet to some of the football players. But one story that really stands out is a story about collaboration. For a choreography assignment for Cornelius’ Choreography II class, we were asked to collaborate with a graduate student from the Creative Writing department, and an undergraduate student from the Film department. I ended up working with Brian Oliu (now a professor at UA), and we had the best time collaborating about this film that was half computer-generated words as music that he created, and half a soft poem. I danced outside for the softer poem section, and danced in one of the parking garages on campus for the computer-generated words section. What we created was super cool, and I had the best time collaborating with different departments on campus.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career? I hope to work more in the TV and film industry here in Atlanta. I eventually want to choreograph for movie musicals. My cousin, Brian, writes screenplays and I’ll force him to write some dance scenes for me to choreograph in his future blockbusters. I hope to go back to college and receive a Masters in Dance. I also want to start a company called, ‘Dance Training for Athletes’…or something like that. I love sports, and I love dance. It would be a perfect way to combine the two. (Roll Tide!) But I think the main thing that I hope to accomplish in my career is, whatever I end up doing, I want to leave a positive stamp. It is such an important lesson to learn that people want to work with someone that can produce great work, but also be light, and friendly.
UA Theatre & Dance, 1991
Master of Fine Arts (Acting)
What have you been up to since you graduated? Following graduation I spent a few years going from regional theater to regional theater as a nomadic actor before landing in Los Angeles in 1994, where I stayed till 2002. In 2000, I founded Arthur’s Realm Productions in order to produce & direct my first film, Elements of Society, which was bought by CinemaNow.com, a subsidiary of Lionsgate Films. A couple of years after that, I produced my first professional theater production, A Cripple Creek Christmas Carol in Colorado, a script which I co-wrote. In 2007, after several years of independently producing, I formed Thin Air Theatre Company, Inc. with two colleagues and signed a contract with The City of Cripple Creek in Colorado to produce a seven month season of professional shows at The Butte Theater. Thin Air Theatre Company will celebrate our 10th Anniversary of producing professional theatre in 2016. At about the same time I started to build my producing career, I also began working with the internationally acclaimed summer training program Stagedoor Manor located in NY. Over the last seventeen years, I have worked at Stagedoor as a director of three productions each summer, then as Director of Education followed by Program Director and currently as the Director of Theatrical Programming where I continue to oversee the annual staffing process as well as the selection and casting of forty-two fully mounted productions in our eight venues each season.
What advice would you offer for current students about to enter the field? Take full advantage of every opportunity that UA presents you and that comes your way in the early years of your career. You never know when skills or experience that you pick-up along the way will come in useful or where it might lead you. Daily, I take advantage of knowledge, skills or contacts that I made in areas or opportunities I took that were outside my specific area of focus. Not to mention the doors and roads they have opened up for me.
Do you have a favorite story from your time at UA? There are actually several stories that would fit this question – an unexpected light blackout during Summer and Smoke, intercepting a chocolate whopper being tossed to Eddie Rowan during notes only to discover that Don Speed had laced it with ora-gel and a road trip in a University van to Tampa for ACTF. But perhaps my fondest is the camaraderie built between the other Acting MFA’s, myself and our primary professors over the 3 years I studied, to the point where one day at the end of acting class Ed Williams walked past as we all “dog-piled” Jonathan Michelson (our acting professor) in the studio and Ed’s comment was something to the effect of “I see you have everything under control as usually Jonathan” and kept walking.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career? I consider myself very lucky in that I have been able to make my sole living in the theater for over 20 years now as an actor, writer, director, producer, stage combat choreographer and multiple other jobs along the way. I have worked on stage, in film and on TV and have loved my experiences in all. Along the way my goals have fluctuated and developed as I have achieved many of the goals from my youth, including what I thought would be the pinnacle of owning my own theatre company (Thin Air Theatre Company). I’d say my goals at this point would be to continue the never-ending development as a theatrical artist and produce top quality professional theatre…including an Off-Broadway production of a rock musical, to which I recently acquired the development rights.
UA Theatre & Dance, 2010
Bachelor of Arts (Theatre Performance)
What have you been up to since you graduated? Well, a smattering a things. After I graduated in the spring of 2010, my first professional job was playing Will Parker in a touring production of Oklahoma! Since then I’ve worked doing some TV (“Blue Bloods”, “Are We There Yet?’, “30 Rock”, “All My Children”, “Law & Order; SVU”, etc), a few Off-‐Broadway shows, Rock of Ages on Broadway, and in regional theaters around the country. Currently, I’m traveling the U.S. playing Fiyero in the Broadway touring production of Wicked. But my home base is in New York.
What does a typical day look like for you? It depends on when you catch me. If I was back in the city I would be auditioning. Out here on the road we perform 8 shows a week. Normally we have one night show on weekdays and two shows on Saturday and Sunday. We also will have occasional rehearsals during the day.
What advice would you offer for current students about to enter the field? Know for a certainty that this is what you want. The old adage is true: “If you can see yourself being happy doing anything else, do it.” That’s because you will have to sacrifice some things: time with family, comfort (because you will probably be hard up for cash a lot), working day jobs, and hustling to get to do what you want to do. That being said, it’s also extremely rewarding. If you want to do this career it’s there for the taking. The only thing that can really stop you is you.
Do you have a favorite story from your time at UA? I have so many! But I do have one that comes to mind. The very first show I performed in at UA was The ThreePenny Opera. The show was directed by out department chair at the time, Ed Williams. I was goofing off backstage probably and I missed my entrance on stage. Ed called me onstage and stopped rehearsal and said to me, “Jake, in your entire career you get one opportunity to miss and entrance and you just used yours. Do. Not. Do. That. Again.” And you know what? I haven’t.