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June 9, 2021

Performing through the pandemic

The performing arts industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand for in-person performances ground to a halt beginning in March 2020. However, many of UM’s theatre alumni have shown incredible resilience as they have found success and adapted to a new normal.

 

Rebecca Aparicio ’07

Major: Musical theatre

Current job: Freelance director/writer and adjunct faculty in musical theatre at Pace University

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? 

COVID-19 has decimated the theatre industry. We’ve all had to pivot the best way we can as artists, and it’s been a very challenging time for our industry. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to direct for the past year all on Zoom, all online, which has been extremely challenging, yet I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends and peers have been out of work for a year. I’ve been very fortunate to direct two plays and four musicals on Zoom over the past year.

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

I always come back to my experience in College Night. Especially as a leader, you are forced to use all of your skills as an artist to make College Night happen. I think that spirit of working with your peers towards a collective goal really showed me that anything is possible with hard work and lots of planning. Learning to produce on that large scale taught me so many skills that have translated in to so many areas of my work and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity.

 

Kendra Nicole Johnson ’17

Major: Musical theatre

Current job: Teaching theatre camps at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Playing Andrea and understudy Erzulie for the Once on this Island concert at the Jenny T. Anderson Theatre. Also cast in a Queen tribute touring concert presented by the Taylor Buice Theatre in Georgia.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? How have you been able to find success despite these challenges?

COVID-19 affected me, like so many others, financially, emotionally, mentally and physically. Before the shutdown, I had toured with Paw Patrol Live performing as Zuma and understudy as Mayor Goodway. Following that I worked as a vocalist for Norwegian Creative Studios on their Oceania luxury cruise line. In order to be successful in this career you have to know who you are on and off stage. I learned this the hard way. Once theatre was gone I was forced to learn who I was outside of working on stage. I am a runner, puzzle fixer, cook, aerialist, screen/playwriter and a song writer. 

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

The professors in the theatre department left me with advice that was essential to my career. Dr. Callaghan had a large hand in helping me expand my knowledge of musical theatre. Dr. C. also taught me the importance of knowing the space and the world in which your character lives during each show. Marcus Lane taught me the importance of cultivating our acting skills. Kel Leager and Kyle Moore taught me the importance of tech. Michael Walker taught me the foundation of how to act on camera. Emily Gill, through costuming, always taught us to challenge the norms. The dance teachers, Theresa Leager, William Michael Cooper, Dale Serrano and Brandon Barranco helped me to polish a wide range of essential skills – every single teacher taught me something that I still utilize this very day. 

 

Julian Robinson ’02

Major: Theatre

Current job: Film producer/editor

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? How have you been able to find success despite these challenges?

I’d worked on many films in my home studio in Los Angeles before the pandemic started, so I was somewhat ready for the seismic shift once everything went remote. Now I’m inundated with more work than I can handle because companies need creative people who can work independently around all the tech. The hardest part is not having a real break to get out to recharge and see people. “Work from home” gets exhausting when you’re also doing everything else from home.

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

None of the tech I work with existed when I went to UM, but I think learning how every part of how great entertainment works really sets you up for long-term success in the creative world. The Theatre Department opened up doors in every discipline, and Dr. David Callaghan was hugely influential in helping me get a foothold in NYC where I went to film school. I’m a more versatile artist and collaborator because of everything I learned at Montevallo.

 

Megan Stein ’08

Major: Theatre and music

Current job: Freelance writer and editor

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? How have you been able to find success despite these challenges?

My freelance work definitely diminished, but I never have a shortage of personal projects going on at any time. The pandemic allowed me time to focus on writing some personal projects that may not have received the attention under busier circumstances. I’ve also learned great lessons about how reaching out to other people and cultivating community, even remotely, is necessary for creativity. We have some great modern tools that allow for that.

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

I obviously have not landed in a career focused on performing, and I don’t think I expected that I would. The arts education I got at UM forced me to look at all sides of creating something and allowed me to feel confident stepping into many roles because I had tried them. Writing, making movies, editing video – everything I do now is rooted in storytelling, and I think I was taught to look critically and curiously at all sides of a story while telling them at Montevallo.

 

Jason Styres ’06

Major: Acting & directing

Current job/role: Casting director, creative director of The Casting Collaborative and founder of the Caucus for Independent Casting

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? How have you been able to find success despite these challenges?

The vast majority of theatre has been shut down since March 2020.  It has been challenging for every part of our industry, including casting professionals. Being based in NYC comes at a high cost, so having to shoulder those costs until things kick back into gear is challenging in and of itself, not to mention any personal/individual obstacles that people are having to deal with.

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

Two of the biggest takeaways of my time at Montevallo were having a sense of community and being resourceful. Both of these things have helped mitigate the damage done to our profession during the past year. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to a fellow alum. I have also re-examined how I engage with my community and colleagues with clarity. Sustainability — in all manners of the term — must be at the forefront of our minds as we enter into the next phase of this journey.

 

Malik Van Hoozer-Elliott ’17

Major: Musical Theatre

Current job/role: I am currently Pippin in “Pippin” at Osceola Arts in Orlando, Florida.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your career over the past year? How have you been able to find success despite these challenges?

Well, I have lost my performing jobs that were at Universal Orlando Resort as a singer, dancer and actor and at SeaWorld Orlando as an actor and dancer. This affected me drastically, and I have had to figure out how to adjust since I was performing at the theme parks full-time. But I have made the best of it. I found theaters that were still doing shows safely even during the pandemic. I am thankful that I own The Van Hoozer Experience, where I teach acting to local actors from the youngest of ages to older adults. On top of all of that, I am also an assistant coach for the West Orange High School dance team. The Warriorettes, and I teach acting/dance at Starbound Performers, Celebration Arts Academy and the notable Garden Theatre.

How did UM prepare you for success in your career?

I wouldn’t be where I am without UM. The faculty really taught me to find the work. There is so much work in the world, you just have to find it and put yourself out there. I never thought I would be teaching as much as I do, but I love it, and it brings a whole new love for the arts. UM also taught me to do it all.