Academics Arts and Humanities

Ready for the bright lights of Broadway

Senior University of Miami Theatre Arts students traveled to New York City over spring break in hopes of making their dreams a reality.
UM Theatre Arts senior Jordan Kiser in Times Square

University of Miami senior theatre arts major Jordan Kiser at Times Square. Photos and video: Evan F. Garcia/University of Miami

NEW YORK—Times Square’s bright lights radiate different emotions to those who step foot onto the famous intersection known as the “crossroads of the world.” For one University of Miami student, a feeling of hope exudes as he stares at the Broadway billboards spanned across the buildings.

“I grew up with the dream to perform in New York City on a Broadway stage, and this is my first introduction to get that opportunity and show the world what I could do,” said Jordan Kiser, a senior theatre arts major.

Kiser was able to get one step closer to achieving his dream this spring break. Not only was he able to perform in New York City’s Theater Row this week through the help of UM—he also had the opportunity to audition for a role in Broadway’s hit musical “Hamilton.”

“I walked into this giant building for the audition, and I instantly saw posters on the walls of all these amazing Broadway shows. It was at that moment when I said to myself ‘Wow, I’m actually here.’ It was a rush of adrenaline,” he said.

Kiser, along with 14 other seniors who are part of UM’s Theatre Arts Program, prepared all year to travel to New York City during spring break and perform at the Samuel Beckett Theatre off Broadway. The Annual Senior Showcase is a major moment in their artistic career because industry leaders in Broadway are invited to watch their performances.

“It’s a chance for our graduates to come to New York and show their talents to industry managers, agents and casting directors. It’s like a key for the world to be able to see them, and that’s a great step for their professional career,” said Michael Bush, artistic director of the University’s Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.

Bush is proud to say that the reaction to this year’s showcase was one like no other—with many of the students receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback. He said students are already receiving call backs, and have gotten a lot of attention from agents who are interested in taking them on.

Kiser is optimistic that this exposure will help him land a job after graduation.

“Nothing is set in stone yet, but there’s no step backwards. This is all a step in the right direction, and it’s a stride I will never forget. I’m just hoping for the best,” said Kiser.

Senior Rikkiya Brathwaite also received a lot of attention from agents who want to represent her in the industry. She said she has taken this opportunity as a way to build more confidence for the competitive business she is about to enter.

“This is a business, and I’m my own entrepreneur. I hope to come out of this experience more comfortable with myself in terms of branching out and knowing I can build a career on my own,” she said.

Senior Nick McCarthy believes this performance was a great way to get his foot in the door.

“We’re taught that it takes at least five times of you being in the room before they even recognize you,” he said. “I think this first experience is an amazing opportunity. Even if I don’t sign with someone, they’ll have heard about me, and slightly know about me.”

Many students, like Devin Cherry, are an example that their connection to UM could potentially help them land future roles.

“After my performance an alumnus, who is now a casting director, approached me and encouraged me to set up an appointment with him, so that was awesome. It’s evident that there’s an alumni in every kind of facet of the business,” said Cherry.

There is no doubt their mentors believe they are ready to step foot into the real world.

“This class has grown more than you can imagine. It proves that training is worth everything. Every couple of weeks I see a difference. They are ready to go out, and we’re ready to push them out of the nest,” said NDavid Williams, senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts.

According to Bush, Williams, who accompanies the students on piano, is the “genius” behind the showcase. Over the years, both Williams and Bush have elevated the program to new heights.

“The wealth and knowledge of experience and years that they bring to the table is enlightening and inspiring. It is an honor to be able to sing alongside them, and be directed by them,” said McCarthy.

It is evident their passion for the arts inspires these students every day.

“The theatre is my religion. It is my church. It is my inspiration. It means everything to me. It’s what I’ve devoted my life to, and to be able to pass it forward means so much,” said Bush.

For Bush, who has spent nearly 36 years working in the business, he wants to make sure students keep a sense of humor once they go out into the world.

“Understand that you’re in charge of your life. If you don’t like your story, make up a new one and step into that one. Don’t get stuck in a story that you’re unhappy with because you’re in control of it,” he said.

Williams advises them to keep being true to themselves and to toughen up when needed.

“There are thousands of people looking for the same job. If you don’t get it, that doesn’t mean you’re good or bad. It’s about what people are looking for at that particular moment,” said Williams. “When you get the job understand that you were the person they wanted, and if you don’t that’s alright. There will be other opportunities,” he said.