1. UCF Athletics basically won everything last week. Here’s a rundown of what happened from Feb. 27 (when we last posted Five Things) to today:
• Feb 28: Baseball trounced the No. 2 Florida Gators, 11-2, in front of the third-largest crowd (3,852) to see a game at the UCF Baseball Complex
• March 1: Softball picked up a road win at Florida Gulf Coast.
• March 2: Men’s basketball wrapped up the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference Championship thanks to the Knights’ win at USF in the regular season finale. The Knights now lead the Bulls in the War On I4 rivalry series, 30-15.
• March 3-5: Baseball swept Stony Brook over the weekend with three-straight wins to improve their season record to 11-1. The team currently ranks among the top five in the nation for win-loss percentage (.917).
• March 3-5: Softball kept momentum rolling with three wins over the weekend against Providence and Florida Gulf Coast – two of which came off walk-off homers.
• March 5: Rowing collected five first-place finishes in six events to open the spring season and clinch its seventh-straight Robin Yeuell Trophy at the 37th annual Metro Cup in Winter Park.
• March 4: Women’s basketball won its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game in program history to advance to the semifinals.
• March 5: Men’s tennis topped Davidson, 6-1, at the USTA National Campus.
• Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams earned their 20th victories of the season. More than 90 percent of Division I schools can’t claim the same feat in 2016-17.
2. Three alumni were inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame recently: Sonya Dixon ’96 ’98MBA, chief financial officer and senior vice president at Holiday Inn Club Vacations; Antonio “Tony” Moreno Jr. ’91, managing partner/financial consultant, MPC Wealth Management; and Michael O’Donnell ’09, executive/entrepreneur for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCF. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor given by the college to graduates who have been in the industry for at least 20 years and have brought notoriety to the university through their professional achievements.
3. UCF Theatre alumnus Desmond Newson ’05 snagged a coveted spot in the national tour of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” The tour of “Hamilton” will begin in San Francisco in March, followed by a 21-week run in Los Angeles, with more cities follow, including Orlando, for the 2018-2019 season.
4. The UCF Alumni family grew by two last week when John C. Hitt and his wife, Martha, received the Honorary Alumni Award at the celebration of the president’s 25th anniversary on March 1. It’s a fitting recognition — Hitt has conferred more than 80 percent of all degrees since UCF’s founding in 1963.
5. Recent film grad Dana Pellerin ’16 walked around spreading love around campus while creating an eye-catching video. It seems like a good way to start off the week – check it out for yourself!
1. UCF is all about helping out the procrastinators in need of Valentine’s Day date ideas. The UCF Theater Department will be featuring William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from Feb. 16-26. Tickets are $20 or $10 with a UCF ID. You can purchase them online or by calling the box office at 407-823-1500. The men’s basketball team will square off against Tulsa on Feb. 14 and is offering a special Valentine’s Date Night package. For $40 receive two tickets to the game as well as one Cupid-inspired Knightro Bobblehead.
2. CFE Arena announced Monday that UCF alumnus Daniel Tosh ’96 will return to campus April 25 for a standup comedy show featuring writers and comedians from his Comedy Central hit “Tosh.0.” Tickets go on sale Feb. 17.
3. Opening Night for UCF Baseball will be held Friday, and best of all – IT’S FREE! The Knights are beginning a new era under first-year head coach Greg Lovelady. First pitch against Siena is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Before you head to the field, learn more about the John Euliano Park Expansion.
4. Late last week, the 2017 UCF Football schedule was unveiled. It includes a record four September home games, 11 Saturday kickoffs and a Black Friday War On I-4 showdown with rival USF. Start making your tailgate plans and purchase season tickets now. Pro tip: Renew your season tickets before March 1 and swing yourself some cool prizes.
5. Calling Knights in Georgia! IGNITE: Atlanta will take place Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta. Space is limited but there is still time to reserve your spot. The event is free. Click here to RSVP.
Those interested in UCF doctoral, master’s, specialist or certificate programs can attend Tuesday’s Grad Fair, which will guide prospective students through admission options and the transition to graduate school.
On Wednesday, the College of Engineering and Computer Science will host its 3rd Annual Career Kick-Off Workshop, which helps CECS alumni connect with CECS students, to provide guidance on career paths, resumes and interviews.
The “The Understudy,” an exploration of the existential vagaries (and comedy) of show business and life, opens at the UCF Theatre on Thursday evening.
Orlando Repertory Theatre, in partnership with UCF, announces its popular summer camps held on the UCF campus. Designed to foster self-confidence, creative thinking, collaboration and trust through the medium of performing arts, The REP’s UCF camps are held in the state of the art Performing Arts Center.
There are 25 camps for rising 1st through 10th grade students, including creative dramatics and musical theatre camps. After Care is available. Advanced training camps in Acting or Musical Theatre are also available for rising 9th – to graduating 12th grade students. Weekly camps are June 15 to August 7. All camps are taught by professional Teaching Artists.
Additional camps are available at The REP’s Loch Haven location and in downtown Celebration. For questions, please contact Ashley Bigge in The REP’s Youth Academy at email@example.com or 407.896.7365, ext. 219.
This week, the national tour of NETwork presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” comes to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. With the timeless story and well-known tunes, “Beauty and the Beast” should be a fun show to complement our Disney-obsessed city. Brent Wakelin, ’10, is a Central Florida native and UCF graduate who is currently on tour in the ensemble with this production. Brent took a few moments between shows to answer a few of our questions.
Hi Brent. In just a few days you’ll be back in Orlando. For those who don’t know, tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get your start in musical theater?
I grew up in Orange City, Fla., and did my very first play at Shoestring Theatre in Lake Hellen when I was 8 years old. I was bitten by the acting bug as soon as I stepped on stage for the audition. That was also the year I started singing with the Stetson University Children’s Choir in DeLand. From there, I kept doing shows with Shoestring and with Storybook Theatre and Sands Theatre in DeLand. In high school, I was a proud member of DeLand High’s Thespian Troupe #3030, and then went on to earn my BFA in musical theatre from UCF. Go Knights!
You graduated from UCF with a degree in musical theater and did a few roles locally including the theme parks. How did UCF and the Orlando theater scene prepare you for becoming a professional actor?
UCF taught me a lot about what to expect in the real world, but the best education often comes from going out and doing it. During my senior year at UCF, I was cast as a singer in the “High School Musical 3” show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and as William Barfée in Mad Cow’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” These were my first professional gigs and they taught me a lot about how the business worked. I auditioned a lot at Disney during my time at UCF which really prepared me for the audition scene in NYC where I booked my first tour as the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Tell us a little about the audition for “Beauty and the Beast.” What was it like when you got the call that you got the role?
It’s actually a funny story. I auditioned for BATB at least three times after I moved to NYC and never got a callback, so I had made peace with the fact that BATB just wasn’t the show for me. It wasn’t until this last time when I went to a call for the national tour of “Elf” that they called me back for BATB. I was so surprised, but, when I stepped into that callback, it just felt like it was meant to be, and it was! When I got the call to play the Bookseller, I was so happy because I already knew that my Scarecrow from the “Oz” tour (Patrick Pevehouse) had been cast as Lumiere, and a fellow UCF alum (Jake Bridges, who has since left tour) was cast as LeFou. I couldn’t wait to start!
I saw “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway when it first opened. In fact, it was the first Broadway show I ever saw. How does this tour compare to the Disney animated film or any stage versions that you’ve seen?
The only time I’d seen BATB on stage before was the dearly departed Seaside Music Theatre’s production starring Michelle Knight (personal idol turned friend) as Belle. This version is extremely unique because it was re-designed by the original Broadway creative team for NETworks Productions. The team told us in rehearsals that they approached the show a second time with an emphasis of transparency and being able to see through the exterior to someone’s heart. This is reflected through many visual aspects of the show, especially the stained glass effect used during the castle scenes which I think is especially beautiful.
Why do you think people love this show so much?
I think that people love this show for the same reason I love it: BATB was Disney’s first time creating a princess who was extremely confident, assertive and brave. Belle is a head-strong beauty who isn’t afraid to fight for the people she loves or the things she believes in which is so important for everyone, especially kids to see. In the words of Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and soon-to-be Belle, “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”
Do you have a favorite scene in this production that audiences should be looking out for?
My favorite line from the show comes from the library scene when Belle is reading to the Beast. She says something that all of us can relate to, which is why this show is so accessible for so many people: “In the town where I come from, the people think I’m odd. So I know how it feels to be… different. And I know how lonely that can be.”
With live theater every performance must be a new adventure. Do you have any funny on-stage moments that you can share?
And, some I can’t share! I understudy Cogsworth and Maurice in the show. When I went on for Maurice the first time, our makeup supervisor wasn’t prepared for how sweaty I can get on stage and used toupee tape to attach my bushy white eyebrows because that’s all that other actors usually need. Well, by the time I got into the Beast’s castle, I was a sweaty mess and my left eyebrow kept falling off. After trying to re-attach it several times, I finally just pulled the other one off and stuck them both in my pocket. Needless to say, we made sure to use spirit gum for every performance after that!
What are some of your favorite things about being on tour and what are some challenges with being on a national tour? How do you stay at the top of your game physically and vocally?
I love living in hotels because I don’t have to clean! However, it is hard to be away from my friends and family for such long periods of time. It’s also hard to stay healthy. There are 30 actors in this cast and, when you’re kept in such close quarters, it’s hard not to catch a castmate’s cold, but we all do a really good job of using hand sanitizer backstage and taking lots of Vitamin C the minute we feel a tickle in our throats.
Do you have anything that you bring with you throughout your travels that reminds you of home or that keeps you grounded?
My oldest niece, Kaylin, is 13 years younger than me and grew up with me around for most of her childhood. When I graduated high school and left for college, Kaylin (who was 5 at the time) gave me her favorite stuffed animal: a baby Simba (from the Lion King) that purrs. She said that she gave it to me so that I wouldn’t forget her, even though I only went to school 45 minutes from my home town. I have had it ever since and carry it with me when I tour.
Now that you’re “home,” what are some local places that you like to visit?
Pom Pom’s! Can’t wait to get a Thanksgiving sandwich and some kiwi-pear iced green tea! Gonna show some of my castmates around Disney too, thanks to my awesome friends who work there. :)
Speaking of local places, you probably noticed that we opened the beautiful Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Are you excited to perform here as part of its inaugural year?
I am SO excited! When I was growing up in the Orlando area, I would have to drive over to Tampa to see a lot of the bigger Broadway tours. Now that we have the Dr. Phillips Center, those big Broadway musicals can come right to our back yard! Orlando is already a hot-spot for world-class entertainment, and the new Dr. Phillips Center will only add to the amazing selection in Orlando.
Do you have any parting advice for kids who may want to pursue acting/musical theater?
I tell everyone I meet who wants to pursue theatre as a career that it’s not easy. There will be a lot of hard times and challenges along the way, but if this truly is your passion and you can’t think of anything else that would make you as happy, then go for it with all you’ve got. Never stop learning, never stop working hard and never stop dreaming.