From Atlanta to New York, Theatre UCF alumna makes her Broadway debut in new musical The Prom

Theatre UCF alumna on Broadway
Jerusha Cavazos ’14 is making her Broadway debut in The Prom, a new musical comedy about acceptance and love.

The annual springtime tradition of prom is already a big deal – a crucial over-the-top social milestone for most high school students. Some students fuss over cummerbund choices, others fret about dinner plans – and some worry if their choice of a date will be met with acceptance, or conflict. The new musical The Prom opening on Broadway this fall follows the story of a lesbian student who just wants to take her girlfriend to prom in a small, close-minded town that won’t allow it – and the band of Broadway stars who try to make it happen.

Musical theatre alumna Jerusha Cavazos ’14 first had a role on the show Atlanta on FX in April, performed in Jesus Christ Superstar in Chicago through May, and is now making her Broadway debut in The Prom surrounded by industry greats. Even with such a successful whirlwind year, she stopped by the Performing Arts Center to give new Musical Theatre students a masterclass and take a moment to reflect on her roles, her journey, and her own prom.

Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How does it feel to be getting ready to take the stage?

I have so many mixed emotions right now. I am so grateful and excited … literally bursting with joy. At the same time, I’m nervous and still in shock that I get to go on a journey that I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10. There are days I walk to the theatre and ring the stage door buzzer with tears in my eyes. I’ve walked past many Broadway stage doors dreaming of what it would be like to enter it as an artist performing on that stage. I get to do that now. It feels surreal and I’m trying to be present in every moment, taking it all in, with so much gratitude.

Tell us about the show and the role you’re playing.

The show is called The Prom. In a nutshell, it’s about acceptance and love. This story will have you laughing so hard you can’t breathe – and then, it will have you crying. It is moving, honest and relevant. I play one of the high school kids in the show, in the ensemble.

Are there any memories from your own prom that inspired you in this production?

In high school, prom was SUCH a big deal. Finding the perfect dress, the date, how you were going to arrive, the after-party, etc. I remember going to so many different dress stores with my mother. My best friend and I planned out a party bus to pick up all our friends, and we went all out. These memories really help me with my character … when I remember just how important prom was to me then, it’s easy to really tap into the brain of a high school teen who just wants to have the best senior year and make memories.

What’s the most exciting thing about being in a new, original Broadway production?

There are so many exiting things about being in a new Broadway show, it’s hard for me to choose just one! So, I’ll make a quick list:

  • Meeting and working with the writing team – this is so rare, and it’s so special to be part of.
  • Working with Casey Nicholaw and his team. I can’t express how amazing it is to watch this team work together. It’s pure magic!
  • Recording the original cast album – a bucket list item for sure!
  • Working with designers. Getting to look at costume sketches that were designed with me in mind is just out of this world. Trying on wigs that were made for me is amazing. The design team are incredibly talented people.
  • And, there are also about 13 people making their Broadway debuts. This is so special. The energy backstage and on-stage is electric. The Broadway vets are so excited for us and I am thrilled that I am experiencing this life-changing moment with this group of people.

You recently had a part on FX’s Atlanta. How is being on the screen different than being on the stage?

I LOVED WORKING ON ATLANTA. Donald Glover is a genius and so generous, kind and very collaborative!

When I was shooting Atlanta, we would be on set for about 12 hours a day. The biggest difference is that in TV, you have to nail your action perfectly once, but you’re exhausted once the day is done because you’ve worked on scenes for 12-14 hours. Once you get the shot you can move on to the next. In theatre, you have to recreate those moments every night, eight times a week. This requires a discipline that is individual to each actor. How you maintain and balance energy, keep moments fresh and honest, preserve your voice and body, etc. is unique to each actor.

How did your time at UCF prepare you for your career as an actor?

I’m so grateful for my experience at UCF. I think that any program you enter as an actor becomes what you make of it. And I made the most out of my time at UCF. I took advantage of the many recourses that UCF has. I did independent studies with professors and worked on perfecting skill sets I knew I needed to make it. Here’s the great thing about UCF: if you really want it, the professors are there to help guide you to do so. You just have to show up.

Do you have any advice for someone pursuing an acting career?

Just do it! Don’t let anyone or anything deter you. My dad always told me, “If you feel you have something to say, say it; if not, get off the stage!” I’ve tried to live by that. It’s challenging because our business is so overwhelming at times and it can look impossible. But if you have any amount of talent and technique mixed with some good old-fashioned courage, you can make it. And it doesn’t matter where that happens. That’s the beauty of our business – there are many places where we can make that happen: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and Orlando. Just go out there and do it! Also, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. What’s meant for you is yours and cannot be taken away.

Broadway’s new musical comedy with issues,” The Prom begins previews October 23 and opens November 15 at Longacre Theatre in New York. Tickets, information and more at theprommusical.com.

Five Things Alumni Need To Know this Week – Oct. 22, 2018

1.Another weekend, another win for UCF Football. Despite winning twenty games in a row and championing the nation’s longest winning streak, our favorite football team isn’t getting any love from the polls. In fact, AD Danny White weighed in on Twitter last night, calling college football “a subjective popularity contest” with a Tweet directed at College GameDay.

Speaking of College GameDay…they’ll be in Jacksonville this weekend. Our Jacksonville UCF Alumni Chapter is determined to make a strong showing of black and gold pride, so if you want to join them, follow along with the Chapter on Twitter and in their Facebook group to be in the know!

2. Starting today, UCF’s main campus will serve as an early voting location for faculty, staff, students and other registered Orange County voters as part of the “Charge Your Vote” campaign.

3. UCF alumnus and president/founder of O’Dang Hummus Jesse Wolfe ’15 is at the front of Walmart’s latest marketing campaign. From UCF to Shark Tank to the world’s largest retailer, O’Dang Hummus is now one of the faces of Walmart’s “Made in the USA” initiative.

4. History alumnus Phil Zoshak’s after-school program, Hero Spark, uses strategic card, board and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons to help 11-to-18-year-olds improve their self-esteem and hone their social skills.

5. The UCF College of Arts and Humanities is leading a cross-disciplinary effort to create digital stories representing the diverse narratives of UCF through the I Am UCF Digital Storytelling Initiative, and alumni are invited to participate! Learn more about this initiative at https://iamucf.cah.ucf.edu/.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Oct. 15, 2018

1.There’s still time to join us for A Breakfast with UCF President Dale Whittaker in Atlanta this Wednesday! RSVP in advance to enjoy an enhanced continental breakfast in the company of university leaders and fellow Knights.

2. Our favorite football team won in a nail-biter against Memphis on Saturday, increasing the nation’s longest winning streak to #Knighteen games! Our Knights take on ECU this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, so if you need a spot to watch the game, find a UCF Watch Party near you.

3. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education five grants that will help address a range of challenges in public schools, from enhancing special-needs education to improving math instruction in at-risk schools.

4. UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management is now ranked among the top 10 nationally for two of its most sought-after programs: the hospitality management online master’s program and the entertainment management undergraduate program.

5. The Rosengren Trauma Clinic at UCF RESTORES has opened a new clinic at UCF’s regional campus in Cocoa. This marks RESTORES’ second trauma clinic since it was established on UCF’s main campus in 2011 to treat veterans with PTSD.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know – Oct. 8, 2018

UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate

1.Our No. 10 Knights had quite the game this weekend and officially broke the top ten in the AP Poll. Up next is Memphis this Saturday, so cheer for a black and gold from a UCF watch party near you!

Speaking of football, we had an awesome time this weekend at our Indoor Tailgate. Don’t believe us? Just check out the photos! If you missed it, we’ll see you at the next one on Thursday, Nov. 1.

2. We’re stoked to welcome alumna Natalie Zfat back to campus tomorrow as she leads a discussion on Using Social Media to Land Your Dream Job. The in-person event is at capacity, but you can tune in to the Facebook Live session here!

3. It’s been a busy time for health research at UCF.  In fact, researchers at our alma mater are developing a new tool to help diabetics manage their daily lives more easily. In addition, associate professor Parag Banerjee, with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation, is to working to develop a device that can rapidly detect heart attacks. Yeah, this is BIG.

4. Have you ever wondered what UCF was like back in the day? Technically, it was FTU, and its first day of classes saw 1,948 students. Alumna Linda (Singer) Black ’71 reflects on what those first days were like and how times have changed!

5. From Breakfast with President Dale Whittaker to watch parties to the UCF Coastal Tour, there’s always something happening in Knight Nation! Check out our UCF Alumni events calendar and join us sometime!

Five Things Alumni Need To Know This Week – Sept. 24, 2018

UCF Watch Parties

1.After a great game against FAU Friday, the No. 13 Knights are gearing up to face Pitt this weekend! If you attended our Indoor Tailgate, check out the photo gallery from the event. Speaking of Indoor Tailgates, we’re hosting another one this Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center during Family Weekend!

Can’t make it to the game? Our UCF Alumni Chapters and Clubs are hosting UCF Watch Parties across the nation – find one near you!

2.We’re proud to call Ron Hawks ’12 a Knight. As a crisis-management lead for Lockheed Martin, Hawks organized the defense contractor’s response in Puerto Rico to Hurricane Maria last year – and his time at UCF prepared him to do it.

3.Exciting news for our alma mater! A new collaboration with Microsoft will have a BIG impact for UCF students and the Central Florida community. Learn more about how UCF will participate in the Microsoft Flagship Schools program.

4.President Dale Whittaker has announced a series of campus conversations to share aspirations for UCF and how to make them a reality. The first takes place this morning at the UCF College of Medicine in Lake Nona. If you can’t attend in person, you can tune in to the livestream via the UCF YouTube Channel.

5.We knew our Knights were strong, but did you know they are strong enough to compete for Team USA? UCF student Allison Fleming joined Team USA for the World University Weightlifting Championships. Fleming emerged as the top American finisher in the 63kg weight class for the snatch event.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Sept. 17, 2018

FIEA Alumnus Wins Emmy For VR Story
UCF grad Jeremiah Graves poses with the Emmy he won for ASTEROIDS!

1.And the Emmy goes to…Jeremiah Graves ’12MS! This FIEA alumnus won a Daytime Emmy for ASTEROIDS!, an interactive short story starring two bumbling aliens.

2. Speaking of FIEA, you’ve got to see how alumna Karen McCarthy ’13MS  is changing the game through her work at EA SPORTS. From meeting some of the world’s greatest athletes to getting more female characters into games, she’s making the video game world her own.

3. At this very moment, the latest issue of Pegasus is on its way to your mailbox! While you wait for your copy, get a head start with the online version.

4. Is This Really A Thing? If you find yourself asking this question about some of today’s biggest trends, you’ll love this new podcast by Paul Jarley, dean of the UCF College of Business. With the help of local experts, enthusiasts and all-around interesting people (like AD Danny White, Richard Lapchick, Ben Noel, Sean Snaith to name a few), Dean Jarley decides whether up-and-coming concepts and ideas have the potential to reshape the business landscape.

5. We’d like to take a moment to let our Knights in the Carolinas know we’re thinking of you. We hope you’ve remained safe and are headed back to normalcy soon.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know – Sept. 9, 2018

Indoor Tailgates

  1. With a win for No. 18 UCF Football and the wild success of our first Indoor Tailgate of the season, it was quite the weekend for Knights fans! If you had as much fun as we did, see if you can find yourself in our photo gallery – and don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next Indoor Tailgate on Sept. 21.

2. Another day, another ranking! U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF at No. 10 most innovative in its annual list of best colleges – above Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Johns Hopkins.

3. Is Pluto a Planet? New research from planetary scientist and UCF alumnus Philip Metzger suggests that it is! The debate is on, and we’re backing our guy in black and gold.

4. Meet UCF’s fifth president and learn more about the future of our alma mater at two special receptions this October. All UCF alumni are invited to join us for An Evening with President Dale Whittaker in D.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 3 and A Breakfast with Dale Whittaker in Atlanta on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

5. Last but certainly not least, a BIG thank you to the Virga family. Last week, Vince ’95 and Joyce ’98 Virga committed $10.25 million to UCF, making theirs the single largest alumni gift in university history.

“It’s truly an honor to be able to give back to an institution that has given us so much.” – Joyce Virga ’98

What a way to start a week. Charge On, Knights!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Aug. 27, 2018

UCF Watch Parties

1.UCF FOOTBALL IS BACK THIS WEEK! We know our alumni are pumped for the season opener this Thursday against UConn. In fact, we have more than 30 official #UCFWatchParty locations across the nation where Knights fans will gather to cheer for a black and gold victory!

2. Speaking of football, our first home game is Saturday, Sept. 8 against South Carolina State. Get game day ready with this Fan Guide to UCF Football Season, featuring information on parking, tickets, traditions, and our favorite, Indoor Tailgates!

3. News from the heart of Downtown Orlando: UCF Downtown will open its doors to 7,700 students in less than a year! Take a look at how this game-changing campus will increase access for students and foster collaboration with our partners.

4. Our Knights are out of this world! The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded alumnus Larry Bradley ’94 the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence for his contributions to space exploration. The foundation has also named two UCF students as Astronaut Scholars.

5. Last week, the Orlando City Council, Orange County commissioners and the UCF Board of Trustees approved the transfer of the Sanford Burnham Prebys building in Lake Nona to UCF so the university can repurpose the facility into a comprehensive cancer research and treatment center. The new UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center will house cancer researchers, clinical trials and treatment for patients.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Aug. 20, 2018

  1. First day of school, first day of school — and a BIG one at that! Today, our alma mater celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first classes and welcomed the most accomplished class of Knights to date. What a day! Follow along with the fun on social media using #UCFirstDay.

2. In his welcome message this morning, President Dale Whittaker shared that he will host two forums to hear what Knights want the future of UCF to look like. If you’d like to attend a forum, join us on Monday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the College of Medicine in Lake Nona or on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom at the UCF Student Union.

3. Chip on our shoulder? Maybe. The first Associated Press Top 25 Poll of the 2018 season was announced, and UCF Football came in at 21st in the nation.

4. Speaking of football season, there’s still time to stock up on game day gear! Get prepped for #UCFFansWear at UCFAlumKnights.com.

5. If you’re looking for a way to get involved with fellow Knights, look no further than our UCF Alumni events calendar. We’ve got events for our grads all over the nation!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week – Aug. 13, 2018

  1. Seriously, this is BIG! Tim Eggert ’02, alumnus of the Burnett Honors College and UCF College of Arts and Humanties, took his painting skills to the Orlando BIG Chair and turned it into a throne fit for Knight Nation. If his name sounds familiar, you might recognize Tim’s recent work as the designer for the new City of Orlando flag.

2. Following the Knights just got a whole lot easier, thanks to a newly-updated mobile app! Download it now to stay up to date with all things UCF Athletics.

3. How has your life changed since graduation? Show us, and you could win some sweet prizes! Enter our #KnightsThenVsNow contest on Instagram by this Friday – just make sure you check out the official rules for entry first!

4. We’re excited to share that UCF President Dale Whittaker will join us for the UCF ChargeOn Tailgate at UNC! Tailgate festivities will feature special appearances by UCF fan favorites, a catered breakfast buffet, three drink tickets per adult, a retractable stadium banner and a spirit sticker. Register now.

5. Speaking of our fearless leader, our UCF Alumni family wishes a very happy birthday to President Whittaker. May it be another great year of  transforming lives and livelihoods.