2. Need to update your closet with some new championship gear? Visit ucfalumknights.com, sign up with your email and get 25 percent off your first order from Barnes & Noble.
Also, the Orlando Sentinel Media Group announced Friday that it is publishing a book on the Knights’ incredible season called “Perfect Knights.” The hardcover, full-color book is now available for a pre-order discounted price of $24.95. It can be purchased by going to OrlandoSentinel.com/PerfectKnights.
3. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando community will remember the lives of UCF alumni and officers Debra Clayton ’98 ’02MA and Norm Lewis ’04 on Jan. 9, the one-year anniversary of their deaths. The two officers were killed in the line of duty during the attempted apprehension of a wanted homicide suspect. A motorcade that will begin on campus at the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership will lead the families to a private church service.
4. UCF is seeking your input for its fifth president, so the university will host four opportunities for the campus and Central Florida communities to provide feedback at listening sessions this week. Visit www.ucf.edu/leadership/presidential-search for more information about the sessions, and while you’re there, please consider filling out the UCF Presidential Search Survey.
5. Since this is the first Five Things post of 2018, we’d like to wish you a wonderful year ahead! If it’s anything like 2017, we know it’s going to be great. Check out this retrospective video from the university on just how big last year was for Knight Nation.
Moving forward with plans to establish a stronger downtown presence, UCF’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved of a revised plan for the Downtown Orlando campus. “This update is very different than the plans we saw in January,” Chairman Marcos Marchena said.
The revised plan proposes building an academic services building and renovating the existing Center for Emerging Media. The academic services building will cost about $60 million to build, and renovations for the Center for Emerging Media building will cost about $5 million.
To fund the project, the plan proposes asking the state for about $19 million — about one-third the amount UCF originally asked from the state to build the downtown campus’ first academic building. The remaining funds will be paid for by the university and through private donations.
“We are working with our partners to address parking and housing downtown,” said Provost Dale Whittaker.
The proposed academic building would house academic programs that are well suited for the downtown environment and are expected to bring out more than 7,000 students to the downtown campus the first year. “We’ve refined our plans to include nine academic degree programs with strategic emphasis to meet workforce gaps in Florida,” Whittaker said. “We see the new academic building to be a key catalyst to the development of this campus.” So far, the programs offered are centered around health care, communications, technology, social work and legal studies.
The downtown campus would offer students work and internship opportunities that would apply what they learn in the classroom into the real world, he said.
Though plans for the downtown campus are set to continue, the projected opening date has been pushed back an extra year. “We moved from [opening in] fall of 2017 to fall of 2018,” said Grant Heston, vice president of communications and marketing.
The downtown project has always aimed to improve students by bringing them downtown and improving downtown by having students in the area, Heston said. The overall impact of the project will affect the downtown area in a very positive way, he said.
Twenty-two UCF Chamber Singers will share the stage with the Rolling Stones next week, when the band hits the Citrus Bowl as part of its Zip Code tour.
The American Athletic Conference released two kickoff times for the UCF football season. The Knights take on Furman Saturday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. (also Family Weekend) and East Carolina Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m.
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.
New website provides all the info you need to know about UCF’s downtown expansion
In September, UCF President John Hitt announced that the university will move forward with plans for an expanded downtown campus to enhance educational opportunities for students and stimulate downtown Orlando.
Hitt described UCF’s plans as a “game changer” for downtown. Valencia College will be a partner in the expansion, and approximately 10,000 students from the two schools could study downtown.
UCF is actively working with the City of Orlando and other partners on a plan for the 68 acres freed up when the NBA’s Orlando Magic moved its arena and headquarters about a mile away. This develop-able area, adjacent to Interstate 4 and the historic Parramore Community, is the home of Creative Village — the largest mixed-use project in downtown Orlando, which will provide space for K-12 education, residential units, retail, commercial, office space, hotel, public parks and civic space.
UCF recently launched a website dedicated to the development of the new downtown campus. LEARN MORE
During the first half of the 20th century, the Carey Hand Funeral Home was the largest in Central Florida, serving a five-county area, including Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk and Hillsborough. The modernized funeral home, built by the company in 1918, now houses — wait for it… — the UCF Executive Development Center in downtown Orlando!
In 1885, Elijah Hand moved to Orlando from Indiana and became the city’s first embalmer. He formed a partnership with E.A. Richards, the city’s first undertaker, and the two combined Richards’ furniture business with Hand’s embalming. Richards left the partnership in 1890, and the business was renamed Elijah Hand’s Furniture, Undertaking and Livery Stable.
In 1907, Hand’s son, Carey, a trained embalmer, moved to Orlando to join his father’s business, eventually buying out his father in 1914. He continued to run the business until his death in 1946. His wife sold the business the following year, and subsequent owners kept the Carey Hand name.
Carey Hand was the first funeral home in Florida to have a chapel, and housed the first crematorium built south of Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.
The building was used as a mortuary until 1992. It’s often a featured stop on haunted tours of downtown Orlando.
Happy Halloween from your friends at the UCF Alumni Association!
Read the UCF Libraries Special Collections’ history guide of the Carey Hand Funeral Home.