1. UCF Celebrates the Arts, an annual showcase featuring an interactive exhibition of student artwork, starts Friday at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. To get your ready for your days at the theatre, read this alumni spotlight on Desmond Newson, who scored a role in the national tour of “Hamilton,” which began in San Francisco in March.
2. The Board of Governors approved the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center late last week. Construction is pending a final state agency approval but could begin as early as 2020. This will mark a new era for our community, our students, our faculty and our researchers. Read more here.
3. The next time you settle in for a night of Netflix-ing, consider watching “The Discovery.” The new release featuring Robert Redford, Jason Segel and Rooney Mara was written by film alumnus Justin Lader ’06.
4. Do you know someone in need of some financial help for college? UCF Alumni awards more than $50,000 in scholarships every year. The deadline for scholarship applications is April 5. Learn more about how to apply, criteria, etc. at ucfalumni.com.
5. Baseball won its conference-opening series against No. 11 Houston over the weekend. The Knights are back in action at home on Wednesday against Stetson at 6:30 p.m before heading to Tampa this weekend for the War On I4 against USF.
Speaking of the War On I4, UCF added to its commanding lead, 36-15, thanks to the No. 39 men’s tennis team’s 4-2 win over No. 26 USF on Saturday’s Senior Day. USF is the fourth top-30 opponent that the Black and Gold has knocked off this season.
Oviedo High School teachers Will Furiosi, ’13, MAT14, and Jessica Ortega, ’13, fell head-over-heels for each other — and education — at UCF. READ MORE
On Jan. 10, nearly 200 students from the UCF College of Nursing ceremoniously began their clinical practice with an inaugural white coat ceremony and joined a nationwide initiative to promote compassionate care.
UCF freshman Nick Drivas has been invited to perform with Grammy Award-nominated entertainer Michael Feinstein as part of the “Michael Feinstein: A Sinatra Centennial” concert Jan. 29 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
On a career break and thinking of returning to work? Unsure about what you want to do and where to start? Interested in changing career paths? Join UCF alumni and other returning professionals for an information-packed, half-day program that includes return-to-work strategies, and tactics on resumes, interviews and job searches.
Running through Jan. 31, Theatre UCF, in collaboration with the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, presents “Spunk and the Harlem Literati,” an adaption of the play “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston. The production is part of the 27th annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.
With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.
Orlando magician, Kostya Kimlat, ’10, appeared on an Aug. 17 episode of the CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” a one-hour competition series celebrating magic and featuring the legendary duo, Penn & Teller.
On each episode, aspiring magicians are invited to perform their best trick to try and fool one of magic’s most famous pairs. None of the competing magicians get to perform the trick more than once, and there are no camera tricks, secret edits or helpful camera cuts.
In the seventh episode of the show’s second season, Kimlat performed an original card trick he developed when he was 19 years old. But, Kimlat didn’t go on the show with a focus on fooling the magic duo.
“It was an honor to be invited to perform for Penn and Teller,” he says. “I’ve been watching them since I started in magic 20 years ago, and I never would have imagined this opportunity.”
Lucky for Kimlat, he was able to fool the guys, which means he’ll be opening up for the magicians’ celebrated show at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in November.
WATCH HIS TRICK:
In 2006, Kimlat was the youngest magician to be featured on the cover of Magic Magazine.
A resident of Orlando, he founded See Magic Live, which trains and books magicians for events across the country. His company’s local team serves as the magicians for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and teaches magic classes for kids and adults at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
His local ties run deep — he’s a graduate of Winter Park High School and the University of Central Florida, and he’s been a weekly fixture at Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, performing an intimate dinner and magic show at the Lee Road steakhouse for the last seven years.
In addition, Kimlat is a motivational speaker, using magic to train employees at organizations around the world, like NASA and GE. When he presents his keynotes and workshops, he unravels magic’s centuries-old principles of perception and secrets of communication, empowering people to be more effective in their business and everyday lives. Often referred to as “the business magician,” Kimlat has presented his sophisticated brand of magic to thinking audiences in more than 200 cities on five continents.
Kimlat graduated from the UCF Burnett Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. His Honors in the Major thesis was titled, “The Role of Magician and Philosopher in Society: The Archetype of Wonder and its Cognitive Implications in Modern Life.”
He’s currently authoring his first book, titled, “Think Like a Magician.”
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.
A UCF scientist developed a $1 prostate screening test that’s more accurate than the standard PSA test currently being used for early-stage detection.
On Wednesday, alumni and students will take over Tallahassee for the annual UCF Day at the Capital, where Knights Advocates and SGA will meet with our lawmakers to discuss UCF’s legislative priorities and ask for their support.
Aerospace engineering graduate Matt Harrison, ’13, established a leadership scholarship in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “My goal is to not only give back, but also to inspire others to see their full potential,” he says.
UCF Celebrates the Arts is a free, seven-day festival celebrating Central Florida’s performing and visual arts. It takes place April 10-15 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and will showcase UCF theatre, dance, film, and more.
Starting Wednesday, members of the 2015 senior class will take part in #MyUCFStory on Instagram — a photo challenge started by the alumni association to increase social interaction with our newest alumni to be! Click on the hashtag above to follow along!