All the world’s a stage, but for Jose Alpizar of Memphis, Tennessee, his world is the stage.
“I enjoy becoming another person and telling their story,” Alpizar said. “Their stories can make people think and feel, as well as spark conversations about the society we currently live in. Knowing that I can impact people’s lives and make them feel things is what really inspired me to pursue a career in theatre.”
He’ll cross a different kind of stage this weekend along with 1,444 other graduates at Southeast Missouri State University’s spring commencement ceremony May 12 and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in musical theatre.
Leading up to this moment, he’s played many roles while at Southeast over the past four years, from supporting to principal roles, including Macduff in “Macbeth,” the priest in “The King and I,” Horton the Elephant in “Seussical,” Gomez Addams in “The Addams Family,” Ozzie in “On the Town,” Gregory Gardner in “A Chorus Line,” and most recently as Bert in “Mary Poppins.”
Alpizar has been at the core of many of River Campus shows in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre and Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall, said Dr. Kenn Stilson, chair of The Conservatory of Theatre and Dance at Southeast.
“His talent was apparent from his admissions auditions in high school,” Stilson said. “His involvement in so many of our shows over four years is very uncommon, but he’s really exceptional.”
Southeast student Jose Alpizar played Gomez Addams in The Conservatory of Theatre and Dance’s 2015 production of “The Addams Family Musical.”
He’s grounded and works hard as a student and actor, Stilson added.
“He’s developed into what the industry calls a “triple threat,” being a singer, actor and dancer,” he said. “It’s going to increase his marketability 10-fold and he’s got the drive, the talent — he’s just got it all.”
His hard work has paid off in memorable, standing ovation moments at Southeast.
“It’s opening night of ‘Addams Family, and our director set the cast up to have the family on stage behind big iron gates that opened up as the curtain went up and the overture was playing,” Alpizar said. “As the curtain went up and the gates separated, the audience went absolutely bonkers. They were cheering and applauding and the girl that played my Morticia squeezed my arm as way of saying ‘Wow this is really happening.’ We went on to perform the best opening night I think I’ve ever performed. It was absolutely incredible, and I know I’ll never forget that moment.”
Alpizar attributes his on stage success to being immersed in a completely artistic environment where countless faculty, staff and students are overflowing with creativity.
“It made me want to work that much harder to keep developing my craft as well,” he said. “The River Campus has provided me with opportunities that no other undergraduate program would be able to provide their students, so part of me thinks that it was fate for me to come to Southeast.”
One of those unique opportunities has been to be a part of “An American Hero,” an original World War II musical by Stilson and a fellow classmate and 2017 graduate Cody Cole.
Southeast student Jose Alpizar (bottom right) played Ozzie in The Conservatory of Theatre and Dance’s 2016 production of “On the Town.”
“It’s been an amazing and gratifying experience to observe and play a role in the development of a new musical,” Alpizar said.
As a sophomore, he was a part of the show’s first reading at the River Campus and, as a junior, he went with a group of Southeast students and faculty to Brooklyn, New York, when the musical was selected for the Gallery Players’ Overtures Staged Reading Series.
While he was unable to participate in the University’s full production of the show this past fall because of a broken ankle, he will be a part of the company of Southeast students and professional alumni, faculty and staff taking the musical to this summer’s renowned New York Musical Festival.
“I feel incredibly lucky to continue my journey with this show to New York once again this summer,” Alpizar said. “This is a big opportunity. The New York Musical Festival is very much the musical theatre equivalent to what the Sundance Festival is to film. It showcases new musicals, and producers and directors are known to attend to see if there’s anything they want to invest in and continue developing. This will also be an ‘Off-Broadway’ credit on our resumes. It definitely is great exposure for someone like me and a few other graduating seniors in the cast that don’t have to come back to school next semester. Hopefully, it’ll be a good slingshot for our careers in the big city.”
As he takes his exit from Southeast and the River Campus’ productions, Alpizar’s first gig will be with the Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, Virginia, where this fall he will play Bernardo in their production of “West Side Story.”
Southeast student Jose Alpizar (far left) played Bert in The Conservatory of Theatre and Dance’s 2018 production of “Mary Poppins.”
“This show has been a dream of mine to perform in. I’m so excited to get to dance and perform alongside other professionals,” Alpizar said.
He then plans to move to New York City next January before prime audition season starts in the spring.
“I’m excited to meet and work with other performers and artists that have the same drive as I do,” he said. “I’m very much the kind of person that thrives off of good energy, so meeting and being surrounded by people that are hard-working and passionate would push me just as much as a performer.”
His ultimate goal is to book a Broadway show, and he’d love to have the opportunity to land an original, never-before-seen role on Broadway.
“There’s something thrilling about taking a character no one’s played before — that’s only living on the page of the script — and be able to completely make them your own,” he said. “I was able to do that with my role in ‘An American Hero’ and it was such an artistically fulfilling experience.”
But Broadway won’t be the only stage on which we’ll, one day, see Alpizar, said Stilson.
“He’s got the tools and skills that I have no doubt he’ll be a working actor his entire life,” he said. “He’s going to be one of our alumni we’ll be watching on TV and reading about in the paper.”