Alumni Angle: Professional Theatre Success
Cheyenne Oliver, who graduated in 2022 with a degree in Theatre Production, uses the skills and experience he gained at JSU to work in professional theatre. Oliver recently finished up work with the national Broadway tours of Hairspray, Fiddler on the Roof, and ELF, and, this past summer, he directed a play for which he won an award for best direction. He also recently directed a show and had the opportunity to take some kids to Disney World. Currently, he is the Head Carpenter on the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer National Tour with Right Angle Entertainment.
According to Oliver, in theatre, you can specialize in one thing or many things, “and I just so happened to fall into the many things category.”
He enjoys so many jobs in theatre that he finds it difficult to settle into just one. He has experience in lighting design, scenic design, directing, and acting, but his main profession is stage management, which involves preparing paperwork; running rehearsals; keeping documentation of artistic integrity in terms of all design, blocking, and direction; calling all the lighting, scene, sound, and special effects cues for the performances; distributing day-to-day rehearsals, meetings, and performances; keeping up with actors’ schedules; and keeping track of props. He also handles the overall vision of the show to ensure the same show is performed every night.
“I love creating a show for an audience and allowing them to have an escape from the world, letting them leave with some sort of catharsis, and letting them find a character or story they relate to,” said Oliver. “Theatre is a living, breathing thing that affects patrons in many ways, and when you are able to see and hear how audiences were impacted, it’s absolutely rewarding that you provided a change or a shift in someone’s life.”
The majority of Oliver’s favorite memories from his time at JSU includes his initiation nights for JSU’s honorary drama fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega. When asked about his favorite professor, he said he does not have one, saying, “I feel like I’d be banished if I did.” His favorite courses were Theatre History, Lighting Design, and Stage Management.
Oliver credits the Theatre and Film Department for providing him with many resources that have helped him advance into the professional world. Knowing he wanted to pursuing a career in entertainment, he sought every potential opportunity. In school, he was given small opportunities, and he has worked his way up to bigger opportunities. Learning different areas and developing skill sets in all of them has made him a better stage manager and an overall better theatre artist.
He says the JSU faculty are personable, and the skill sets and experiences they bring are accurate to the real world of theatre. He knows if he ever needs advice, it’s only one call away.
“The department was always a land of opportunity for me, and I took every little thing I could,” he stated.
Oliver advises current students to make every challenge an opportunity and to set themselves up for success by branching out and broadening their skill set.
“Theatre is a rough and tough business, and while jobs pay very well, they can be few and far between,” said Oliver. He encourages students to learn many things and to not be afraid of failure.
He also advises students to take small opportunities in local theatres and to apply their ideas and what they know while still in school so that they can learn from their experiences and be better prepared for the professional world. He thinks students should start looking for professional summer jobs as soon as possible and make connections soon. Graduating with more professional experience than educational experience has been very beneficial to Oliver. Lastly, he says to remember that attitude, ethic, and experience are everything, and, most importantly, remember to be yourself, share your knowledge, and “know that the work you are doing is sculpting a positive impact on the world we inhabit.