Theatre arts alumnae give back to the university community


Micah Sanders, Staff Reporter

Alabama State University’s (ASU) Department of Theatre Arts held an alumni symposium next to the Tullibody Fine Arts Complex on Oct. 2.  While other graduates of ASU are busy attending to their 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs,  alumnae Jazmine Nelson and Chinet Scott offered their professional job experiences and challenges in the entertainment industry to fellow students. In and out of work during the pandemic, they sparked intriguing and important conversations about what goes on behind the scenes of auditions, casting and much more.

The Theatre department kicked off the Alumni Theatre Symposium with hosts Ramona Ward, Ph.D., associate professor of Theatre, Brian Martin, BFA and program director, and James Atkinson, Jr. The event featured Alumnae Disney Cruise Line dancer, Jazmine Nelson, and “P-Valley” actress, Chinet Scott.

Friday’s event was a student question-and-answer session with Nelson and Scott, who have both made careers in the entertainment industry through different avenues and pathways.

“After graduating in 2008, I attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York and graduated from there in 2012. Afterward, I started going to auditions and I decided why not try out for a bunch of cruise line auditions? Just doing it off the cuff, I went to a Disney audition and made it all the way through. Now I am a dancer for Disney Cruise Line, I’ve been doing it for five years now. I play Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” Nelson said, who was wearing a designer Alabama State crop-top jacket. Nelson, being more in the field of theatre, asks Scott, who is more in the field of television, about her passions and endeavors since graduating from the university.

“I graduated in 2012 and actually started out doing music videos. My very first music video was Ne-Yo featuring Trey Songz & T-Pain called, “The Way She Moves.” Then, the band director, Mr. James Oliver, actually picked me along with 11 other Stingettes back in 2013 to do a Robin Thicke video featuring Kendrick Lamar & 2-Chainz. I also ended up doing countless other music videos, working with other artists such as: Kid Ink, Mulatto and Lil Baby. Right now I am on a TV series on the Starz network called “P-Valley,” where I portray the character Brazil.”

Jazmine Nelson speaking on her experiences encouraged the students to continue to update themselves and continue training because they will never know when that opportunity will come along.

Ward asked about the auditioning process and how to always stay prepared and professional when auditioning.

“I consistently go to dance classes, I’m always trying to work out. I am trying to take any acting and vocal classes that I can. You have to make sure your headshots are up-to-date. The way that you walk into an audition is the way that you want them to hire you. So if you’re going to give the headshot to the director and you look totally different, you’re done,” Nelson explained.

Knowing how important it is to stay professional during an audition is one thing, Nelson pointed out, but being prepared for the next step of the audition process is a necessity that most aspiring actors don’t know; however, seminars such as this, she said, can make a major impact in the entertainment industry by pushing more people of color to be professionally and mentally ready for the next steps after auditioning.

“What they always ask is how you deal with problem-solving. It’s like they put a strategy out there in front of you and watch you deal with it. Pair you up with someone that you know you wouldn’t deal with in real life, just to see what it turns into. In essence, they try to see what’s real and what’s not,” Martin added.

Other questions included how to stay resilient through racial bias, things students should do now while attending ASU, ways to maintain a good social media account and steps to owning your own acting studio.

“Being able to create relationships with your peers, professors and alumni really give students the necessary tools to make well-rounded decisions when it comes to working in the industry,” Scott said.

Some highlights from this seminar are Scott’s announcement for season two of “P-Valley” to start filming sometime in 2021, learning about what producers look for during music video shoots, getting to know Scott and Nelson personally during their meet-and-greet and the announcement that someone from Tyler Perry’s studio may be coming to campus soon.

“Well, I’m waiting to hear back from Tyler Perry Studios because some of those people may be coming here to talk too. So you’ll see a flyer pop up about that. His name is Faizon Love and he’s been trying to come for the longest because he hired one of my students last year as a personal assistant,” Martin said.

Martin and the rest of the attendees were really appreciative of Nelson and Scott for taking time out of their busy schedules to come and speak to the next cycle of students.

Student organizations, such as House Arrest 2, attended the event and shared what they have learned in regard to the industry and what the people in power are looking for.

“Racial bias is so real in the industry but what Nelson and Scott taught me was to just love myself and know that I did my best during the audition and to hold my head high. I really appreciate them for giving me such a powerful message,” said member of House Arrest 2, Thomas McKinney.

Nelson and Scott encouraged those in the discussion to stay confident. “The only person in the way of pursuing your dream is you, don’t let that stop you. Keep pushing forward and you may end up in the big time.”