ACU alumnus Ben Jeffrey has starred on Broadway as the role of Pumbaa in The Lion King since 2010, and the Department of Theatre recently featured him in a performance of 1,700 Miles to Broadway, in which Jeffrey told stories of his life through songs.
The performance took place Nov. 10 in the Fulks Theatre in the Williams Performing Arts Center.
Dawne Meeks, the chair of the Department of Theatre, was in charge of coordinating the event this year. Her connection to Jeffrey comes from when he was a student at ACU.
“Ben was in the first show I directed as a faculty member at ACU,” Meeks said. “(He) was also in several of my acting class as a student.”
The performance also served as a benefit for the Department of Theatre and their Lights Up! fundraising campaign. Lights Up!, now in it’s fifth year, raises money fot the department. Agents and casting agents are flown in from New York City and Los Angeles each year, and students have the opportunity to be seen and potentially cast or represented before graduation. Meeks said this has been an invaluable opportunity.
“Getting an agent to invite you to work with them is tough,” Meeks said. “The Lord has really blessed several of our students through these efforts.”
Meeks also had high praises for Jeffrey and said he can serve as an inspiration for students looking to stay true to their faith throughout their acting careers.
“Ben was born a natural talent with a huge voice and gregarious personality,” Meeks said. “He is a friend to everyone he meets and such a light on Broadway in terms of being authentic in his faith.”
Alisha Taylor, junior musical theatre major from Greensboro, North Carolina, said she appreciates being able to incorporate her faith into her future career.
“Being a Christian in this business, I believe that God allows me to tell stories using my talents, which will touch someone’s life,” Taylor said. “One thing that theatre teaches me daily is to remember to be open to what God is trying to show through you.”
Taylor said she had heard of Jeffrey’s performance not only because she’s a theatre major, but also because she’s a fan of his work on Broadway and she recognizes the value of having someone like Jeffrey come back to campus and give advice.
“Hearing real life experiences is extremely helpful,” Taylor said. “The business of theatre is always changing, and having someone actually in the moment that can impart wisdom makes you feel like you have a better chance of surviving in New York.”
Meeks said experiences like this mean the department of theatre is continually growing the showcase.
“This is year ten of showcase and we will celebrate by taking the show on the road, to NYC,” Meeks said. “It is people like Ben that inspire us to push bigger opportunities for our current students.”