- Is a junior musical theatre major from
- Performed in her first professional show, Hairspray, at the Arvada Center in Arvada, Colorado in 2011
- Rehearsed five days a week for her role in Anything Goes
Making the World Her Stage
Junior Theatre Major Aisha Jackson is backstage. Breathing. Praying. Repeating to herself, “I am Reno Sweeney.” Then she steps into the spotlight before a full house at UNC’s Norton Theatre. It’s her first lead role, playing sassy nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. It’s also another big step toward her goal of becoming a professional musical theatre performer.
Aisha has always loved performing. She and her brothers grew up singing in church in Atlanta. When she first took the stage in a high school performance of Aida, she knew she was at home there. When she came to UNC as a high school junior to participate in a summer theatre festival, she felt instantly comfortable in the welcoming atmosphere of the campus.
So, when it was time to choose a college, it made sense to go where she felt at home. At UNC, she has experienced a sense of belonging. She’s also built meaningful relationships with her fellow theatre students and appreciates the “family vibe.”
Her high school teachers had dissuaded her from taking acting classes, wanting her to focus only on vocal training. That wasn’t the case at UNC. Dr. Tom McNally, a theatre professor affectionately called “Uncle Tommy” by his students, encouraged her to take an acting class and taught her techniques to increase her stage presence.
The role of Reno Sweeney is Aisha’s favorite thus far, but was also the most challenging. It required rehearsing five days a week. She had to work with professors to increase her vocal range, so she could hit the high notes in some of the solos. And she had to overcome her distinctive Southern accent to play the role of the New York singer. Through it all, she had the support and encouragement of her cast mates, which gave her the confidence she needed to succeed.
While Reno’s character is her favorite role, it’s not her first. She’s performed in Footloose, Blood Brothers, Ten Types, Chicago and Twelfth Night. She also performed in her first professional show, Hairspray, at the Arvada Center in Arvada, Colorado.
While Aisha appreciates the support of faculty and her fellow students, she also values the opportunities to gain expert advice from guest artists that the College of Performing and Visual Arts brings in each semester. These workshops enable students to learn directly from casting agents, choreographers and directors about pursuing the dream of performing professionally. She’s learned how to get auditions, prepare for callbacks, make contacts in the industry and improve her performance techniques from working professionals in the industry.
These opportunities, combined with her training and education, will help Aisha pursue her dream….of stepping from the spotlight at UNC into the spotlight on Broadway.
"UNC has helped me reach all of the goals I set when I came to college…from increasing my vocal range to gaining knowledge of the stage and performing."