Jose Alpizar leaving a mark at Southeast
If you’ve been to a musical at River Campus in the last four years, odds are you’ve watched Jose Alpizar perform.
The senior musical theatre major, who is graduating Saturday, has a staggering list of credits, both collegiate and professional. Most recently Alpizar played the role of Bert in the record-breaking production of “Mary Poppins” at River Campus.
Alpizar hasn’t always been a dancer, but discovered this hidden talent as he progressed with his involvement in theater. His lessons have gone beyond the classroom and stage, as Alpizar has had to overcome an injury that threatened to derail his final year at Southeast.
Alpizar’s journey began in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he was born, before moving to New Jersey at 8 months old. From there, his family relocated to Collierville, Tennessee, when he was 4.
As he grew up, Alpizar dreamed of being a doctor. This dream changed when he took on the small role of a gravedigger in “Frankenstein” during his sophomore year of high school. With this experience, Alpizar found a family within his drama department.
Alpizar continued doing plays throughout high school, where he learned he had a great singing voice, and a deep desire for storytelling.
“I like the idea of telling the stories of people that aren’t me,” Alpizar said. “Theater is awesome because you open different realms, and force people to have new conversations about stuff.”
At Southeast, Alpizar was thrown straight into a challenging role with Macduff in “Macbeth.” Following this he played the role of a Priest in “The King and I.”
These roles led Alpizar to believe that he would be a singer-actor, and not have to focus on dance. This changed when he was cast as Gomez Addams in “The Addams Family,” where he had to perform a sensual tango near the end of the play.
This role opened the door to a new storytelling tool called dance.
“I had to learn how to not only tell a story through acting, and my song, but also through physical movement,” Alpizar said.
Alpizar took his new storytelling tool into his next role of Ozzie in “On The Town,” a historically dance-heavy show.
After “On The Town” Alpizar was offered to take a summer ballet intensive in Michigan with dance professor Alyssa Alger. It was there Alpizar had truly solidified his dance technique, and set his mind on becoming a performing triple-threat.
“Taking advantage of things yourself, and grabbing it by the horns, and making opportunities to see how you can continuously better yourself throughout the four years has always been really important to me,” Alpizar said.
When Alpizar came back for his junior year he was playing Greg Gardner in “A Chorus Line,” the famous musical centered around a dance-call for a Broadway musical. It strengthened Alpizar’s dance skills, and led him to performing in the main stage “Spring into Dance” production the following semester.
Journey Through Injury
Alpizar has had a large part in the workshopping of the Southeast original musical “An American Hero.” He played the lead role of Thomas O’Brien in both staged readings, played in the ensemble during the New York staged reading of the show, and was cast in the lead role again heading into fall of his senior year.
In preparation for the first official production of “An American Hero,” Alpizar read extensively on the topic of World War II and was overjoyed to finally bring the role he originated in workshop productions to the stage.
Around two weeks before the opening night of the show Alpizar had an accident at a trampoline park, breaking his left ankle in two places. He had to have surgery, and dropped out of the show.
Alpizar struggled with losing the role he had put so much of himself into.
“It literally felt like the world was crashing down,” Alpizar said.
The production had to bring in an understudy for Alpizar’s role. Alpizar struggled with the turn of events, but said he was comforted with his mother’s words that everything happens for a reason.
After surgery Alpizar returned to Southeast and watched four out of the five shows of “An American Hero.” He said it was an emotional experience, one he admits that he did shed tears over.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I fell into a mild depression when I came back [from surgery],” Alpizar said.
Alpizar was back on his feet by Thanksgiving and going through physical therapy. He was able to audition for “Mary Poppins” by the end of the semester and, to his surprise, was cast as Bert.
Alpizar spent all winter break doing calf exercises and preparing his body for another dance-heavy role.
“That winter break was about healing, and about being OK with the fact that I broke my ankle,” Alpizar said.
When Alpizar came back to take on his next role he said he was able to apply all that he had learned from the injury.
“It taught me that things are meant to happen for a reason,” Alpizar said. “I learned a hell of a lot of patience.”
Alpizar said he continued growing, and learning how to listen to his body through “Mary Poppins.” He called playing Bert his “swan song.”
“An American Hero” held another audition this semester to cast the musical for a production in the New York Musical Festival this summer. Alpizar assumed that this would finally be his chance to bring Thomas to life, but that was not to be.
Alpizar was cast as Thomas’ older brother, Paddy, instead. Alpizar says this was another difficult blow, as he felt like he missed the opportunity to play Thomas for good. Again, his mother’s wisdom brought him closure on the issue.
“Maybe Thomas was never your role to portray to big audiences,” Alpizar said, repeating the words of his mother.
Alpizar believes that the role of Paddy will teach him even more than Thomas has, and looks forward to playing the role after graduation.
U.S. Citizenship and Beyond
Alpizar became a naturalized U.S. citizen in April of this year in a ceremony with his entire family. He said the process took about eight years to complete, and he registered to vote immediately after the ceremony.
“Since I started college I feel like I’ve become a lot more political,” Alpizar said. “I’m really excited to be able to vote for the first time this November.”
Alpizar called the ceremony an important checkpoint in his and his parents’ lives.
After graduation Alpizar will be playing Paddy in the NYMF production of “An American Hero,” and then he will move to Roanoke, Virginia to take on the role of Bernardo in “West Side Story.”
Following these shows Alpizar plans to move to New York City in January and settle in before the prime audition season.
“My end-goal is to be on Broadway, a Tony award would be nice, don’t get me wrong. But my end-goal, I think, is I would like to originate a role on Broadway,” Alpizar said.
As Alpizar follows his dreams in New York, he said he will look back at his college years and remember the people more than anything.
“High school theater kids talk about how their drama department is like a family. So here in college it’s that, but multiplied. Because you live with those people, you go to class with those people, and then you go to rehearsals at night with the same people,” Alpizar said. “Yeah, you get sick of them, but at the same time these are the people that literally become your family, and your best friends.”