Jakeim Hart ‘16 was just 10 years old when he entered into the world of theater. As a young boy from Long Island, just having moved to a new town in Virginia, he tried out for the basketball team to gain a sense of community and make new friends. “They’re really cutthroat down there,” explained Hart, going in-depth about the results when the hunt for community did not go to plan. So, he decided to audition for the musical. Hart noted that “I’d been used to singing and playing stuff in front of people. So, it wasn’t that far of a leap for me. So I just did the audition and got the part and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
When the time came for Hart to choose where he would be attending college, Muhlenberg became a viable option due in part to the large sum of scholarship money and the encouragement of former head of the theatre department and professor emeritus Charlie Richter. Hart packed up his bags and headed to Allentown.
“I’ve been trying to chase that feeling in my professional life.”– Jakeim Hart ‘16
Hart describes Associate Professor of Theatre Troy Dwyer’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” as a pivotal moment in his Muhlenberg career. Hart performed in and composed music for the play and describes the impact of the experience, saying, “I’ve been trying to chase that feeling in my professional life. It was just a very encouraging environment and very artistically fulfilling and I felt like I unlocked something within myself that I just previously hadn’t done before.”
Out of college, Hart went on to pursue acting as his career. Prior to COVID-19 decimating the theater industry and taking away the livelihood of individuals working in the field, Hart was performing in a musical known as “Sing Street” which was set to transfer to Broadway. “Sing Street” was scrapped at the time as a result of the pandemic and Hart described the period following this as “two years of nothing.” Hart outlined the toll the pandemic took on him saying, “[I] was trying to figure out what else I have to offer the world besides singing and acting and playing music for people.”
Then, “Almost Famous” came along. Originally, Hart auditioned for the role of the lead guitarist in the play’s fictitious band. After not hearing back for several months from the casting team and his father passing away at around the same time, Hart was ready to give up. “It was a really dark point in my life and I didn’t really want to do anything with music, or art or theater just because it made me really sad,” said Hart.
“if you were meant to be doing this, stick through it through the good times, and the bad.”– Jakeim Hart ‘16
However, in this very bleak moment, Hart received an email that would change his life’s trajectory. The higher-ups at “Almost Famous” had cast the role Hart originally auditioned for; however, the part of the conniving band manager and the understudy for the part of the guitarist was still up for grabs and they were interested in Hart taking on the job. After a short audition process, Hart booked the role.
On a final note, Hart shared a kernel of advice for Muhlenberg students who are considering taking on a career in the acting industry. Hart stated that “if you were meant to be doing this, stick through it through the good times, and the bad.”