Imagine a stage with actors who are doing a scene from a play. Acting is what many students at TJC in the Speech and Theatre Department do, as well as alumni who are in the business already.

Acting teacher Jacque Shackelford has had some students who have gone on and made it big.

“We have lots of people who end up in the business,” Shackelford said.

The theatre program at TJC has about 50 students who sign up each year. Many think they want a career in either theatre or film or want to teach theatre.

Shea Whigham graduated from TJC in 1990. Whigham is an actor living in California who has been in films “Pride and Glory” and “Wristcutters: A Love Story.”

Whigham has said that TJC was a great place to start.

“No one laughed at me when I wanted to be an actor,” Whigham said. “TJC got the ball rolling for me.”

Whigham has many memories from TJC.

“I remember the late night building of sets with the faculty and the people that were involved,” Whigham said. “The passion of the faculty there really stays with me. They are second to none.”

Shea Whigham’s next role is his film “Splinter,” and in 2009 he will star alongside Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in “Fast and Furious.”

“Anyone can be an actor. TJC is a really great place, it gives a solid foundation to make it in the business,” Whigham said.

Nick Wilkinson, a graduate of TJC in 1974, is quickly becoming America’s most widely produced comedic playwright.

Wilkinson goes by Nicholas Hope in the theatre world.

“TJC gave me lots of answers about what I wanted to do with my life,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said he had too many favorite memories to pick just one, but that his time at TJC was the best two years of his life.

“I fell in love with theatre at TJC. We did everything from designing, prop building and acting,” he said.

“Jacque Shackelford did such a fine job of taking care of us. She did good with giving us what the totality of what theatre is all about,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson’s play, “Christmas Belles,” was performed by the Speech and Theatre Department at TJC. It ran from Nov. 19-23.

Although they have left and done things that would make any teacher proud, they always remember what TJC helped them become.

“I am really proud of them,” Shackelford said. “It is always great to see someone achieve their goals.”

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