Dillard Grad makes a Name for Himself

“All that is good and accomplished in the world takes work and everything else is J.I.V.E€”Jive!”  Reciting this phrase before practice and the day of a performance, many theatre majors boost themselves in order to remain confident as an actor.  One actor still recites this quote every morning he wakes up to new challenges among the acting environment


Recently graduating last spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Evan Cleaver climbs to the top as he prepares for his first year at California Institute of Arts (Cal Arts), a highly remarkable school of visual and performing arts.  Out of 800 applicants, Cleaver was one of the ten actors accepted to the school to be apart of the performing arts program.  “It was a very shaky experience when I wasn’t getting accepted in other schools but Cal Arts.”


Before Cleaver attended Dillard, his main focus was basketball. Working with well experience actors, he was pushed into the professional world of performing arts and began his journey as an actor.


“My toughest obstacle was that transition because I was coming from behind people who had been acting just as long as I’d been playing basketball,” said Cleaver.


Cleaver performed in many plays at Dillard including “The State of Mississippi and the Face of Emmett Till” and “The Ties That Bind”.  He worked under the guidance of director Andrea Frye, theatre manager Gary Hyatt, and professor Cortheal Clark.  Gaining much direction of how to become an excellent actor, he learned a lot through the teachings of Mr. Clark, also alumni of Cal Arts.


“The hardest character to portray is oneself and that’s what Evan had to do.  He had to understand that through hard work, perseverance, and excellent training, he’ll get anywhere he wants to be,” said Clark.


While away from school, Cleaver has performed in numerous plays including a play from Shakespeare, “Two Gentlemen of Verona”.  He played the leading role and has also portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during a tour of plays for youth.  He said that being able to be a black performer is one of his greatest accomplishments. “Roles come from my gut…..I try to separate myself so I’m not that person but just another character.  I’ll never by M.L.K, I never was.”


Being able to stand in front of a room filled with critics, fans and random audiences is indeed a tough task to fulfill.  Cleaver views acting as a public service, as it makes him a better person and he helps improve the world.  Although he does not get every role he auditioned for, he refused to be discouraged and prepares even harder for the next audition.


Yearning to follow in the footsteps of actor Don Cheadle, also alumni of Cal Arts, Cleaver wants to make a difference as an artist with what he is surrounded by.  He is currently preparing himself for “The Heart of America€” a Shakespeare Festival” that is being held in his hometown, Kansas City, Mo.     


Entering the second stage of his career journey, Evan can assure upcoming Dillard theatre majors that every aspect of inspiration they need is at the school.  “I challenge one to find a place that is going to be like Dillard and offer what they do,” said Cleaver, “Dillard embraces black artists and does black art.  There is no need to leave, seek, or stray for anything else.”


Through study, confidence and strength, Evan Cleaver hopes for more than just an alumni spotlight, but the light that shines through a talented and true artist.  He is ready to achieve the impossible because everything is JIVE!