A-J graduate’s next career step takes her to Big Apple

Olivia Gordon, an Anna-Jonesboro Community High School graduate and life-long resident of Union County, is taking a huge step forward in her career.

She left on Oct. 9 to pursue her dream of being a stage performer, with Broadway being the ultimate goal.

She will be attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, AMDA, which is located in Manhattan, a New York City borough.

She will be in the academy’s two-year conservatory program, which is a certificate program. Gordon describes it as very intense, specialized classes for 36 hours a week.

The classes are specific to every aspect of the stage, including singing, dancing, acting, behind the scenes and more.

Gordon has been involved with theater since she was 7 years old. Her favorite part about theater is the process of putting a show together.

“I really love the process...bonding with your cast mates and creating your character and learning the choreography,” Gordon said.

Another highlight for Gordon is when the performers sing with the orchestra for the first time.

“That’s when it comes to life,” Gordon said.

She attended Shawnee Community College for two years. It was at SCC where she began performing at age 8, the youngest someone can be to be cast in the fall production.

Gordon then graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in May 2016 with her bachelor of science degree in communication studies, with a specialization in public relations and a theater minor. She performed in several productions at SIUC, including “Hairspray.”

“Because I was closer to home, it allowed me to have more disposable income to live on campus and later live in an apartment off campus. It was overall the best decision for me,” Gordon said.

Many factors contributed to her choosing to obtain a degree not related to theater before attending a conservatory. 

Gordon explained she wanted something to fall back on and the bill to go to SIUC was free – so why not?

However, she still wanted to graduate in a decent time frame, so she opted for a two-year intense conservatory program that focused solely on theater-related courses.

During her nationwide search, she narrowed it down to three options that fit her and her family’s needs and budget.

Gordon said she had known about AMDA her whole life because of a family from Cairo.

Chris Jackson, formerly of Cairo, is currently in the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.” 

He plays George Washington. Jackson has also performed in “The Lion King,” and “In The Heights.”

His mother, Jane Adams, works at Egyptian School in Tamms, with Gordon’s mother, Angie Gordon.

It was through that connection that Olivia gained extra insight to the conservatory. Her family have made many trips to New York City and visited with Jackson.

“(AMDA) felt like home to me,” Gordon said.

Besides Jackson, Gordon will not be going to the Big Apple without any support. 

She said some people whom she’s already done theater with are working in New York, so she has a support system there, as well as over 1,000 miles away in Union County.

Gordon said she’s not too worried about being homesick; it’s the practical day-to-day things, like learning how public transportation works.

For Gordon, performing on Broadway is the ultimate goal, but she has her other degree to fall back on.

“As long as I can do theater for a living, for at least a little while, I’ll be happy,” Gordon said.

If performing for a career isn’t in the cards, Gordon said she would love to stay in the city, stay in public relations and work around theater.

“Either one of those things would be very fulfilling for me,” Gordon said.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
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