MONTGOMERY, AL - The neon lights are shining bright for Alabama State University alumnus Jeff Calloway (1997) since he landed a major role in the hit Broadway play "Memphis," which recently won four Tony Awards, including best musical. The play already had won the Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding new Broadway musical.
Calloway's role in "Memphis" marks his Broadway debut. The play is a rhythm 'n' blues musical set in the '50s. Calloway is one of the stars of the show, whose character Delray is a nightclub owner.
Despite his recent successes in entertainment, the Theatre Arts graduate did not come to ASU with plans to become an actor. During most of his college career, Calloway found success making crowd-pleasing plays on the football field as a starting fullback for legendary coach Houston Markham.
Calloway's career was destined for the gridiron until his junior year.
"I came back to campus following surgery – this was 1996 – and they'd changed the offense and tried to get me involved playing tight end," said Calloway. "I didn't like it and I'm sure my coaches were not happy with me."
Calloway said he didn't know that despite the position change, pro scouts were interested in him; so, he made the decision to leave the team his senior year and pursue acting.
He found his first taste of success as an actor when he joined the cast of ASU's performance of "Gospel at Colunus."
"I started thinking, 'Wow, I can do this. I can make a living at this.'"
Calloway credits Dr. Tonea Stewart, now dean of ASU's College of Visual and Performing Arts, with helping him grow into the professional he is today.
"Discipline, patience, knowledge of the craft … integrity and a strong drive to accept only the best out of myself" are attributes he credits to Dr. Stewart's influence.
In addition to earning his M.F.A. in acting from Brandeis University in 2000, Calloway has appeared in numerous regional theater productions and television shows, including "Law and Order" and the soap opera "All My Children," and has been the voice talent in commercials for Miller Genuine Draft, Tropicana Twister Soda and K-Mart. He also made his movie debut in "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," starring Denzel Washington.
"If someone had told me back then that I had a chance to play pro ball, it might have turned out different," Calloway said. "But I'm right where I'm supposed to be and I am fortunate that things worked out as they did. I can thank my ASU family for that."