When Nicky Wood walks onto the stage at the CFE Arena to collect his degree on Friday, he may be one of the few University of Central Florida graduates who won’t be nervous.
Wood, a 20-year-old theatre studies major, is more at home on stage than anywhere. And after commencement, he’ll move straight into a busy professional life in theater.
“I’m coming straight out of college and going into a professional theater as a choreographer, which is fantastic,” Wood said. “My full-time job for the past 15 or 16 years has been school. As excited as I am to move on to the next step, I had that moment of realization that I’m changing gears and moving on to the next part of life. It is bittersweet – I have loved it here.”
For Wood, it was clear that his path to professional theater included UCF. At a statewide thespian competition, he talked with college theater program representatives. He fell in love with UCF and didn’t apply to any other university.
But UCF needed a little convincing. Wood said he was told his SAT scores made him a poor candidate for admittance. So he reapplied until he was admitted.
“When somebody tells me I can’t do something, I take that as a personal challenge,” he said.
He excelled at UCF and is expected to graduate magna cum laude. Along the way, he has been involved with five Theatre UCF productions: The Music Man, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Arcadia, Nine and, most recently, as assistant director and choreographer of Hair.
Outside UCF, he’s performed with professional theater groups and in community theater, on board a Norwegian cruise ship, done some voiceover work and appeared on the television show Burn Notice.
Wood has been hired by Starstruck Academy and Theatre in Stuart, where he’ll be resident choreographer for the professional theatre group. He’ll also serve as the interim director of dance in the children’s academy, teaching students jazz and ballet.
At the same time, Wood produces, directs and sometimes stars in his own shows. He has a Gershwin revue opening New Year’s Day at the Barn Theatre in Stuart.
At UCF, Wood minored in event management through the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and wrote an Honors in the Major thesis through the Burnett Honors College. He has plenty of drive and perseverance, but credits UCF and his professor and mentor, Theatre UCF artistic director Earl Weaver, with helping him grow.
“One thing I like about UCF’s theatre program is the impactful relationships you can create, the mentorships you can develop between professors and students,” Wood said. “As large as UCF is, the community is so tight and the support is so strong, 60,000 turns into 60.”