Two theatre students at the University of Iowa, one a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, are in very select company. They're two of less than 20 students nationwide who have received very sought after scholarships as they look to careers on and off stage.

Jefferson grad Alexi Bolden (above right) found out last month that she was one of just four students in the nation awarded a scholarship that comes from 'Saturday Night Live' and Chicago's famous Second City theatre. The latter has been the stepping stone for many SNL careers. Second City's famous comedians include SNL alums Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, and John Belushi. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Joan Rivers also performed on the famous Chicago stage. Approximately 1,300 different people applied for the four scholarships.

According to the University of Iowa, Bolden will study improv performance and comedy at Second City for two years. What's even cooler, if that's possible, is that's she'll also get a tryout at SNL for either a cast or writing position. The only Iowa grad who has been part of 'Saturday Night Live' to date is Brooks Wheelan. He was part of the 2013-14 season.

Bolden is fired up. She told the University of Iowa, “I’m really excited. I’ve always loved comedy, but I didn’t think I could do it for a career until just last year.”

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West Des Moines native Brillian Qi-Bell (left at top) is one of just 15 students nationwide to receive the Cody Renard Richard Scholarship. The scholarships are a partnership of the Richard and Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical. This is the scholarship's first year. It is "dedicated to honoring, uplifting, and supporting the next generation of Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre-makers working behind the scenes.”

Qi-Bell, who fell in love with theater when she was a sixth-grader, has stage management as her goal. She told the University of Iowa, “Diversity in theater is usually focused on the actors onstage. People don’t talk about diversity backstage because they can’t see it. I’ve often been the only person of color backstage—most of the time, actually. I want to be an advocate for other people of color and use my voice and identity to be a strong leader. I never dreamed I’d have an opportunity like this.”

Mary Beth Easley is the University of Iowa's chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, head of directing, and associate professor. She described Alexi and Brillian as, "exceptional students, talented theater artists, and active citizens within the university community. The opportunity to be connected with industry professionals that comes with these awards will open doors for them as they embark on their careers after graduating. We are excited to see them take that next step.”

Congratulations, ladies. We'll be watching for you... on-stage and behind the stage.

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