Law + Music Joint Degree Student Performs Lead in UM’s The Drowsy Chaperone


3L Jeffrey Mark Pierce

The road to Miami Law and ultimately to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office may have begun one day while Jeffrey Mark Pierce was standing for too long in a sweltering “foamy.”

For those of you not conversant in costume design lingo, a foamy is an overly generous character outfit constructed with soft foam rubber – think of the Michelin tire man, only loads cuter. The costume in question was Tolee, a panda-loving gray koala, in the U.S. national tour of Nickelodeon presents "Storytime Live!" It was in York, Pennsylvania, just prior to kicking off a 35-city tour.

“I was usually only in it for 15-minutes or so at a time,” said the 34-year-old song-and-dance man from Lake Elsinore, California. “But it was a lengthy technical rehearsal, and I thought to myself, ‘this is beyond ridiculous.’”

The graduating 3L, studying in one of Miami Law’s joint degree programs, will receive his Master’s in Music Business and Entertainment Industries at the Frost School of Music. He just finished a run at the Ring Theatre playing the lead, Man in Chair, in the musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone.  While he is fully committed to a future at the State Attorney's Office, that doesn't mean he doesn't keep a lane open for a proscenium stage.

At Miami Law, Pierce joined several student organizations and took part in the Litigation Skills Program, which led to him joining the Trial Team this past year.  "I loved taking lit skills, and being on the Trial Team was amazing,” said Pierce who won a Best Advocate Award at the Stetson National Pre-Trial Competition last year.

“Through the Litigation Skills Program I was fortunate to have such an esteemed group of lawyers and judges as mentors, and especially an actor-cum-attorney who counseled me on how to channel my acting skills into an advocacy stance."

Pierce loved musical theater for as long as he can remember and had wanted to be a performer since the fifth grade when he sang a solo in front of the whole school.

“Even though I can no longer remember the song,” says the lyric baritone, “I can still remember how much I loved the feeling of performing. And I still love that feeling to this day.”

Pierce was a dedicated theater kid – he performed throughout high school and college, taking every role offered, whether the leading man or member of the chorus, moving up from community theater to professional regional theater. By the time he graduated from the University of Southern California, he was ready to test his chops on the Great White Way.

“I was living in a 700-square foot three-bedroom apartment in the East Village with six roommates and paying $1,000 a month,” Pierce says. “I was going on auditions by day and waiting tables at the Red Lobster in Times Square at night. And I loved every minute of it."

Pierce signed on to successive U.S. touring companies of professional children's theater productions -- including Nickelodeon, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the Berenstain Bears Live! Off-Broadway in New York City.

"These were excellent companies, where you had production designers with Broadway and off-Broadway credentials and full crews, not one of those where the actors are also putting up and striking the set after each run," he says. It was also ideal for making connections throughout the theater world. "Through those companies, I was able to audition for other touring companies. I just missed being cast as Lumière in the U.S. tour of Beauty and the Beast," he says.

Life as a young actor was kind of perfect, crisscrossing the U.S. with a merry band of like-minded folks. One night after a show in Raleigh, North Carolina, he and the cast went out, and he met an airline pilot named Jeffrey Woodham. The chance encounter led to a three-hour coffee date the following day, then lots of flying around to spend days off together.

A few months later, Woodham suggested they move in together in Washington, D.C.

"We both thought," he says, "’why not? Let's give it a go.’"

Three months later, they were engaged and married in October 2010. Pierce continued commuting to auditions in New York, picking up shifts at the Times Square Red Lobster, and jetting off to host teen beauty pageants on the weekends.

The Fork in the Road

"I spent an entire day waiting in line for an audition for a national tour of South Pacific," he says. "By the time they got to me, they had cut the usual 16-bars audition song to eight, and I was going to be late for work. My shortened audition was greeted with a perfunctory 'thanks,’ and by the time I got to Red Lobster 30-minutes late, the managers were losing their minds. I thought, 'That's it. I've had it.’ While I loved performing, it was no longer a realistic way of life; I wasn't a 20-something anymore.”

A few days later he applied to Teach for America, and a few months later, he was on his way to Miami to teach 10th-grade Writing at North Miami Senior High.

"After I honored my two-year commitment, I did my first year of law school in Chicago," says Pierce. “The law was always something I wanted to explore, and I finally felt ready to pursue it."

While I’m happy to ‘retire’ from the stage again, if another unique opportunity arises where I can do both I would absolutely do it,” he says. “But for now I’m looking forward to practicing law and because of my overall experience at Miami Law, I am ready for what comes next.”