Alum spotlight: Jacquelyn Prater Lord (BFA ’08)

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Jacquelyn Prater Lord, BFA ’08, Performance

In the classic actor mold, Jackie was active in performance as a kid. She acted in plays from the age of four, and she also traveled with the World Children’s Choir during middle and high school (there’s a picture of her with Hilary Clinton at age 9!).

When she arrived at VCU, Jackie was on the Mainstage every year: The Civil War, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, and Medea.

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Jackie with the cast of For Colored Girls… (VCU)

Upon graduation, she moved to Chicago because “I thought it had a better work/life balance than any other city. In New York, it’s their LIFE.” She met her husband Jason Lord in 2009. “He was a comedy guy and did Second City and other improv.”

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Jackie with fellow grad Tommy Pruitt

Meanwhile, Jackie worked with Theatre Building Chicago (now called Stage 773), where VCU has performed their senior showcase in previous years. She enjoyed writing and producing children’s theatre because, “kids don’t lie and they let you know how they’re reacting.”

While working at Neiman Marcus, she decided to attend culinary school. For a year, she worked at Neiman’s from 10 to 5:30 with night school from 6 to 10pm!

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Jackie onstage in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (VCU)

In 2012, she became a private chef for a fraternity at Illinois Institute of Technology and even started teaching cooking classes to the frat members. Later, she became a “tasting chef” for a large catering company (Food for Thought), running “a mini-restaurant for two hours, cooking all the courses and working with the clients on their event.”

This led her to The Chopping Block, where she taught cooking classes. After she had to take three months off for a medical issue, she realized, “they weren’t utilizing all of my skills. I was only using part of my brain. I could probably do this on my own.”

Jackie then started a private catering company called The Dinner Belle, named in honor of her grandmother Ruthie Belle Bailey. Her community involvement also finds her working with St James Episcopal Church as kitchen manager. She helps prepare meals for their outreach programs, including their summer youth camp that is run by another VCU alum Tony Santiago.

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A screen shot from the Dinner Belle’s instagram!

Thinking back to how her college experience connects her careers, “VCU gives you an opportunity to experience someone else’s world. That’s still true with what I do. Working with all kinds of people and backgrounds to make sure everyone’s needs are being met.” Last November, Jackie got back on stage for the first time in ten years as part of a cabaret: Peace and Love on the Planet Earth, featuring scenes and songs from the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe.

Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the November 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter