Johnny Hebda is the founder of an exciting New Theatre Company in Utah-the Utah Musical Theatre Company. He took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with BroadwayWorld about the theatre's ambitious mission, its debut production, Side Show, and the rest of its upcoming season.
1. Tell us about your background in theatre.
I have been involved in theatre since a young child both in film and on stage. I have been involved with more than 70 productions nationally in professional theatre, summer stock, university and local productions. I have worked at theatres ranging from The American Family Theater in NYC to the Lost Colony in Roanoke, North Carolina (under the direction of Terrence Mann) and the Roxy Regional Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee. I have degrees from the Florida School of the Arts (Acting Conservatory Program), a BFA in Music Dance Theatre from BYU (along with an emphasis in Directing) and I am currently working on a Master's in Directing from Roosevelt University (as part of a unique independent study program). Some favorite roles have included: Mozart in Amadeus(outstanding actor award), Romeo in Terrence Mann's musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Matt in The Fantasticks, Joseph in Joseph...,and the Devil in Damn Yankees;as well as directing such productions as Parade(Student Directing Award Recipient at BYU) and the Music Dance Theatre Showcase featuring Jenny Jordan-Frogley at BYU, The Bald Soprano, The Sound of Music, Oliver!, For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,and many others. I also founded the Clarksville Children's Theatre in Tennessee and am a member of the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG). Currently I am actively involved in the Utah theatre community as an actor, director, producer, music director, and reviewer with many theatre organizations and companies throughout the state. Let's say I am kind of a theatre addict and I love staying involved in theatre in any state that I live in.
2. What is your favorite theatre project you've been involved in?
It's hard to narrow it down to one. I have enjoyed many shows I have been involved with for different reasons. Here would be three of my top three: I loved working with Terrence Mann as Romeo in his musical adaptation of ROMEO AND JULIET. I also enjoyed directing PARADE at BYU (as I am a huge fan of Jason Robert Brown and that show has always spoken to me and I was very pleased with the quality of the production). And lastly I really enjoyed playing Mozart in AMADEUS as it stretched me as an actor and was a powerful production to be involved with.
3. What made you decide to start Utah Musical Theatre Company?
It has always been a dream of mine to start a semi-professional theatre company. I am working on a Master's Degree in Directing right now and part of the degree is to direct productions that will be evaluated by staff in conjunction with course work. So SIDE SHOW began as part of that program, but with level of interest, it quickly evolved to a full-blown theatre company. If I am going to commit to something, I expect the best from myself and all involved. I was tired of seeing the same 15 shows rotated over and over throughout the state, or outside of the universities, and the quality of shows at the community theatre level for the most part was not what I wanted to be affiliated with. It seemed that Utah needed a daring New Theatre Company that would produce Utah premieres and less frequently produced shows to educate and challenge the theatre community here, and at the same time set standards at a very high level of professionalism.
4. How does your theatre stand out from all the others here in Utah?
UMTC strives to produce premieres and less produced shows. We seek a variety of directors and production teams from a diversified background for each show. A director's concept and passion for a particular show weighs heavily on the show selection process as well. We aren't seeking shows for shock value by any means, but are taking risks on bringing lesser known titles that have received national acclaim to Utah, and aren't limiting ourselves to shows that are labeled "family friendly" or "light and fluffy." Rather we are seeking shows that challenge people to think, share important messages, and educate audiences. We are also striving to set a bar for quality and professionalism in what can be accomplished through talented and hardworking collaborators in telling the story.