By Matthew Salzano ’18
PLU Marketing & Communications
SEATTLE, WASH. (April 16, 2015)- Ordinarily, it takes many years for a Theatre Major to earn the opportunity to write, compose or star in a high-profile musical production. However, one Lute is dramatically defying that expectation.
Justin Huertas graduated almost six years ago, in 2009, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre.
Now, he is in Lizard Boy at the Seattle Repertory Theatre — a show he wrote, composed and stars in.
“I didn’t actually believe it was true,” Huertas said, regarding his show being in the theatre’s spring season, “until the marketing department [at the Seattle Rep] sent me a press release, and I was like ‘What?!’”
Set to a score that could be described as a mix of rock, folk and traditional musical theatre, Lizard Boy is a “somewhat-autobiographical solo-show-with-three-actors” that follows a boy with lizard skin who fights evil and learns about love.
Huertas attributes some of his triple-threat skills in performing, composing and writing to his theatre education at PLU. “Doing theater at PLU was awesome!” he said.
Specifically, Huertas recalls that the study of Shakespeare and the PLU Theatre Program‘s emphasis on language “stuck with [him] forever.”
“I have a lot of my Shakespeare education in my head all the time (while writing music and lyrics),” Huertas said. “Would this character stick to a meter?” he recalled often asking himself while writing Lizard Boy. “Would he rhyme if he had this in his head?”
“How does this language inform what the characters are going through? That’s something I’ve always been very fascinated by.”
Huertas also used connections made at PLU to cast his show. His former classmate, Kirsten deLohr Helland ’09, is starring alongside him in Lizard Boy.
Lizard Boy opened Wednesday, April 1, in what Huertas characterized as a full-circle moment.
Huertas wrote the show after being encouraged by the Seattle Rep’s late Artistic Director Jerry Manning in January 2012 to keep a journal and start writing a play in which he would play the cello on stage.
Another champion of Lizard Boy was the Seattle Rep’s late Director of Education Andrea Allen. She, along with Manning, edited Huertas’ diary entries and helped him craft them into what became Lizard Boy.
These two champions of Huertas — and Lizard Boy — weren’t around to see the show when it opened in a real Seattle Rep season.
“[Manning] and [Allen] both helped me out a lot and we lost them along the way, so it was sort of like this moment of full-circle at opening night,” Huertas said. “We got to sort of feel them in the room.”
“As much as it is the beginning of something new, the beginning of our run with Lizard Boy, it really felt like the end of a journey that we really, really needed to get to.”
“The Woah Song” from Lizard Boy. Performed by Justin Huertas ’09, Kirsten deLohr Helland ’09 and William A. Williams. Video by Laura Marshall for the Seattle Repertory Theatre.