From Fort Smith, Arkansas with dreams of New York and Broadway, senior, musical theater major Hunter Mackenzie Brown uses his love for music and theater to guide his life. “When I was younger I saw a production of a local high school musical and I didn’t really understand that it could be a career path. I’d always loved acting and singing…so when I saw the musical and how you could mesh both of those together I knew that was the only thing I wanted to do,” Brown said. The foundation of his dreams had been constructed.
Brown started out small in his church choir. Although he enjoyed music and acting, he was not completely supported by those around him to pursue it. Brown began his college years at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and studied communications for a year. Soon after, came his breakthrough moment.
“I did a summer program in Little Rock, and I got cast as the lead in a large production. My parents came down and saw it, and the director was like, ‘You need to do this for a living. You obviously want to.’ [She] wanted me to follow my dreams,” Brown said. “She talked to my parents and got me an audition at [Ouachita]. They saw the spark that I had for musical theater because they could tell it was what I really wanted to do. The rest is history.”
Brown is currently in his last year at Ouachita and recently completed his senior recital. Coming to the end of his education Brown can see how being at Ouachita has been a wonderful environment for him to foster his musical theater growth. “OBU was the first university in Arkansas to offer a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater, so it was the only option. But, now when I compare it to other programs I see that we get trained in everything. Not just in music, acting and dance, but we get trained on the technical side of things also,” Brown said.
On Sept. 20, Brown performed his recital, titled “One Last Prayer,” to an anticipant audience. It was an important mile stone in his musical theater journey, as he got to showcase his talents to friends, family and faculty.
“The vision I had for my recital was to show my versatility as a singer and as an actor, which I feel like I have achieved,” Brown stated. “It’s a twenty-five-minute performance, with roughly ten minutes of it having to be acting scenes and about fifteen minutes of music. In that fifteen minutes you have to have a dance piece, a piece before 1975, a ballad and a duet.”
Brown decided earlier in the year that he would do a rendition of “You’ll Be Back” from “Hamilton.” In addition, he chose other pieces that would keep a good balance between new and old musical theater pieces, as well as pieces that would suit his voice. The final musical pieces for his recital were “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton, “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City of Angels, featuring a duet and dance piece with Will Stotts, “Gonna Build a Mountain” from Stop the World I Want to Get Off and “One Last Prayer” by Kerrigan-Lowdermilk. The final acting scenes were a scene from Boeing-Boeing, and a monolog from Romeo and Juliet. Brown was happy with the recital and feels like he achieved the performance that he wanted, as well as fulfilled the goals he had coming into it.
Now that he has successfully completed his recital Brown is looking to the future and dreaming of where musical theater will take him. After he graduates in spring 2017, Brown wants to move to Memphis, Tennessee where he plans to audition in the active film industry there. This will act as a steppingstone to his long-term goal of being in New York City by December 2017.
As his journey unfolds, Brown says that he is thankful for the support he receives from his friends and family. This is what has brought him so far and will be able to take him into the future.
– By AJ Stambolie, Student Writer.