AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former University of Texas at Austin music theater student and current Broadway performer is expressing his frustrations that UT’s Musical Theater Training Program will come to an end this spring. The program was cut in a department decision following several years of budget cuts. The Department of Theater and Dance cited it as one of the more expensive programs.
J. Quinton Johnson (who goes by Q) has been performing on Broadway in the hit musical “Hamilton” in the roles of James Madison and Hercules Mulligan. Johnson spoke with KXAN Sunday about his reaction to the program ending.
“[I was] devastated, absolutely devastated,” he said.
Johnson began in the musical theater program at UT in 2012, in the first class of students to participate. The Department of Theater and Dance decided to end the program in the 2014-2015 school year, and the last group of students to participate in the program will graduate this spring.
The musical theater program was highly competitive — around a thousand students would compete for eight to 10 spots. Students would go on to perform in musicals with professional-level resources and would network with theatrical agents.
“There’s no way I could be doing ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway — as huge as that is — without having that shift from post graduation of high school to the first year of study at UT,” Johnson explained.
Johnson is from Athens, Texas.
“From where I came from growing up, none of this would have been possible, none of this would even have been in my wildest dreams,” he explained. He believes that having a musical theater program at UT Austin makes a professional career in musical theater more accessible to students across Texas.
“One person out of the six you recruited for the first thing ever has now been able to make a connection with Richard Linklater and [I] am doing all these things, and could not have done it without the training in the musical theater program,” Johnson said.
He left UT Austin during the program to act in Linklater’s movie, “Everybody Wants Some.”
From the vantage point of the professional world, Johnson says that as an actor it pays to have a vocal and musical theater background. He added that juggling the papers, musical rehearsal and classes at UT helped him to prepare for the hectic life of acting on Broadway.
“Just to think that we are no longer attempting to be competitive, specifically with musical theater at that University at the Department of Theater and Dance, just seems backwards to me,” Johnson said.
He hopes to see the UT community put longstanding support behind musical theater and give other students a chance to pursue similar programs in the future.
“Now I’m talking to you from my dressing room at Hamilton on Broadway, because some people cared, so we gotta get people to care and say they care to everyone and continue to take action that is reflective of that care,” Johnson said.
He plans to continue performing with “Hamilton” for at least the next year.
Without the program, musicals will now happen at UT every other year instead of every year.