Julie Heaton, Salt Lake Community College’s new theater program director, got her start in theater at the age of 15 when she attended a play at the Hale Center Theater with a church group.
“They say that you get bitten by the theater bug and that’s exactly what it feels like. You just can’t get it out of your system, and once you start doing it, you just want to do it more and more. So, I’ve been doing it pretty much non-stop since then,” says Heaton.
Heaton’s first play was “Jane Eye: the Musical.” There were a lot of slots for orphan girls, so Heaton knew she had a great shot at landing a role. She was thrilled when she was cast as one of the orphans even though she only appeared in the opening number.
“The show started at 8 o’clock and I was being picked up by my parents at 8:15 [p.m.]. I didn’t even have to stay to do the curtain call. But for me, I was like, ‘Cool!’” says Heaton.
After this first brush with acting, Heaton’s passion for theater heated up, and she realized she wanted to keep going.
She has carried numerous roles including that of Dolly, in “Hello, Dolly,” which she landed during her senior year of high school.
“I’ve done a lot of musicals,” says Heaton. “I’ve been in ‘Oliver: the Musical,’ ‘Pinnochio’ and ‘A Christmas Carol.’”
Heaton’s training included piano and drums while in junior high school, but her focus quickly became musical theater. She soon began extensive voice lessons and auditioned for every production she could.
“When I was doing these shows I thought, ‘A lot of these people can sing better than I can. They can sing a lot more notes.’ My range was really limited, so I started taking voice lessons,” says Heaton.
With an extensive background in musical theater, Heaton went on to complete a Master’s of Fine Arts in Theater at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2004.
“In graduate school I got to do a thesis role. You’re pre-cast as a lead of some kind, and then they have you do an extensive paper and character analysis. My thesis role was Annie, in ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’” says Heaton. “That’s one of my biggest roles.”
Heaton began her career at SLCC when she was hired as an adjunct instructor in 2011. In her most recent production, “Romeo and Juliet,” which ran here at SLCC during the spring of 2013, Heaton was the assistant director and vocal coach. Now, Heaton is excited to be the sole director on her first production in this capacity at SLCC, “A Curious Savage,” which is slated to open Oct. 24 at the Black Box Theater.
“This is my first primary [production], I am the sole director; this is my project at the community college, and I’m really excited,” says Heaton.
Heaton plans to make it a priority to make sure a transferable associate’s degree in theater will soon be amongst the degrees offered here at SLCC.
“My first and foremost goal [is] to validate the kind of training that goes on here,” says Heaton. “I would like to create a [transferable] associate’s degree in theater that has a lot of basic acting classes.”
Finding work in the theater industry is difficult, and with the emphasis on film acting, Heaton would like to see her actors trained to work in both industries.
“I want to tie it [a theater degree] into the film industry because I want my actors to work,” says Heaton. “They can be as passionate about theater as I am, but if they can’t translate it over to where the work is, then they’re all going to become accountants too. I want to train actors and send them out there ready to work.”