Mid-Week Intermission Friend Edition: Heller Awards and Jimmy Awards Winner Langston Lee
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Heller Awards alum Langston Lee won big at this year’s Jimmy Awards! This was Austin’s first time participating in the Jimmys, and we’re pretty dang proud Langston brought home Best Performance by an Actor our first year. He’s headed to The Juilliard School this fall, but we got to sit down with him before he heads to the big apple to get the scoop on where he comes from, where he’s going, and what he hopes for the future of arts education. Buckle up, y’all, this one’s gonna be inspiring.
Where he comes from
Tell us how you got started in musical theatre.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved performing. I used to play pretend with my parents and I loved watching movies in theaters. During my freshman year of high school, my theatre director encouraged me to audition for the school production of Les Miserables. At first I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic – I was not confident in my singing at all – but in the eleventh hour, my dad gave me the push I needed and I submitted an audition tape. Low and behold, I got a call back! After an unforgettable experience with my first musical, I continued to pursue it, performing in school production as well as a few professional ones. That’s actually how I got started with the Heller Awards for Young Artists. My school has always been involved in the HAYAs. We were fortunate to be nominated for Best Production multiple times, so we’ve been able to attend the awards shows, which has always been such a fun experience.
Are there any family members, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. who helped you along the way?
Oh, where to start?! Flan, Painter, Rhodes, and Mel were the best crew of directors I could ever have wished for. All of my Rouse buddies in Troupe 7679 constantly supported me – and were so talented themselves! The folks at Impact Arts, Texas Performing Arts, and the Heller Awards made this whole experience even possible. And of course my incredible parents! Everyone along my journey that gave me a push or a nudge to keep going, thank you.
Langston Lee Performing in Rouse High School’s production of Anastasia.
The Jimmy Awards
What are The Jimmy Awards? How did you go from the HAYAs to the Jimmys?
The Jimmy Awards is the national high school musical theater awards program – basically the Tony Awards, but for high school musical theatre programs across the nation. They have 48 regional award programs, or RAPs. They host two of the most talented winners from each RAP and put together a fantastic award show full of character medleys, group numbers, and awards! The HAYAs are Austin’s regional award program. Kyra Carr from Hendrickson High School and myself were selected by winning at the HAYAs and sent to New York City.
Besides compete, what did you get to do as part of The Jimmy Awards?
Like with any performing art, we put in lots of work behind-the-scenes. The audience saw the end product onstage, but before that, we logged tons of hours of rigorous rehearsals. It was also an opportunity hosted by incredible sponsors and organizations for us to learn and experience what it means to be on Broadway and in professional musical theater world. For example, one of the sponsors, MJ the Musical, gave us tickets to go watch their full show, which was incredible! Plus we got to meet Broadway stars like Ben Platt, Corbin Bleu, and Andrew Barth Feldman. All of the activities, rehearsals, and learning experiences were incredibly rewarding.
What was it like to perform on a Broadway stage?
In a word, reaffirming, Not only reaffirming how amazing this whole experience has been, but also of how much I love performing. That Broadway stage was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. The concept that I was in the performing capital of the world and I got to share my art with that many people was so meaningful and an experience I could never ever forget.
How did it feel when they announced you’d won Best Performance by an Actor?
Well, I’m pretty sure I had a complete blackout. Not only was I not expecting it, I was fully content with any of the other nominees’ names being called, a testament to the talent that was present at the awards. That’s why when they called my name I was in utter shock – of course I was overjoyed, but it was also humbling to know that I was chosen, and that I got to share that moment with such a beautiful group of young artists who are equally as talented as I am.
The future of high school musical theatre and arts education
What advice would you give to a student who’s participating in their first musical this year?
Have fun, enjoy the moment, and most importantly, constantly learn – make the most of the experience by creating invaluable friends and memories. It’s only as good as you make it and only fulfilling if you put in the work. I’m so excited for you and I hope you have the best show that you will remember forever! I know mine was.
What’s your biggest wish for the future of arts education?
Theater education, funding, teachers, and facilities are so important, and I can’t stress enough the fact that without youth programs and high school theater programs, I wouldn’t even be doing musical theater. The arts are more than invaluable, but unfortunately they are less than appreciated and supported. I’m just hoping that will be different here in Austin where the young talent is overflowing and the passion for the arts is so palpable
Help us help the artists of tomorrow (like Langston) access high quality arts education. All HAYA donations go directly to subsidize program costs so that we can continue to keep this program FREE for all participating schools.