Photo by Danny Meyer
Success in college didn’t come easily to Josiah Hernandez, but the Angelo State junior turned his slow start around and is now on a trajectory for success.
Proof of that turnaround came when the theatre major was one of only four college students nationally selected for a pilot fellowship in arts management, earning the opportunity to attend the five-day national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Washington, D.C., in April.
Eighteen months earlier, such an opportunity seemed out of reach for Hernandez, who had initially enrolled in ASU as a traditional newly minted high school graduate but “flamed out” and took a three-year hiatus.
“I knew I wasn’t happy right then and I was the only one who could change that,” the San Angelo native said.
As I took courses and worked on ASU productions, I started doing some stage management and really loved it.
During the hiatus, his first priority was to pay off his tuition debt and, with the support of his parents and a job as a restaurant server, he was able to do that.
He had another motivation, too. During his initial enrollment, he had made positive connections with Dr. William Doll and Michael Burnett, faculty of ASU’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts theatre program.
“I came back after three years because I really liked Dr. Doll,” Hernandez said.
He enrolled again in the spring of 2014 to pursue his love of the theatre arts and, with his new attitude, posted a 4.0 GPA his first semester. He also began sharpening his career focus.
“As a member of the San Angelo Broadway Academy youth theatre program, I was always really interested in acting and I liked being on stage,” he said. “But as I took courses and worked on ASU productions, I started doing some stage management and really loved it.”
“I took a course called Theatre Production Management,” he added, “which was half stage management and half theatre management, the business side of running a theatre. It was a fun class, but I really thrived in the second half of the semester.”
That shift in focus helped bring him to the attention of Gregg Henry, artistic director of the KCACTF, when Angelo State hosted the organization’s Region VI Festival for the first time in February.
Hernandez was one of the core cadre of ASU students who helped run the event that drew about 800 students from more than 50 college theatre programs across Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
That work led to Hernandez being named a 2015 KCACTF Leadership Fellow.
“Josiah did such great work assisting in the organization and the running of the regional festival,” Henry said. “And when I was asking around, ‘who are the student leaders here,’ everyone just pointed to him.”
Hernandez and his three colleagues went to Washington and were immersed in the arts management side of the festival, also meeting a number of administrators from the League of Regional Theatres (LORT).
“We typically invite students who seem to be on an arts administration track and have excelled on the regional festival circuit,” Henry said. “They are usually intrinsic to the organization of the regional festival. We bring them to the national festival as a way to say thank you for their efforts. This year, we dovetailed it with the LORT’s diversity initiative to identify and mentor people of color and women in leadership roles in the American theatre.”
For Hernandez, the fellowship helped him clarify his vision for the future in which he runs a children’s theatre.
“It was so great,” he said. “The people we met talked a lot about their careers, how they got started. Altogether, I got a better understanding of my career path and what I have to do to get there.”
“Next, I need to find a good apprenticeship,” he added. “I want to find a job that will let me build my skills and hone my craft. I know that’s what I need to do, to hone my craft.”