Alumnus Shines in Off-Broadway Show
February 16, 2018
These days, you can find Jeff Hiller ’98 at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City. The theatre major and San Antonio native stars in the one-person show, “Bright Colors And Bold Patterns”—a comedy exploring the realization a gay man has about the fact he can now get married. Hailed as “devastatingly funny” by the New York Times, and directed by Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty” fame, Hiller has recently taken over as lead.
When “Bold Colors And Bright Patterns” writer Drew Droege wanted someone with a strong background in improv comedy and theatre, he looked no further than Hiller who has performed weekly with the both the Los Angeles-based Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade throughout his career.
“I love improv because you’re never forced to play anything,” Hiller said. “You can play a unicorn or a monkey or a woman or a child. It’s all up for grabs. You don’t have to play what you look like which can be quite annoying in this industry. You also get to be the writer and say what you want.“
Hiller also says the production is important because of the nuance in its message.
“The show is very funny and I was so impressed by the jokes,” Hiller said. “But there are also these really beautiful moments that are dramatic and sad. They kind of come out of nowhere. They bring big wells of emotion that are laid out so perfectly. We fought so hard to make gay marriage legal and it was thrilling when we finally had the opportunity. But then there was this moment where we realized, ‘So do we have to do that or even get married?’ The play is about asking ourselves: Do I have to do what the world says I have to do?”
Gaining the confidence to put himself out there as an actor is something Hiller says he learned at TLU.
“I came from a really large high school and was under the impressions that I wasn’t a good actor or good enough to be the lead in a high school play,” he said. “There was so much opportunity at TLU to be cast. While nothing makes you a better actor than being able to actually act, just the fact I was able to be in front of an audience was important.“
The one-on-one time with professors and the chance to ask questions—even the ones Hiller says young actors may be embarrassed to ask—were crucial to his artistic development.
“My biggest advice to theatre students is that acting is something you can absolutely do,” Hiller said. “I know sometimes it feels like there aren’t any possibilities in Texas and acting is only something Meryl Streep’s daughter gets to do. When I moved to New York, I would say yes to things that I didn’t even know I wanted to do like a web series or a show that didn’t pay much. I always said yes because they usually led to other things that were great.”
Hiller was also excited to hear that TLU’s Department of Dramatic Media is currently performing “Othello.”
“The idea that these young people are able to do a text that’s so dense and has so much richness allows you to be less afraid of texts and the scary stuff like Shakespeare,” Hiller said. “The first time I actually did Shakespeare was at TLU. These words are beautiful and gorgeous and you have to respect them, but you don’t have to be afraid of them. I’ve performed at Shakespeare In The Park twice and I truly don’t think I would have had the confidence to do it had I not performed as Malvolio in "Twelfth Night' at TLU.”
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