If You Knew My Story You'd Have a Good Story to Tell: a conversation with BRIGHT STAR actress Heidi-Liz Johnson and director Tim Dietlein
by Julie Bashaw
The events that happen to us throughout our life end up shaping who we become in the future. This happens to fictional character Alice Murphy who proceeds to tell audiences her story. Set in the South, written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the musical Bright Star explores the themes of family, hardships, and hope. It is set in both 1923 and 1945. The script is written to flip back and forth between these two separate time periods to show the development of the two main characters Alice Murphy and Jimmy Ray Dobbs. Hale Centre Theatre presents the Valley premiere of the Tony nominated musical, running August 23rd-October 5th.
Heidi-Liz Johnson and Tim Dietlein
“Bright Star is essentially the life story of one woman, Alice Murphy, back and forth between from when she is age 16 and age 38,” stated lead actress Heidi-Liz Johnson who plays Alice. “The musical flip flops between those two time periods, so when she is 16 it is in the 1920s and when she is 38 years old it is in the 1940s. It is a story of second chances, redemption, and the what if’s in life. It is the story of her reconnecting with her past to get answers about her future.”
Heidi-Liz Johnson has acted in countless Hale productions since her freshman year of college. She had been doing music since she was a little kid, her first solo being in Kindergarten, however, she didn’t actually discover musical theatre for herself until high school.
“The spring play when I was 14 was the first time I had ever touched theatre,” Johnson explained. “And I was not great but I loved it, I had found my community and passion. I had a childhood friend that did theatre and so I often went to shows that she was in. So I knew of musical theatre and I had gone to various shows and things but just had never considered it for myself until then. But I went to Hale shows throughout my childhood. I auditioned at Hale first in high school and finally broke in my freshman year of college for their production of A Christmas Carol. I believe if I am counting correctly Bright Star is my 20th Hale production.”
Creating Memories and a Sense of Family:
Talking to Matthew Harris and Heidi-Liz Johnson about Hale Centre Theatre and their next production,
GUYS AND DOLLS
by Julie Bashaw
Hale Centre Theatre has been in operation since 2003, growing and evolving over the years in the area that eventually would become the booming hot spot that is Downtown Gilbert. Through the years, Hale has created a community of patrons and artists who call this unique place their home. Hale's next production, Guys and Dolls, which opens this Thursday, will put the number of shows this theater has produced to over 170.
Heidi-Liz Johnson and Matthew Harris are returning Hale performers that are playing two of the lead characters Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit. For both Johnson and Harris it will be their 23rd time acting in a Hale show.
Guys and Dolls is set in New York City in the late 1940s. The story follows two couples. Adelaide and Nathan have been engaged for 14 years but haven’t married due to his commitment issues. Nathan sets up illegal crap games around town for gamblers. He gets a cut of the action but only if he is able to set up the games. Sky, a gambler who often plays in Nathan’s games, meets Sister Sarah Brown and begins to fall in love with her.
"It has a feeling of old Hollywood, it is very showy and glitzy,” Johnson explained. “It is a love story between two couples, Sarah and Sky’s romance as well as Nathan and Adelaide’s. It is the dichotomy between them, between new love and continuous love.”
With this show being Johnson and Harris’s 23rd performance in a Hale production, I had to ask why they continue to come back. They explained to me why they return to audition and what this theatre company has meant to them over the years.
“I think what keeps me coming back is that sense of family,” Harris disclosed. “Corrin and Dave Dietlein have built this amazing space where we can show our art. They supply us with costumes, food between shows, and comp tickets. More comp tickets then I’ve had at any other place, so those family members that can’t afford a ticket can still come and see the magic. We create great relationships and friendships here, familiar faces keep coming back but then new faces are interwoven too.