By Jenn Haight
Houston has a rich and deep theater history. Part of what makes the theater in Houston a successful and ever-evolving entity is the multitude of theatrical education opportunities. Theater training is available as young as age four at Theatre Under the Stars, a nationally-known children's theater program. There are also myriad theater houses providing classes and stage experience such as Wildfish Theater and HITS Theater. These early training opportunities are often coupled with some of the best high school theater programs in the country, producing professional-level talent.
Each spring, a huge, televised event celebrating the best in high school theater is held at the Hobby Center - The Tommy Tune Awards. Besides the trophy and prestige of the win, students can earn scholarships and the opportunity to compete nationally. Four male actors who attended high school in Houston and have gone on to acting success are Tommy Tune, Jim Parsons, Justin Simien and Matt Bomer.
The aforementioned Tommy Tune may be the most infamous of Houston performers. Tune is from Texas and returns each year to celebrate the many talented high schoolers in his home state. Although he is perhaps best known as a Broadway performer, for which he has won 10 Tony Awards over the years, he has starred in numerous films as well, including Hello Dolly. He's also been on several television shows, including Arrested Development. Tune has been openly gay throughout his career and has written a memoir about his experience. Besides his variety of talents in choreography, directing and performing, Tune is also known for his exceptional height at 6 feet 6 inches tall.
Another tall Texan, Jim Parsons, 6 feet 2 inches, began his career in Houston. He grew up in the suburb of Spring and was in several productions at his high school, Klein Oak. Parsons had numerous parts in off-Broadway shows, commercials and bit parts in films and television shows before he made his breakthrough with the role of Sheldon Cooper on the show The Big Bang Theory. He won four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award playing that role. He has continued to work in film, including voice work in the film Home. Parsons came out via an article in The New York Times in 2012. At the time, he admitted that he had been in a 10-year relationship with his partner. He had never been closeted, but his sexual orientation had never come up. Once the information was public, Parsons is quoted as saying he was relieved.
Film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, actor and author Justin Simien received a lot of attention for his first feature film, Dear White People. He began work on the piece in 2006 and released it in 2014 with the help of crowdfunding. Simien began his career in Houston and has lived as an openly gay man throughout his career. Simien has won several film festival awards for Dear White People and has been compared to Spike Lee.
Although he was born in Missouri, actor Matt Bomer, attended Klein High School in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Matt participated in the theater program at Klein High and performed at Houston's prestigious Alley Theater. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, Bomer performed on Broadway and had roles in the soap operas All My Children and Guiding Light. In 2009, he became the lead actor in the television show White Collar. Bomer's work has also been seen in several films, including Flightplan and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Although Bomer had already been with his partner for years, the first time that he publicly acknowledged that he is gay was in 2012 when he thanked his partner while accepting an award. He can most recently be seen on the television show American Horror Story: Hotel.
With the combination of Texas pride and work ethic plus top-notch training and opportunity, it's no wonder many young men who began their careers in Houston have gone on to have successful acting careers on Broadway and in film and television.