Profile: Hooligan Artistic Director, Kiara Bryant

Fame. Rent. South Pacific. Carmen Jones. When it comes to musical theatre productions, there's so many that come to mind that the list could go on forever. Having the ability to sing, dance and act is the trifecta of talent, and for HOOLIGAN Theatre Company Artistic Director Kiara Bryant, it's finding the right cast that really makes the show shine. Her Campus sat down with Kiara to share all the backstage secrets and tips for grabbing the spotlight.

Her Campus: Tell us about yourself! What's your major, graduation year and involvement with HOOLIGAN?

Kiara Bryant: I am a fourth year Communication major, and I am the Artistic Director and Executive Producer of HOOLIGAN Theatre Company.

HC: How did you first get involved with HOOLIGAN, and what is your current role?

KB: I joined HOOLIGAN staff as a Marketing associate during spring quarter of my first year at UCLA. Although I had never done a show with them (or any sort of theatre previously), I attended all of the HOOLIGAN productions that year prior to joining staff because I had friends who were in them. I am now the Artistic Director and senior Executive Producer of the company.

HC: What’s a day in the life as the A.D. of HOOLIGAN like?

KB: My day varies depending on if we’re in the middle of a show week or not! Regardless, I spend a few hours every day on my computer or phone sending and answering emails. I’m always in constant communication with my Co-Executive Producer and our Production Manager about whatever show we’re putting on, as well as always being in touch with our Senior Staff about company matters. I usually have 3-5 meetings a week that can vary from meeting with Senior Staff or attending a production meeting to talking with a venue official or a personal sit-down with a company member. During show weeks, about 12-15 hours of my day is spend in venue, in meetings or planning/scheduling for the day!

HC: How do you determine what productions to perform?

KB: We have a long process that we use to select shows. It begins with asking our company members to submit shows that they would like us to perform. We then sit down with our Assistant Producers (people who are shadowing to replace the outgoing Executive Producer) and create a list of 14-17 shows based on selections from the company and their own personal selections. Those shows go onto a ballot and are presented to the company and to the public at our Winter shows for them to vote on what shows they want to see in our next season! After the ballots, we apply to rights for the productions (you cannot produce a show if you do not receive and then purchase the performance rights) and sit down and discuss which shows would work and which will not. These decisions are based on rights availability, venue, show materials and many other factors! Ultimately, we want a production that not only will our company learn and grow from, but one that will be fun for performers, tech and audience.

HC: You’re really running the show. What are your favorite aspects about your job? What are the things that make you go, eh?

KB: Aw, thanks! I love having my hand in every part of the production process and the company. My favorite part of this job is getting to see people become friends and grow as people and performers/crew. I have learned so much about theatre, and about myself, through having this position of power, and I am extremely grateful. This job can be difficult because, like in any large group of people, you can never please everyone. My Co and I put a lot of thought into every decision that was made, but sometimes it’s hard for others to see that. This job is also wildly time consuming, but there is no where else I would rather spend my time than with my best friends doing what we love!

HC: What HOOLIGAN production has impacted you the most?

KB: As much as I hold every production we do near and dear to my heart, I have to choose Sister Act. Every show night, I stood in the back of the house with the creative team, and we had the time of our lives, dancing the entire show. After every show, I had multiple people come up to me and say that their favorite part was how much fun the cast was having on stage and how it shined through during their performance. My ultimate goal for every production is for people to have fun, make friends and learn something new, and that was accomplished wholeheartedly in Sister Act.

HC: What drew you to theatre?

KB: Music was my first love and has been a huge part of my life from as far back as I can remember. My favorite songs were always the ones that told stories. I remember seeing the movie remake of the musical Hairspray and falling in love with the characters, the stories and the soundtrack (which I immediately downloaded to my iPod nano). “Run And Tell That” is a song sung by the black lead in the show, and it is about embracing and loving his skin color no matter what anyone has to say about it. Listening to that song empowered me, and that was when I learned about the beauty of theatre and the power it has to make you feel, think and explore. I was also drawn to theatre because of the community that surrounds it. As people like to say, theatre is not the highest paying entertainment field to go into—but everyone who is in it is passionate. They are passionate about theatre and their jobs, and I love it.

HC: Diversity and representation matter. How do you anticipate theatre embracing more roles for African American women?

KB: It is a difficult question because African American women in starring roles is something we do not see much of now. Theatre is inherently and institutionally very white, and it is difficult for people of color to get roles or to have their voices heard, especially in roles that were originally played by white actors, because “white” is the norm. I think there needs to be more minorities (women, POC, LGBTQ*, etc.) in power in the creative and administrative aspects of theatre. As much as we can hope for and embrace the theatrical narritaves written about us, I do not think we will see more roles for black women, and POC women all across the board, until we have more of our voices heard in powerful ways. There are some really amazing pieces of theatre that tell the stories of and star black women, and there has been a recent increase in the popularization of POC narratives in theatre, but it is nowhere close to where it should be. As audiences, we need to demand that these stories be told and then support the productions when it happens. Ultimately, we need more diversity within the upper and more powerful tiers of theatre to push forth this inclusion.

HC: What tips do you have for people to bring a bit of creativity into their everyday life, especially those not naturally talented?

KB: I think that everyone has a talent, even if they don’t know it yet! Regardless, creativity should not just be limited to those who have a knack for painting or have vocals for days. My advice would be to go after whatever makes you happy. If there is something you have always wanted to do, do it! Go to that pottery class, take that voice lesson (or sit in your car with the music blasting and the windows all the way up), start a journal or just hang some photos up on your wall! Gather inspiration from your dreams, goals and everyday surroundings, and never let the fear of not being good get in your way!

HC: You’re graduating this year! How do you plan to take over the world?  

KB: I am moving to New York City after I graduate and am currently on the hunt for jobs within the management and administrative sectors of theatre. My dream life goal would to head a theatre company or run my own company (women of color in power in theatre, y’all!).

Kiara- we will miss you, but we're so excited to see what fantastic things you do in the future.

Congratulations on graduating and Go Class of 2019!