In 2009, John Fleming had reached the end of his rope.
As head of the theater and dance department at Texas States University, he needed just the right talent to lead a new musical theater training program.
Fleming cold-called Broadway veteran Kaitlin Hopkins, who had recently gone on tour with “Dirty Dancing” and had signed up to return to Broadway in “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“You don’t know me,” Fleming said. “I’m the chairman of the theater program in San Marcos, and I’m calling because your name keeps coming up. We are looking for someone who has been in the industry for at least 20 years and has producing, performing, directing and fundraising experience. All three of the people we contacted mentioned you. Will you fly out here next week for an interview?”
Hopkins did not know Fleming. She hadn’t heard of Texas State University or San Marcos.
“I have to go do a matinee,” she replied. “I’ll call you later.”
She told her husband — actor and playwright Jim Price — to Google the place and figure out what Fleming was talking about. She concluded there was no way a university would hire her without the requisite advanced degrees, despite all her teaching and private coaching experience.
Hopkins’ response: “Look, no. I don’t think you really want me to get on a plane.”
Fleming: “Please just get on the plane. I have a feeling you are the right person for this job.”
It was a job that the daughter of lifelong theater pros didn’t know she wanted.
“There was the challenge and promise of creating the training program I wished I’d had,” Hopkins says. “I liked the idea, too, of condensing my 40 years of life experience. It wasn’t just my career, it was the life I had led — that my family created for me — that made me uniquely qualified. This would be really exciting: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something from scratch and build a program. I’ll hear them out.”
She swiftly wrote up a 32-page prospectus with one-year, five-year and 10-year plans to present in San Marcos.
“On the plane ride back to Boston, we were both speechless,” Hopkins recalls. “Jim turned to me: ‘Are we moving to Texas?’ Me: ‘I don’t know, I think we might be.’”
We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.
This is a portion of a big story on how a Broadway veteran is integrating musical theater training to make the San Marcos school among the best in the country.