FEATURE: Jon Hacker Lights Up the Stage in TORCH SONG TRILOGY

Jon Hacker in HOT BLOODED at Kings Island several years ago / Photo credit: Terry Cloyd
Jon Hacker in HOT BLOODED at Kings Island several years ago / Photo credit: Terry Cloyd

Jon Hacker is one of the reasons I love (and write about) theatre.  He is one of the first performers budding career’s I began to follow and he remains one of my favorite people to watch on stage.  I say all of this because while I’ve never attempted to be objective on this blog (its my blog, I like what I like, and love to support my friends) I have seen an increase in traffic lately and I do like being transparent.

Several years ago, Jon was very kind to me regarding some photos I’d taken of him in the Halloween show HOT BLOODED at Kings Island.  He was in many shows at the theme park and I got to know him through the long summer seasons.  I also took some of his first professional head shots, have seen nearly all of his shows, and consider him a good personal friend.

Jon is also one of the kindest and humblest young men I’ve ever met.

I say all this to you ahead of time so that when I tell you that he is one of the reasons Act Two of TORCH SONG TRILOGY works so well, you’ll understand that perhaps I’m a little biased.  However, I think if you see the show, you’ll agree with me – Jon Hacker is someone with a very bright future.  “Endlessly charming,” Russell Florence (Dayton Most Metro) says in his review. Brian Sharp with the Dayton City Paper says that Jon “proves to not just be another pretty face and plays the role with great passion.”  So, see, I’m definitely not the only one full of praise for my friend.

Headshot courtesy Dallas Padoven Photography
Jon’s head shot courtesy Dallas Padoven Photography

Jon wasn’t always into musical or theatre.  He was actually more of a jock, but his friend Drew Helton (last seen in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF) heard him singing in the hallway at school and asked him why he wasn’t in the choir.  “I didn’t really get into performing or theatre until my Junior year of high school. I joined the show choir at my school, and the people involved with that told me I should do the spring musical. After that you couldn’t stop me. I was enthralled.”

Jon decided to attend Wright State University, one of our region’s premier theatre training programs.  “Wright State University has really shaped me into the actor/singer/dancer that I have become.  They really focus on your abilities and turn them into something really great.”  He has been in MainStage and Black Box productions, including JEKYLL AND HYDE, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, HAIRSPRAY, and BERLIN TO BROADWAY, where he brought many to tears with his rendition of “Lonely House.”  Recently, Jon had lead roles in OKLAHOMA (“Curly”) and SPRING AWAKENING (“Melchior Gabor”).  “Both shows are incredible and historic in their own ways, and I’m just so glad I got to be a part of those stories.”

Jon is in his last semester of his senior year.  I asked him if was hard to manage both being a student and working professionally.  “Working outside of school with all the class work has not been hard to handle at all. It’s all about how you manage your time and getting lots of rest.” It probably doesn’t hurt that he is sharing the stage with his voice teacher from WSU, Jamie Cordes.  “It is always such a privilege and joy to work with him.  He is such a great mentor and friend. I’m lucky to get to work with him on and off stage.”

Jamie Cordes and Jon Hacker in Act Two of TORCH SONG TRILOGY / Photo by Scott J. Kimmins
Jamie Cordes and Jon Hacker in Act Two of TORCH SONG TRILOGY / Photo by Scott J. Kimmins

TORCH SONG TRILOGY is one of the first “gay themed” plays. Jon explains, “It tells the story of a man named Arnold, who happens to be a drag queen, and his search for love and his journey through life. He struggles with relationships and ultimately tries to find happiness. I play Alan, who is Arnold’s lover in Act Two.  Alan is an eighteen year old model who is a former street hustler.”

Jamison Stern and Jon Hacker / Photo by Scott J. Kimmins
Jamison Stern and Jon Hacker / Photo by Scott J. Kimmins

“I really tried to focus on Alan’s passions. What were his good qualities and not so good qualities, and how do I find him through MY personality. I did research on the 1970s and what it was like on the streets of New York as a hustler. Finding that and then really trying to solidify the relationship with Arnold were the keys to my preparation.”

This three-act play runs almost four hours in length from beginning to end.  Alan, Jon’s character, is only seen in Act Two, which leaves him plenty of time before the final curtain call.  “Backstage I use my time to catch up on some homework usually. Sometimes I like to go watch the other acts because I love watching my colleagues work.”  He praises his costars.  “Jamison Stern, Jamie Cordes, Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Patricia Linhart, and Phillip Thomas Stock really brought this show to life with their incredible talents.”  Scott Stoney (who directed Jon in NEXT TO NORMAL downstairs at the Victoria Theatre) directs. “His vision is so incredible and it is so awesome to work with him again. He’s the best!”

Jon and I
Jon and Kirk Sheppard, The Sappy Critic

Hacker will be seen next in Anton Chekov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD in the Herbst Theatre at Wright State from April 3-6.  Cordes’ wife, Marya, directs.  It will be Jon’s final show at WSU and will likely be bittersweet for him. But he’s certainly not done.  In fact, he’s just getting started.  “After that is my Senior Showcase in New York City and then I begin a new chapter in my career.”  

As I told you earlier, Jon is one of the kindest and most humble young men I know.  He couldn’t finish the interview without including the following: “Thank you, Kirk, for taking the time to do this piece. What a great friend!”

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your time, your talent, and your warmth with me and all who enjoy your performances on stage and those of us privileged to know you off the stage.  You can follow Jon on Twitter @hacker0 to keep tabs on his future projects. I personally can’t wait to see where his career takes him.

 TORCH SONG TRILOGY runs at the Human Race Theatre’s Loft Theater in downtown Dayton, Ohio now through February 16th.  Tickets are available here.  Read The Sappy Critic’s review here.

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