Mesa native Autumn Hurlbert was awarded the Rising Star award by ASU Gammage at a VIP Donor Luncheon. The actress is currently playing the role of Portia in the Broadway tour of "Something Rotten!", which recently closed its six-day run at ASU Gammage.
“What we really believe in the Rising Stars is that this is the beginning of their career and they are moving on to greater glory,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. “We’re having them take the name of Arizona along with them.”
Jennings-Roggensack awarded Hurlbert the award at the luncheon and noted her incredible talent and perseverance.
“Getting to come home to your home theater is prize enough and then to be awarded, I don’t know, it’s indescribable,” Hurlbert said. “It makes all those times when you’re struggling really worth it. It’s kind of a beacon of hope.”
Hurlbert saw her first Broadway musical at ASU Gammage as a child. She grew up in Mesa after moving from Montana at a young age. She attended Dobson High School and found her passion for performing before she moved to Flagstaff to graduate high school.
“This is where, when she was six years old, she came to see 'Oklahoma!',” said Pamela Hurlbert, Autumn's mother. “And she was sitting in her seat belting out all the songs and I had to tell her, Autumn, the people here did not come to hear you sing. They paid to come here and hear the people onstage sing, so now it’s kind of full circle. For her to be up on that stage and people paying to hear her sing is absolutely fantastic.”
ASU Gammage’s Rising Stars usually have a tie to the Arizona community. Jennings-Roggensack believes the Rising Star awardee, like Hurlbert, pass down a legacy to locals when they perform on the ASU Gammage stage.
“I love to say to all the actors here, someone in the audience is seeing a show for the very first time,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “And you’re going to inspire them to be on the stage. You’re going to inspire them to become a producer. You’re going to inspire them to become a patron. I think it absolutely inspired her to do that. We are so excited to present her with the award.”
ASU Gammage has previously awarded the Rising Star Award to other Arizona natives including Krystina Alabado and Nick Cartell. Cartell will be coming back to ASU Gammage with "Les Misérables," May 15–20.
“You know, I actually hope I’m here again to see someone else get it,” Hurlbert said. “It’s such a wonderful thing to pass on. I really love it.”
Hurlbert’s notable performances include Portia in the first national touring cast of "Something Rotten!", "Legally Blonde" on Broadway, the first national tour of "Little Women," NBC’s "The Sound of Music Live!" and MTV’s "Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods."
Hurlbert is on tour with her son and her husband. They joke he is a stay-in-hotel dad. Hurlbert has loved sharing this adventure with her son.
“It’s such a good opportunity to stay grounded and not get too self-centered,” Hurlbert said. “It’s just such a good experience for my son to be growing up in this community because the arts community is just such a loving, generous, familial community. We rarely have to ask for help. People are always lending hands. It’s just so supportive and wonderful.”
You can follow Hurlbert’s touring journey with her husband and toddler on Twitter or Instagram @autumnhurlbert.
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