Hunter Herdlicka made his stage debut in 2000 with the Plano Children’s Theatre in the musical classic Once Upon a Mattress. Today, 16 years later, Hunter, now a chiselled and very handsome young man, just finished performing in the New York revival of that very same show—this time starring alongside Jackie Hoffman and John “Lypsinka” Epperson.

Hunter is exactly the kind of success story Sara Akers, Executive Director of Plano Children’s Theatre (PCT), dreamed of when she founded the organization 25 years ago. “From a very young age, Hunter’s comic timing and characterization set him apart from all other actors his age,” Sara says.

Having decided he wanted to be an actor in second grade, he started with PCT in elementary school and continued with the theatre group on and off through to senior high. “Performing as a child at PCT taught me confidence and composure at a very young age. By the time I was in high school, I already felt like a professional!” Hunter says.

Read more: Plano Children’s Theatre has a new HQ at The Shops at Willow Bend

Hunter also credits Plano ISD, and more specifically their support of the arts, with his success. At Frankford Middle School he took full advantage of the school’s new theater and at Shepton High he performed in three to four productions each year. By the time he reached senior high he was already a star—at Plano West he played the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

It was enough to win him a full scholarship to the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University—an international leader in the arts and technology and the oldest degree-granting drama school in the U.S.

Working from 8 a.m. to midnight, and even on Saturdays, the dream of landing a role on Broadway got him through four long years at college. But Hunter didn’t just dream of performing on Broadway; by graduation he wanted to have landed a lead role.

It was a goal he missed by nine days when he was cast as Henrik Egerman in Broadway’s first ever revival of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece, A Little Night Music.

The show ran for two years during which time he starred opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and the late Elaine Stritch. “Just getting to watch these legendary actresses perform every night was the biggest gift any young actor could wish for,” Hunter says.

Since then his career has taken him across the U.S. performing in: Camelot (Mordred) at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey; The Pirates of Penzance (Frederic) at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle; Cabaret (Cliff) at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Sacramento Music Circus; and Fiddler on the Roof (Fyedka) with Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, to name just a few.

Read more: Art Consultant Sharon Leeber is on a mission to shape the art scene of DFW

Back in DFW, the young actor was thrilled to finally land a role on his own turf—Ariel in The Tempest at the Dallas Theatre Center in 2011. “It took being cast on Broadway to land a role in Dallas,” he laughs.

What’s next? “My next big goal is to be back on Broadway,” Hunter says. “I need to constantly remind myself that there will always be movies, television, and live theater…that every time I don’t get a job that I really wanted, there will always be another opportunity. Art isn’t ever going to disappear.”

Originally published in Plano Profile‘s February 2017 issue.

Rebecca Silvestri is the vice president of Sales & Marketing. She is also the wife of Philip Silvestri, publisher of Local Profile. In a previous life, Rebecca was a math teacher in London and the...