Hector Coris loves inhabiting different characters and bringing them to life on stage. In the past four years, the Phoenix resident has performed in more than dozen local theater productions, having caught the theater bug back in college in New York before bringing his talents to the Valley. He’s gearing up to next star in Scottsdale Musical Theater Company‘s The Producers, at Tempe Center for the Arts Wednesday, December 31, Friday, January 2 and Saturday, January 3. The New Year’s Eve show also features a post-show gala.
Coris, who works at ReachOut Healthcare America in Phoenix, also is the associate producer for Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, as well as works in marketing and publicity. He talked about why he’s so passionate about local theater and what he’s looking forward to about starring in The Producers. Continue reading to watch a video of Coris name his favorite parts about living in the Valley, too.
What brought you to Arizona?
I grew up in New York. I did a show here in March of 2009 for two weeks at the Mesa Arts Center, and I loved being here in March because it’s perfect weather. When I went back to New York, I got laid off from my job, so my partner and I were looking for a change. We decided to move to Phoenix.
What’s your first memory of wanting to be an actor?
I kind of got thrown into it. I was a student at Queens College and maybe 20 years old. Some girl was involved in the community theater in Queens and said, “We need guys, please come audition.” I had done a little bit of improvisation in college, so she dragged me and some guys to auditions, and I was cast.
It was like a light bulb clicked on. I thought, “This is what I want to be doing and what I should be doing.” I switched my major from film to theater.
What made you fall in love with theater?
The experience of putting something together with a bunch of people, and everyone having a single mind to put on a show for a couple of weeks. Once you do it, you want to keep doing it. It’s like a drug. The same theater was having another show after that, so I auditioned for that. It was really far away, so I had to take a bus and a train to the theater, but it was worth it. You start to meet more people and get more connections, and I started getting more work. It was just this roller coaster ride of show after show.
How has your theater career evolved since then?
It’s been incredibly busy. I often do shows back-to-back or sometimes overlapping. While you’re in one show, you’re rehearsing another one, all the time holding down various day jobs. Since I’ve been here in Phoenix, it’s been the same thing. I’ve done maybe 12 shows in four years, which is a lot.
The first show I did was with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company. It was the first audition I went to, and I got cast in the show. I knew there was a good art scene here, so that was the first step into what theater had to offer here. You meet people, and you make connections and go from theater to theater. I’ve primarily done shows at Scottsdale Musical Theater Company and the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert.
What is it about musical theater you are so passionate about?
Musical comedy is really fun and silly. When you do a more serious musical, it requires a little more concentration and depth, but it really is fun when it works. The biggest part is not even for me. I just love hearing an audience react, whether it’s laughing or crying or gasping. It’s good to have that reaction with the audience and that interaction with what’s on stage.
How would you characterize the Valley’s theater scene?
The non-professional, community theater scene is a lot better than what I was experiencing in metropolitan New York. The production values are a little better, since in New York, you perform in church basements and places like that. Here, you do shows in places like the Tempe Center for the Arts, and it’s a completely different world. Even the high schools and colleges have amazing theaters here that we don’t have in Queens or Brooklyn.
The community is a very small pond. Everybody seems to know everybody. You sort of find your little group of people. The theater companies are fairly isolated as to where they’re located, but for the most part, everyone’s really supportive of each other. There’s a really nice rally to come together when we need to.
What could improve the Valley’s theater scene?
Communication between the theaters could be really cool, so you don’t have four theaters doing the same show at the same time. Right now, there are three productions of Arsenic and Old Lace going on in three different locations, in Paradise Valley, Gilbert and Scottsdale.
It would be nice if there was more variety of shows, if theaters took more chances on more obscure titles. Instead of just doing shows everybody knows and loves, there are so many other great shows out there nobody’s doing because they’re afraid if people don’t know the title, they won’t want to go see it.
What’s the best way to get people to be more open-minded about seeing more obscure titles?
I would hope quality of work would help. If you really like a theater company, and they do the tried-and-true theater titles everyone knows forever, and if you know they do really good work and see they’re putting on shows you don’t know about, you’ll still want to go see those shows because of the quality of their other works.
What are you looking forward to about performing The Producers?
This show is a beast. It’s hilarious. I can’t read the script without laughing. I can’t imagine interacting with some of the actors we have cast. We have some amazing actors, and I don’t see how we’re not going to laugh every two minutes. Once everything is put together, I’m really looking forward to having the audience react to this incredibly funny show.
What makes The Producers so funny to you?
It was written by Mel Brooks, who directed the also-funny Blazing Saddles and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It’s incredibly wrong in a lot of ways. It’s irreverent. There’s a lot of blue humor to it, but it’s not really R-rated. It’s all just a lot of fun and out of a lot of love.
There’s nothing taboo about Mel Brooks. He makes a lot of social comments on things, and The Producers is almost like a love letter to theater. It’s almost more fun for us, because we love theater so much, to do a show that makes fun of making theater.
What are your goals as an actor?
Just to keep doing it. I never wanted to do it professionally, to make my money from it. Some theaters do give you a little bit of money for doing a show, but I think I would be miserable if I had to rely on theater for my welfare. My day job feeds my stomach, and my theater feeds my soul. If I had to worry about making money, I wouldn’t have so much fun doing it. It’s nice to be able to go from theater to theater and do shows.
What tips do you have for aspiring actors or musical theater performers?
Go see a lot of things, and get out there and try it out. Be fearless. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking about, don’t worry about the audience, just be yourself, and let it all go, whether you’re in an audition or performance.
Why should people check out The Producers?
Not only is it an awesome show, we’re doing this great New Year’s Eve event, so it’s a great way to kick off the New Year by seeing a show then staying for a party. In my work with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, I’ve never worked with a company that is so professional and fun, on a non-professional level in the sense we’re not on salary or paid. It’s community theater on a really professional level.
We come together, we have fun, we do the work, and I think the work speaks for itself. We don’t get involved with any drama outside of the company. We have one goal and run a pretty tight ship. It just gets better and better, and now that we’re at Tempe Center for the Arts, I think we’ve hit the peak of what we can do in Phoenix.
Learn about other Valley theater professionals:
Learn more about Scandalesque founder Julianna Curtis here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about The Torch Theatre improviser Stacey Reed Hanlon here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about Arizona Actors Academy artistic director Brandy Hotchner here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about The Torch Theatre improviser Bill Binder here on Phoenix People.