Hometown hero Katy Sullivan gives us a chance to have second-hand pride | MARK HUGHES COBB

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If you're a sufferer of second-hand pride, it's good to be from the Druid City.

Hubris isn't the right word, as it's not excessive. Arrogance, cockiness and egotism don't fit either, as what I'm talking about is not self-directed.

The opposite of schadenfreude! That's what I feel for so many of the kids I've seen grow up and out from round h'yar. I'm talking specifically about actors now, though Tuscaloosa-born/trained musicians, writers, painter-sculptor-visual wizards ... those are other-day stories.

Over my years covering the arts, I've seen kids go to Broadway or national tours, some before they could drive — such as Dylan Riley Snyder in "Tarzan," and Angela Covington in "Evita" — and some after studying and performing at the University of Alabama (usually also finding time for shows with other local groups, such as Theatre Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre and so on), such as:

Jake Boyd, who has performed on Broadway in "Rock of Ages," and on tour as Fiyero in "Wicked." He's also done TV and film including "Jessica Jones," "The Equalizer," and "The Sound of Music Live." Jake's also worked extensively off-Broadway, including "Carrie," "The Last Smoker in America," and as Anthony in the immersive revival of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Tuscaloosa native Jake Boyd as Fiyero in the national tour of "Wicked."
Tuscaloosa native Jake Boyd as Fiyero in the national tour of "Wicked."

Sonequa Martin Green, captain of a starship, as Michael Burnham in "Star Trek: Discovery," the first Black woman to top the billing on a Trek show. Sonequa has also worked in "The Walking Dead," "Once Upon a Time," "The Good Wife" and more on the telly. Since her Trek began, the Russellville native's visage has graced the covers of magazines, books, videogames, trading cards, records, DVDs and graphic novels.

Stephen Tyrone Williams, the lead in Spike Lee's 2014 "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus," also played Abner Louima in "Lucky Guy," sharing his key on-Broadway scene with a dude named Tom Hanks. Stephen's also done scads of TV including "Person of Interest," "The Knick," "Elementary" and "Conversations with My Ex."

Tuscaloosa native Stephen Tyrone Williams as the star of Spike Lee's "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus."
Tuscaloosa native Stephen Tyrone Williams as the star of Spike Lee's "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus."

Michael Luwoye, the third guy to play Hamilton in some musical about a guy, both on Broadway and on tour. He was also the first actor to perform Hamilton and Burr in the same day (matinee and evening performances), so if nothing else, you know he has an astounding memory. He's also done TV from "Bluff City Law" to "The Magicians" to "She's Gotta Have It" to "The Gilded Age" to "The Gifted" to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and played no less than Nelson Mandela for a London run of "Mandela."

Michael Luwoye, who played the title role of "Hamilton" both on national tour and on Broadway, also understudied and played Aaron Burr.
Michael Luwoye, who played the title role of "Hamilton" both on national tour and on Broadway, also understudied and played Aaron Burr.

Nick Rashad Burroughs has played Ike and others in the Broadway musical "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical," and jumped right into "Kinky Boots" on the Great White Way. On national tour, he's played Shakespeare and the narrator for musical comedy "Something Rotten!"

University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance grad Nick Rashad Burroughs as Ike Turner on Broadway's "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical."
University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance grad Nick Rashad Burroughs as Ike Turner on Broadway's "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical."

Scarlett Walker, who joined the Broadway revival of "Carousel," and has worked in "Mame," "Les Miserables," "The Little Mermaid" and "La Cage Aux Folles" with regional companies; Bailey Blaise Mariea, who's done "Clue," "Trouble in Mind" and "Julius Caesar" with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Irene Adler in "Sherlock Holmes Returns!" for Hunterdon Hills Playhouse," "Carousel" with Opera San Luis Obispo, and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," "White Christmas" and "The Play That Goes Wrong" at Fulton Theatre in Pennsylvania; Lauren Hauser, who toured the U.S. and Canada as the grown Cosette in the 25th anniversary tour of "Les Miserables"; Andrea J. Love, who has performed in her hometown Seattle, and for Capital Stage Company, Berkeley Playhouse Davis Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, Sacramento Theatre Company, and Maples Repertory Theatre, while also writing and composing, currently at the prestigious BMI workshop; Allie Ficken, who's done film including "Poms" with Diane Keaton and the 2015 film "The DUFF," TV including "Vice Principals" and "American Soul," along with Atlanta theater and ballet; Matt Lewis, playing a recurring character on "Cobra Kai," who's also appeared off-Broadway, and worked with numerous Atlanta theater companies; Rebecca Kling, who's landed TV roles on "Bull," "Mr. Robot" and "The Blacklist," and performed in Taylor Hackford's 2016 feature "The Comedian," which starred Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Danny DeVito and Patti Lupone, and the 2014 crime drama "God's Pocket," with Christina Hendricks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Eddie Marsan.

This is only a sampler, for which I'm sure Stacy Alley will message me soon about all the other stalwart UA folks I've missed, but Nyah, I chose this list because I've worked with them. If I were truly arrogant, I'd say they worked with me, but come on. That's a glowing firmament, and it doesn't begin to include all those that rocketed out of UA ― OK, Stacy? Sheesh ― and are working around the country, possibly the world, if you count cruise lines and Disney, which you should.

Last Sunday, The Tuscaloosa News lauded and applauded a kid ― "Kid," increasingly, is applied to anyone with less-prominent crow's feet than mine ― who burst out of Tuscaloosa, but bypassed UA for Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts to help launch her career.

Telling this to a friend, he asked the salient question: What is a conservatory? Umm. Fancy word for art school? Basically true. Conservatories ― in music, theater, visual art, whatever ― are intently focused on career-oriented over-achievers.

Katy Sullivan's never lacked for drive, not since auditioning for a TCT show at 12 or 13 by singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Her TV credits alone could add up to a career: "My Name is Earl," "Last Man Standing," "NCIS: New Orleans," and recently, a continuing character, Esther, on "Dexter: New Blood." Could be she's beat that on stage, though, working with Tom Hardy, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in a Chicago production of "The Long Red Road," and performing in "Lady Windemere's Fan," "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," "Wonder of the World" and more.

More recently, she originated the character of Ani in Martyna Majok's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Cost of Living," playing from Williamstown Theatre Festival, Massachusetts in 2016, to Manhattan Theatre Club, Off-Broadway, in 2017, to Hampstead Theatre, London, 2019, and onto the Friedman Theatre, Broadway, fall 2022.

Tuscaloosa native Katy Sullivan, recently nominated for a Tony Award for her work in "Cost of Living," recently landed another coup, the starring role in "Richard III," for the 2023-2024 Chicago Shakespeare Theatre season.
Tuscaloosa native Katy Sullivan, recently nominated for a Tony Award for her work in "Cost of Living," recently landed another coup, the starring role in "Richard III," for the 2023-2024 Chicago Shakespeare Theatre season.

Katy was nominated for Lucille Lortel, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle acting awards, and on May 2, Tony came calling. Notable even moreso because Katy's the first amputee to perform on Broadway, and thus the first to become a Tony nominee. She's also a four-time U.S. Paralympics champion. Born without legs from the knees down, she uses prosthetics, though as Ani she played quadriplegic, with only partial use of a hand.

In our interview, Katy said she didn't really know she was different for a long time, as she just grew and learned as any kid would. And the truth is, many around here didn't know about her difference either, especially when she was wearing jeans. Just a vivacious redhead with a voice, the drive, and the talent to catch fire.

I've cheated my premise a little, as I never had the pleasure to work with Katy, and now I never will. She's in such tall cotton my middle name might as well be Polly Esther. Though the WGA strike ― Respect, writers. Get what you deserve. I've been saying Netflix is the devil for years now; glad y'all agree ― may mean we won't get to see Katy televised at the Tony Awards June 11, as planned, that's hardly your last chance to see.

Next year, she'll be playing Richard III in Shakespeare's towering tragedy/history, at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It opens Feb. 2. This year, for my Feb. 3 birthday, I gave Puck and myself Springsteen in Atlanta.

For 2024, I'm thinking Shakespeare, Chicago, and Katy Sullivan, hometown hero.

Mark Hughes Cobb
Mark Hughes Cobb

Reach Tusk Editor Mark Hughes Cobb at mark.cobb@tuscaloosanews.com.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Actors who've come through Tuscaloosa become stars | MARK HUGHES COBB