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J-School grad was a co-producer on Tony award-winning musical

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nathan Vernon

When J-School graduate Nathan Vernon was 13, a visit to New York City planted the seed of a dream: He wanted to work on Broadway.

Twenty years worth of determination and hard work later, Vernon not only pursued his goal, he has found success. Vernon just wrapped up a stint as one of the co-producers of the Broadway production “Fun Home,” which won several Tony Awards earlier this month, including best musical. In 2012, Vernon also a co-producer of the Broadway show “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which won five Tony Awards.

Vernon graduated from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2005. His parents, Chuck and Alyse Vernon, also are KU alumni, as is his brother, Mike, who graduated from the J-School in 2014.

As soon as Vernon got his KU degree, he packed up and headed to New York. Not quite sure what he should focus on, he said he tried “a little bit of everything, which ended up being incredibly helpful later on."

“I got my hands on as many small-scale producing projects as possible. For example, I co-produced shows in the New York Fringe Festival and the New York Musical Theater Festival to get my feet wet,” Vernon said. “I also pounded the pavement trying to meet and network with as many industry veterans as possible, many of which have been incredibly generous and helpful.”

Vernon said he was fascinated the first time he saw a version of “Fun Home” – in 2011 at a lab at the Public Theater.

“‘Fun Home’ is an incredibly special piece of theater,” Vernon said.  “It is a new musical based on a best-selling graphic novel by Alison Bechdel.  Bechdel explores memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family -- her mother, brothers, and especially her enigmatic father.  It is a universal coming-of-age story about the process of becoming an adult and reexamining your parents and childhood through ‘grown-up’ eyes.  It's touching, funny, unique and ultimately very moving.”

 Vernon says he feels very fortunate to be a small part of the producing team and is proud that the show “defied the odds” and succeeded.

“When they announced that ‘Fun Home’ won, my producing partner Tom Casserly and I jumped up and screamed something I probably shouldn't repeat. I was so happy for the lead producers and fantastic team of people that worked so hard on this show for many years,” Vernon said.

What’s next for Vernon is continuing his quest to learn “a little bit of everything” in New York. He has just started a new position as director of national group sales for Broadway Across America. He wants to continue to be involved with the development of original shows that push and advance the form of musical theater like “Fun Home” has.

Vernon’s advice for current J-School students and current graduates is, “Find something you are truly passionate about. When you care about something it is much easier to be successful.”

And if like Vernon, you have a dream of working in New York, “You've got to be able to hustle. You have to be ready to hit the ground running and don't stop until you get what you want. I'm still running.”