The standouts: Hunter Bird
By Elia Rogers
Feb. 10, 2011 4:21 a.m.
It is hard to imagine that at some point Hunter Bird, a third-year directing and musical theater student, considered the stage to be one of the last places anyone would find him. Fast forward seven years, and it’s nearly impossible to find him away from the spotlight.
“My grandma had once asked me if I would ever do theater, and I said, “˜Grandma, you could not pay me to stand on that stage,'” Bird said, laughing.
Eventually his heart softened for the craft, and Bird’s love of theater began following the summer he saw “Cabaret,” a comedic musical about Nazi Germany. From there his theater career took off, and he performed in a total of 15 shows both at school and at the local community theater by the time he got to his senior year of high school.
It was not until his summer at the Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College conservatory, a program intended to help with the college admissions process, that Bird chose to pursue a career as more than just a performer, but as a producer and director as well.
“I suddenly took a look at all the other people and what they wanted to do, which was solely acting, and thought, “˜I don’t know if a program like that is right for me,'” Bird said.
In the spring of the following year, Bird accepted his admission to UCLA, but soon after he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the connective tissues. UCLA gave Bird the opportunity to attend college while receiving intensive treatment. Following his diagnosis, Bird said he refused to let cancer interfere with his life.
“My doctor had said that I could go to school, but I needed to do as little as possible, and so what did I do? I did the most as possible,” Bird said.
During Bird’s first year, he started Act III theater group with musical theater alumna Rachel Lee. He is currently the group’s artistic director and has produced and directed numerous shows throughout his time there. In his second year on campus, he was accepted into the theater program’s directing continuum, making him the first student at UCLA to double major in musical theater and directing. According to Bird, this is unheard of because of the rigor and amount of time that goes into each specialization.
As if this was not enough, Bird chose to pick up a minor in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies as well, which required him to take at least 20 units every quarter.
“I’m such a bibliophile, and I love learning,” Bird said.
This quarter, Bird will direct three shows: “24-Hour Musical,” “Happy End” and “The College Cycle.” He is also planning a breast cancer benefit that he hopes will take place in the spring. Outside of UCLA, Bird serves as a board member for the Pasadena Musical Theatre Program and Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals.
According to Bird, his cancer diagnosis was one of the many reasons he spent so much of his time on his work, but now that his cancer has been in remission for a year and a half, he said he needs to take some time building a life separate from his work. He has already started working on his New Year’s resolution: He plans to backpack through Europe this summer with his younger brother.
“My work fulfills me, but I want my life to fulfill me,” Bird said.