Matthew Henao (BA Theatre ‘17) is proof that when if comes to your major, you should go with your gut.
“I started out as Exploratory Engineering my freshman year because I knew I was destined to be an engineer,” Henao said. “Little did I know...”
Henao may have only graduated in April, but he already has a laundry list of NYC achievements. He completed an assistant stage management job for Clubbed Thumb Summerworks 2017 on their play Of Government, and just finished an internship at Broadway’s Wicked. He’s now preparing for an apprenticeship at The Juilliard School.
“I also knew that I was going to be a stage manager early on,” Henao said. “Somehow, I knew both destinies would clash someday.”
In the future, he will stage manage a reading of a new play for his roommate’s production company, Normal Ave Productions, as well as two short plays in an upcoming festival with a connections he made at Wicked. He’s also waiting to hear back about assistant stage managing the New York Musical Festival (NYMF) with the former stage manager of Volleygirls, a show that was workshopped at UF in summer 2015 and got its start at NYMF.
“There’s so many connections you can make just by meeting somebody,” Henao said.“You never know who you’re going to meet that might remember you for a future project.”
Jenny Goelz, SOTD’s production manager and UF stage management lecturer, was Henao’s mentor and worked with him three out of his four years at UF.
“She taught me most of what I know and shaped me into how I stage manage now,” Henao said.
Goelz said she’s seen Henao develop into a people-oriented leader who brings a sense of calm to any stressful situation.
“I think Matthew’s incredibly respectful and has the ability to adapt his communication style to his collaborator’s needs,” Goelz said.
While at UF, Henao worked on different types of productions to gain a variety of skills. He stage managed musicals, dance shows, new work festivals and plays.
“We sat down together and we tried to come up with stage management assignments that would challenge or feed him in a very different way,” Goelz said.
He was also heavily involved with Florida Players (FP), UF’s student-run theatre organization. He became assistant production manager his first year and continued in that position until he served as the production manager his senior year.
“Florida Players has benefited from him,” Goelz said.
Henao said his work with Florida Players also helped him with the what he’s doing in New York.
“Florida Players was a lot of do-it-yourself theater,” Henao said. “There’s a lot of that in this city.”
Even when Henao himself wasn’t working on a production, Goelz said he was always willing to help out.
“He's a wonderful mentor,” Goelz said. “He’s generous with his time in terms of students who are stage managing their first show. If they don't understand, he'll spend time with them. If they're struggling with time management, he will help them.”
Henao continues to help after graduating by providing Goelz with feedback as the SOTD works to create a Stage Management program.
“Matthew has definitely been incredibly invested in that process and is happy to provide feedback, and I believe he will continue to do so,” Goelz said.
Henao said the experiences he had while at UF have helped him immensely with the work he’s doing in NYC now.
“I have no idea what I’ll be doing in a year,” Henao said. “It’s ‘thrillyfying.’”