Ball High grad lives her dream at the Juilliard School in Manhattan
Heather Weiss’ love of theater took her from one island to the next.
Weiss, 35, got her start in Galveston’s community and school theater programs. Now, after several stints as a stage manager on Broadway, Weiss is a production stage manager at the Juilliard School in Manhattan.
She still can’t believe it.
“I wake up every day and am like, ‘I am a full-time faculty member at the world’s best arts institution,’” she said.
Although her job is still new — she’s worked at Juilliard’s drama department for less than a year — Weiss’ story goes way back. A fifth-generation Galvestonian, she grew up on the island, surrounded by the art community. Her father acted in several Galveston plays, and Weiss was immediately entranced.
“He was always in that world of play,” Weiss said. “I think that’s where I started to fall in love with the experience.”
Weiss started out by acting, but her instructors had other plans for her. When she was in middle school, her teacher chose her to be the stage manager for a school production, meaning she’d be calling the shots on things such as lighting, sound and stage movement.
“It was like game on from that point forward,” she said. “It turned out I was really cut out for it.”
She took on every stage-managing position in school plays from that point on, and she got involved in Galveston’s community theater programs. Weiss even got to stage manage some plays starring her father.
“It was wonderful, it was like best friends in theater together,” Heather’s father, Marc Weiss, said.
Molly Vernon, one of her theater teachers at Central Middle School, said Heather always had a knack for stage managing.
“She was one of those kids who was a doer,” Vernon said. “The second show there I think that I did, I made her stage manager, and she’s never stopped.”
Weiss followed that track through college at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. At age 22, she moved to New York, working off-Broadway and then stage managing several Broadway shows, including “Rock of Ages,” “Next to Normal” and “Avenue Q.”
The longer Weiss worked on Broadway, the more she knew something was missing. When she was approached with the opportunity to work at Juilliard, she knew it was the perfect job for her, she said.
As the production stage manager at the school, she also leads a professional apprenticeship program and mentors nine students.
“This just felt like such a timely and ripe opportunity to marry these aspects, the desire for personal growth and the desire to share my wisdom I’ve gained over the past several years,” Weiss said.
Although Weiss is living her dream in New York, she hasn’t forgotten Galveston. She’s returned to help produce musicals and documentaries and, most recently, she’s dabbled in business. Weiss unveiled her product last year, called Dive in Deck, which is a pack of cards that prompts users to answer deep questions about themselves. Her product is sold at several island stores.
More than anything, Weiss still has community support here. Scott Vernon, her high school drama teacher, has made trips to New York to see her plays.
“One of the proudest moments was walking into her Broadway theater and seeing her name on the wall,” Vernon said.
Galveston also has prepared Weiss for New York, she said. They’re both islands with diverse cultures and histories.
“It doesn’t feel like the rest of Texas to me in any way,” she said. “It’s just rich and teeming with diverse backgrounds. That was also a launching pad of sorts for me to understand and make sense of the world.”
Her father agreed.
“She was ready for the world when she left Galveston,” Marc Weiss said.
For now, Heather Weiss will continue working in New York, but she’s also contemplating her future return to her hometown.
“Galveston is very much a part of my blood and my roots and my DNA,” she said. “I can absolutely imagine a world in which we collide again.”