Austin P. McKenzie

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Austin P. McKenzie
Born August 24, 1993 (1993-08-24) (age 24)
Mesa, Arizona, United States
Residence New York City, New York
Alma mater Columbia College Chicago
Occupation Actor, singer, ASL interpreter
Years active 2014–present
Known for Spring Awakening on Broadway

Austin P. McKenzie (born August 24, 1993) is an American actor known for his role as Melchior Gabor in Deaf West Theatre's 2015 Broadway Revival of Spring Awakening.[1] His performance as Melchior has garnered significant critical acclaim, and multiple theatrical award nominations for both Los Angeles runs and its run on Broadway.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

McKenzie grew up in Mesa, Arizona. When he was young he wanted to become a music minister, even though his family did not regularly attend church.[4]

Starting at age fifteen, McKenzie spent six summers assisting at a summer camp for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities called Lions Camp Tatiyee. It is where he first came in contact with people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. The camp inspired him to enroll at Columbia College Chicago, where he studied American Sign Language and Childhood Education with the intention of becoming a special needs teacher.[5] He graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in American Sign Language and Vocal Performance.[6]

During high school, McKenzie had a casual involvement in the arts and was involved with some theatre, but did not see it as a possible career.[7]

Career[edit]

Spring Awakening (2014–2016)[edit]

Soon after graduating from Columbia College Chicago, McKenzie sent in a tape to director Michael Arden and the creative team at Deaf West Theatre, with hopes of obtaining a job as an interpreter during the company's ASL-inclusive run of Spring Awakening. However, the Deaf West team saw his potential, and requested he audition for the leading role in the production—the radical atheist Melchior Gabor. He was given the role, and began rehearsing for the show in mid-2014.[8] At first, McKenzie was the only member of the hearing cast that was able to effectively communicate with their deaf and hard-of-hearing cohorts, thanks to his training in ASL.[9] Deaf West's Spring Awakening originally performed at a 99-seat theatre off of skid row in Los Angeles, California from September 14, 2014 to November 9, 2014. It was McKenzie's professional theatre debut.[10]

In 2015, the production was rebooted at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills with the additions of cast members Andy Mientus, as Hanschen Rilow, Krysta Rodriguez, as Ilse Neumann, Alex Boniello, as the voice of Moritz Stiefel and Alex Wyse as Georg Zirschnitz. McKenzie reprised his role as Melchior. McKenzie and the rest of the cast were highly acclaimed by critics, receiving many nominations and wins for Ovation Awards; including his Best Leading Actor in a Musical nomination. The show ran from May 21, 2015 to June 14, 2015.

In the mid-summer of 2015, it was announced that the production would be transferring to Broadway with its current cast for a limited engagement at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. McKenzie made his Broadway debut on September 8, 2015, and stayed with the production through its closing on January 24, 2016.[11] The show ran two weeks past its intended run due to its rave reviews, and garnered three Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Musical.[12] [13]

Film and television (2015–present)[edit]

In addition to theatre, McKenzie has appeared on both the big and small screen. In 2015, he appeared in a one-episode guest starring role in the television series The 101.

He starred in the feature film Speech & Debate, adapted from the hit 2007 off-Broadway play of the same name by Tony-winning playwright Stephen Karam and released by Sycamore Pictures and Vertical Entertainment in select theaters and VOD on April 7, 2017. McKenzie stars as one of three leads as the character of Howie, an openly gay teenager alongside Sarah Steele, who also starred in the original off-Broadway premiere of Speech & Debate and Liam James. The film features three misfit students in high school who are frustrated with the hypocrisy they see in their parents and school staff. Together, they try to revive an extinct school debate club to face the situation in which they find themselves. A number of theater names including Darren Criss and Lin-Manuel Miranda cameo in the film and Kristin Chenoweth sings an original song for the film.[14][15]

McKenzie recently starred in the ABC docudrama miniseries When We Rise, helmed by Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant. He portrays the young LGBT activist Cleve Jones in the period piece, which chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBTQ people who helped pioneer an offshoot of the Civil Rights Movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once unfathomable successes of today. When We Rise tells the history of the modern gay rights movement, starting with the Stonewall riots in 1969. McKenzie also sings "Thinking of You" from the When We Rise soundtrack.

Personal life[edit]

McKenzie is dating actor Kevin McHale.[16]

Theatre credits[edit]

Year Production Role Type Location Dates
2014 Spring Awakening Melchior Gabor Los Angeles Rosenthal Theatre September 14, 2014 – November 9, 2014
2015 Wallis Annenberg Center May 21, 2015 – June 14, 2015
2015–16 Broadway Brooks Atkinson Theatre September 8, 2015 – January 24, 2016

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Type Notes
2015 The 101 Terry TV series Episode: "Roommates 101" (as "Austin McKenzie")
2016 Goodbye Charley Charley Short film
2017 When We Rise Cleve Jones TV miniseries 7 episodes (as "Austin McKenzie")
2017 Speech & Debate Howie Film As "Austin McKenzie"

Soundtracks[edit]

Year Title Role Type Song
2017 When We Rise: The Soundtrack As himself Soundtrack for a TV Mini-Series "Thinking Of You"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2015 Ovation Awards Leading Actor in a Musical Spring Awakening Nominated
Clive Barnes Awards The Clive Barnes Award Nominated
BroadwayWorld LA Awards Best Leading Actor in a Musical Nominated
2016 Theatre World Awards Outstanding Broadway Debut Performance Won
Fred and Adele Astaire Awards Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show Nominated
Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Male) Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Austin McKenzie on His Craiglist Roommates, Why He Pretends to Smoke & Making His Broadway Debut in Spring Awakening". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  2. ^ McNulty, C. (29 May 2015). "Deaf West revisits 'Spring Awakening' with fresh vigor at the Wallis". Entertainment. Retrieved 10 September 2015 – via Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Gardner, Elysa (27 September 2015). "'Awakening' returns with lyrical force". Theater. Retrieved 30 September 2015 – via USA Today. 
  4. ^ "Austin McKenzie on His Craiglist Roommates, Why He Pretends to Smoke & Making His Broadway Debut in Spring Awakening". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  5. ^ "Austin P. McKenzie". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  6. ^ "IMDb Resume for Austin P. McKenzie". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  7. ^ "Austin McKenzie on His Craiglist Roommates, Why He Pretends to Smoke & Making His Broadway Debut in Spring Awakening". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  8. ^ "IMDb Resume for Austin P. McKenzie". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  9. ^ "The Language of Silence — How Deaf and Hearing Actors Are Communicating This Spring Awakening". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  10. ^ "IMDb Resume for Austin P. McKenzie". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  11. ^ "Spring Awakening Is Headed for Fall New York Revival! See Video of the Moving Re-Invention". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  12. ^ Isherwood, Charles (2015-09-27). "Review: 'Spring Awakening' by Deaf West Theater Brings a New Sensation to Broadway". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  13. ^ Ng, David (May 3, 2016). "'Spring Awakening' and Deaf West's Unlikely Road to Three Tony Nominations". Los Angeles Times. 
  14. ^ Cox, Gordon (2017-01-27). "Stephen Karam's 'Speech & Debate' Movie Set for Release in April". Variety. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  15. ^ "Stephen Karam's 'Speech & Debate' Film Set for April Release". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  16. ^ Harrison, Lily (May 10, 2018). "Kevin McHale Opens Up About His Boyfriend and Why He Was Never Hiding His Sexuality". E! Online. Retrieved July 5, 2018. 

External links[edit]