La Plata native to make Broadway debut this month
La Plata native to make New York debut this month
Following his passion despite unlikely odds was always the goal for Jesse Sutten, 29.
The La Plata native and La Plata High School graduate will make his Broadway debut this month as a video and moving light technician for “Motown the Musical,” set to open July 12 at the Nederlander Theater in New York City.
“This is my first Broadway production,” Sutten said. “I’ve done a few large tours, but this is my first Broadway show.”
Sutten began his theater journey when he was 12 years old through school productions. He started doing lighting for shows in high school and worked with Port Tobacco Players, Inc. After graduating in 2004, Sutten went to Frostburg University to study stage production and left after two years when he landed his first professional job with Maltz Jupiter Theater company in Jupiter, Fla.
Since then, he says he has worked with more than 50 productions over the past 10 years, including the summer he spent designing lighting for a Stephen Schwartz production in upstate New York.
“[That] was absolutely amazing,” Sutten said during a phone interview from Brooklyn, N.Y. “You meet one of the idols for the career you’ve been striving to get into and to be able to spend a summer with him was an indescribable experience. It was very gratifying for me.”
Sutten said he is able to obtain jobs mainly through the connections he has made in the industry and based off of his reputation.
The show is scheduled to run for 18 weeks on Broadway, but Sutten said there is a possibility it could be extended to the end of the year. Being able to make a positive name for himself at a young age, he said, was the hardest part.
“The biggest challenge for me was getting into such a big touring position so young. A lot of those guys have been doing this since I was born and gaining their respect as a young professional was a big challenge for me,” Sutten said. But the more work he does, the more people he meets and those positive connections make all the difference, he said.
“I made the right connections at the right time for the most part and met a lot of really good people who liked my work and kept me going,” Sutten said. “It’s more kind of who you know and where you are.”
One of his favorite productions he has worked on was last year when he was part of the touring company for “Once The Musical,” a six-month gig.
“I joined ‘Once’ because a friend suggested me for something and then I ended up getting ‘Motown’ through that connection,” Sutten said.
In preparation for his ‘Motown’ debut, Sutten moved to Brooklyn. His permanent residence is in Frederick with his wife, Megan, who works at a call center for a publishing firm in Rockville. His parents still live in the La Plata area and have seen his past touring shows in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
Though he typically has eight performances a week during production, Sutten said he keeps in mind that each show could be a new experience for audience members.
“Somewhere out there, there’s a guy who has saved up for months to take his kid out to a show and… we have to put on the best show every night because of that,” Sutten said. “The fact I can make 1,500 people’s night every night is an amazing feeling.”
Despite arts funding being one of the first cutbacks for many school districts, Sutten said he wants to encourage kids to stick with their passion because it is possible to make a career out of it.
“My biggest advice to anybody is to find a local lighting shop where you can get involved. There’s a lot in D.C. You’ll figure out a niche from there, but don’t be afraid to be the low man in the totem pole,” Sutten said. “There were many years that I wasn’t making enough money to even support myself, but if you stick with it the career is there and you can support yourself with it.”
Jesse Sutten, a La Plata native, will begin his video and moving light technician Broadway debut during “Motown: The Musical” when it opens July 12 at the Nederlander Theater in New York City. He is pictured here with his wife, Megan, of Frederick.
Jesse Sutten, a La Plata native, works in theater stage production and manages racks like these for shows. He will begin his Broadway debut during “Motown: The Musical” when it opens July 12 at the Nederlander Theater in New York City.
Jesse Sutten, a La Plata native, works in theater stage production and manages video racks like these for shows. He will begin his Broadway debut during “Motown: The Musical” when it opens July 12 at the Nederlander Theater in New York City.