‘Honk! Jr.’ director shares experiences

The ‘Honk! Jr.’ cast (above and below) rehearses for the show directed by Hilary Little and opening Sept. 26 at Gilroy High School.

If you’re into the South Valley theater scene, or if your children have performed in local shows, you might recognize Hilary Little, a professional actress, singer, dancer, choreographer and director with a big voice, a big talent and a big heart.
Little, 35, is currently directing the City of Gilroy’s Fall Children’s Theater production of “Honk! Jr.” opening Sept. 25 at Gilroy High School.
A Gilroy native, Little has been involved in local theater for more than 20 years. She grew up the oldest of three girls of Jerry and Rebecca Little and started acting at age 9. Her mother wanted the girls to be involved in some type of activity, so she chose theater.
“There wasn’t a lot for kids to do then, so theater was a good outlet,” Little said. Her family watched musicals on TV, like “Oklahoma” and “Sound of Music,” as her dream to perform steadily became a reality. Her first production was in “Aladdin McFadden” at South Valley Civic Theatre in Morgan Hill.
“That’s when I got bit by the theater bug,” Little said.
As an aspiring thespian, she took tap dancing lessons, sang in every choir in the area and appeared in shows for local theaters. A door opened in 1993 with her first theater experience outside Gilroy at the Children’s Musical Theater San Jose.
When she attended Gilroy High School, her drive and talent impressed Phil Robb, the school’s choir director for 29 years. Now retired, Robb remembered that Little sang in choir for four years and was in the top group for three years.
“Hilary was quite an ambitious student and an extremely talented performer,” he said.
Janie Scott, a retired School of Music and Dance instructor, taught Little at San Jose State University. Her first impression of the Gilroy actress was “unique.” Little was definitely not a “cookie cutter chorus type,” Scott said.
“She could play a range of roles, moves very well on stage and is a good actress. Hilary always had the passion for performing.”
But in 2000, Little dropped out of college to perform professionally and received her Actor’s Equity card when she was 21. She performed in shows at the American Musical Theatre of San Jose in 2003 and then earned a spot as a full- and part-time performer in “Beach Blanket Bingo” in San Francisco. She also performed with the Symphony Silicon Valley in 2011.
Little was an artist-in-residence at the Retro Dome in San Jose from 2009 to 2012 before she returned to college in 2013 to complete her music education degree.
“My motivation in returning to school was to find a career with more stability with time to perform myself, and I would just love to teach music or theater to kids,” she said.
Little’s latest challenge, directing “Honk! Jr.,” has brought her full circle in her theater career, since the show was her first professional performance in 2001.
According to Little, the cast of 26 adults and children, ages 6 to 15, finds the classic tale of the Ugly Duckling timely.
“It’s about appreciating who you are and owning your own uniqueness,” Little said.
After more than two decades in the business, Little knows that a career and a purpose in life are not the same. Her career is performing but her purpose is sharing what she has learned along the way.
“I absolutely love kids and want to share my love of the arts with the performers of tomorrow,” she said.
Along that line, Little offers this advice to future performers: follow your heart and audition as much as possible.
“There are more opportunities for theater in our area than when I was a kid, so be smart and set yourself up for success,” she said.
When she’s not on stage, Little runs the front office in her mom’s studio, Portraits by Rebecca, in Morgan Hill, but she is always looking for new opportunities on stage, in film and on TV.
“I’m not ruling anything out at this point,” she said
‘Honk! Jr. ‘
7 p.m. Sept. 25, Oct. 2 and Oct 9
1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sept. 26 and Oct. 3
1 p.m. Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 11
Gilroy High School
750 W. 10th St., Gilroy
Tickets $10
Visit facebook.com/HonkatGHS for more information.