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caption: Justin Huertas, center, and fellow "Lizard Boy" cast members William A. Williams and Kirsten deLohr Helland.
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Justin Huertas, center, and fellow "Lizard Boy" cast members William A. Williams and Kirsten deLohr Helland.
Credit: Courtesy Seattle Repertory Theatre / Andry Laurence

Musician, Playwright, Superhero: Justin Huertas Is Lizard Boy

Justin Huertas is one of those people who seemingly can do everything.

Only in his mid-20s, he’s already been a musician with the national tour of the hit Broadway show "Spring Awakening." He’s also performed Shakespeare and musical theater.

And now he makes his debut as a playwright with the Seattle Repertory Theatre production of his three-person semiautobiographical show "Lizard Boy."

This musical play about a boy born who develops lizard scales and superhero powers came out of a collaboration with the Rep's late artistic director, Jerry Manning, and its late education director, Andrea Allen.

Huertas says he was on tour with "Spring Awakening" when Manning saw him play cello.

"He said, 'I have this image of you playing cello on the Leo K stage (at Seattle Repertory Theatre). I think there's a show here, I just don't know what the show is,'" Huertas recounts.

Manning asked him to keep a daily journal of the national tour and to check in regularly with Andrea Allen.

When Allen asked Huertas to write about what happened when he came out as gay to his friends and family, Huertas agreed, but only on the condition that he could re-create himself as a lizard-skinned superhero.

"And that was the big drama in my life. Nobody wanted to talk to me or be with me because of my lizard skin."

Huertas says the idea of a boy with lizard skin actually makes sense.

"I think the idea that heroes look a certain way was really, really important to me."

Huertas, who is Filipino-American, says that from a young age he recognized he was different from his white classmates.

"Because my skin is this color, I will never be Spider-Man."

As a high school acting student, he resigned himself to the roles of the sidekicks or the clowns.

"Growing up I realized if I wanted to play a superhero, I'd have to create one for myself."

That's exactly what he did with "Lizard Boy."

Jerry Manning was intrigued and commissioned Huertas to write a script for the Rep's New Play Festival. It premiered in 2012, and before his death in 2014, Manning worked hard to ensure the show would have a full production at the Rep.

Justin Huertas is thrilled, and a little astonished, at how quickly he's realized his theatrical dreams. He hopes the climate is changing somewhat, to allow other kids who don't fit the traditional model of leading man or woman to achieve their own dreams.

He points to his own experience, creating and starring in a show about his own life.

"If I, growing up as a young Asian kid, if there was a show out there that showed me a superhero being played by an Asian guy, or a black guy, some person of color, I probably would have had a little bit more hope."

"Lizard Boy" is onstage at Seattle Repertory Theatre's Leo K theater April 1-May 2.

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