A family has set out to honor their son who loved theatre and was pursuing a career in the industry until his unexpected death in November 2023.
Nathan LeBlanc was born in Temple in 1999 to John and Laura LeBlanc, and he grew up in Belton. He went on to attend Oklahoma City University, where he graduated with a degree in Musical Theatre in 2022.
He then moved to New York City where he pursued a career in acting and theatre. He died on Nov. 2, 2023, at the age of 24 in New York.
During the time since his death, his family and friends have set up the Nathan LeBlanc Fund to provide financial support to small school districts such as Belton ISD to allow their students to experience live theatre at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas.
LeBlanc did the same back in middle school, when his class went to see “The Lion King” and it had a huge impact on him.
“We wanted to create a legacy for Nathan that would align with what he valued most: doing good deeds for others,” said Nathan’s mother, Laura. “Watching professional live theatre was a pivotal point for Nathan that solidified his decision to follow his dream, so to give that opportunity to other students felt like the exact cause that Nathan would want to stand for.
“Watching a musical online, or even as a movie on the big screen is great, but it pales in comparison to seeing a show live onstage. That experience can help students understand the power of a show in a way that a film version, or a filmed live version, cannot.”
Laura explained that Nathan fell into theatre due to a scheduling conflict. While in 6th grade at South Belton Middle School, Nathan was placed in the theatre class instead of the choir class he had originally wanted.
“By the end of the first semester, Nathan told me that theatre was what he wanted to do,” Laura said.
After that trip to see “The Lion King”, he focused more on musical theatre, she added.
“As a single mother, I didn’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month, but I knew I wanted to share my love of theatre with Nathan and his sister,” Laura said. “After seeing a couple of shows together, I purchased three season tickets to Broadway in Austin at Bass Concert Hall. These were definitely the cheap seats, but it didn’t matter to any of us. Nathan carried that love of musical theatre into high school and never looked back.”
His theatre teacher, Melissa Stuhff, said that Nathan was “the kind of student that you wish you could have a classroom full of.”
“While he was incredibly talented, the kind of talent that could make others nervous or intimidated, Nathan was such a kind soul that he made sure that everyone around him was comfortable, having fun and growing as an actor,” Stuhff said. “Nathan was the epitome of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ He was continually pushing others around him to be better, and because he could do it with such sincerity, they followed where he led. He taught me how to work hard and have fun while doing it. He took his craft very seriously, but always brought levity and lightness to rehearsals, especially when things got tough.”
Stuhff said that when she originally took Nathan and his classmates down to the Bass Concert Hall, she initially hesitated due to cost and knew that there would be some students unable to come along because of money.
“This fund is such a blessing for our students,” Stuhff said. “Seeing live theatre is often life changing, especially on the professional level. I have many students who have never seen live theatre, let alone professional, and I think it’s such a different experience than watching filmed performances. To be in the same room, breathing the same air as the performers, and being a part of the production from the audience is not a thing that can be replicated. This fund will ensure that students all over will have the opportunity to see shows, regardless of the cost. It will make theatre more equitable and will help them grow as artists and humans. I am humbled that we will get to share shows with BHS students and honored that we can do it in Nathan’s name. He was the kind of student who made me a better teacher and I cannot think of a better legacy to honor him. I hope more students will be inspired to follow their dreams because of this fund.”
This fund launches as Nathan’s long-time girlfriend, described as the love of his life in his obituary, Anette Barrios-Torres, made her own Bass Concert Hall debut playing Eliza Doolittle in the touring production of “My Fair Lady”, which ran Dec. 5-10, 2023.
Barrios-Torres describes Nathan as the gentlest and most caring soul, who was an actor and a chess tutor in New York and working hard for his dreams and sharing his gifts with the world.
She said that in college, Nathan was always involved in a performance, whether it was a concert, musical, play, etc.
“In the wake of Nathan’s passing, to have hope for something good is a special thing,” Barrios-Torres said. “It would have made him so happy to know that something so important is being done in his name.”
Laura expressed similar sentiments.
“It means so much that this is happening now, at a time when I struggle to wrap my head around the fact that my bright, kind, and funny son is gone,” Laura said. “This is a way to help me feel closer to him by helping others follow in his theatre footsteps.”
To make a donation to the Nathan LeBlanc Fund or to find out more about it, click here.