Norbert Leo Butz, Tony Award-winner, to speak at 2013 commencement ceremony

Norbert Leo Butz in "Big Fish." PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KOLNIK

Graduates and their loved ones will hear Tony-award winning actor, Norbert Leo Butz, give the commencement address at the May 11 graduation ceremony.

Butz is a 1990 graduate of Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts program. In a 2011 Journal story, Norbert Leo Butz recalled his time at Webster and shared his experience with a favorite professor.

“When I first got to Webster, there was a man in charge of acting, Michael Pierce. He passed away in 1988. He was, and still is, the greatest teacher I ever had. I still try to imagine him being in the audience,” Norbert Leo Butz told The Journal. “He was the type of teacher that made you want to just be excellent. He inspired that kind of respect, not just for him personally but for good acting. That’s the class that really grabbed me, and I’ve not stopped pursuing acting since.”

Six years after he graduated, Butz starred in the musical “Rent” as Roger Davis. It was his first major Broadway role. Butz was also the original Fiyero in “Wicked.” He is currently working on a new musical, “Big Fish,” which will debut in October, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. In “Big Fish,” Butz will star as salesman Edward Bloom, a character first introduced in the book, “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.” Tim Burton adapted the tale in 2003 for film.

He has taken on Broadway roles in “Dead Accounts,” “Enron,” “Speed the Plow,” and “Thou Shall Not.”

His performance as Teddy Benson in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” won Butz his first Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. He claimed the award again in 2011 for his work in “Catch Me If You Can” as Carl Hanratty.

He accepted the second Tony after the passing of his sister, Teresa Butz, who was sexually assaulted and murdered.

“This is for my father I based my character on, and for my sister,” Norbert Leo Butz said when he accepted his second Tony Award. “I love you Teresa. We remember you every night.”

After Teresa Butz’s death, Norbet Leo Butz, Teresa Butz’s partner and their family and friends joined together to create The Angel Band Project. The organization’s mission is to “use music to promote healing, raise awareness and create positive social change for survivors of sexual violence.” The creation of the organization started with a benefit album, which Norbert Leo Butz helped produce, write and record.

“We all (family and friends) sang songs at (Teresa’s) funeral,” Norbert Leo Butz told The Journal in 2011. “After her funeral, her two best girlfriends from kindergarten had this idea to take songs and reach a wider audience to raise awareness for victims of sexual violence. (The Angel Band Project) was painful but a great sort of sense of closure. It was a chance to take a really horrible situation and make something really beautiful with it.”

The Angel Band Project donates funds to the Voices and Faces Project, which is “a national documentary project created to give voice and face to survivors of sexual violence, offering a sense of solidarity to those who have lived through rape and abuse while raising awareness of how this human rights and public health issue impacts victims, families and communities,” according to its website.

The Angel Band Project also helps sexual violence survivors through its music therapy program.

Webster will recognize Norbert Leo Butz with an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree at the commencement ceremony on May 11 at 10 a.m. Commencement will be held at The Muny in Forest Park.

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