Technically, Tony Houck is an Artistic Associate at New Village Arts, but he can also be found being an actor, music director, and director depending on what the situation needs. Singing, dancing, acting, music directing; clearly, Houck is a jack of all trades. In this Behind the Scenes interview, Tony Houck talks about making the magic happen as the Music Director at New Village Arts.
You may recognize Tony Houck from his most recent turns on stage as the wildly energetic and performance where he played 10 different characters while playing the piano in the manic and musical mystery A MURDER FOR TWO. Or you may have heard all of his hard work as the Music Director orchestration and arranging the music in last November’s production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.
Houck took a moment to chat with me to illuminate his role as Music Director for New Village Arts, and on what exactly a Music Director role requires, and what he has been doing to stay busy.
As with any small organization I do a little bit of everything. My main role is to oversee anything musical that New Village Arts wants to produce. For example, we did a cabaret and concert series this past year. I helped select the shows, the cast, the band, and then performed in all of the shows in some aspect. I also play auditions.
I do a lot of music directing. The Music Director is one of the many unsung heroes of musical theatre. What I do is arrange music, help the actors learn and act their parts, help the band rehearse, perform in the pit, and solve any music issues that come up. For instance, over the past summer, New Village Arts produced AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. There is an awesome band called the Shantyannes and we used all of their music.
The way the Shantyannes makes music is really organic and collaborative. You can’t always do that with musicals because actors and musicians need to sing the same thing for every show. The Shantyannes would write these catchy songs and send me audio recordings of a lead vocal and some chords. I would then turn that into fully scored songs with multiple actor harmonies and parts for a four-piece band. I did that for about a dozen songs. Plus, Kristianne Kurner, our director, would say something like “I would love if there was some elephant music under this scene.” So, I say “Ok…elephant music.” and write some underscoring on the spot for the scene. It was a lot of fun and a huge challenge to do in a month.
When the theatre world had to close Houck has just closed one show and was gearing up to direct another musical.
When this whole craziness was just starting, I was in the last few weekends of Murder For Two. It was a two-person murder mystery where I played about 12 suspects and the uber-talented JD Dumas played the eager detective. It was so much fun. Luckily we were able to run the show for its full run including added performances.
I was set next to direct Into The Woods at New Village Arts but unfortunately, that has been pushed into the distant future. Like many other artists in the theatre community, you get peace of mind and sleep from knowing that you have shows booked. Now, there is nothing booked. Just uncertainty of what the rest of the year will hold. There will be fantastic shows this year; it is just unknown as to what they will be and in what capacity.
Houck has found that he’s working hard at staying busy during this brief intermission period for the theatres.
I am an extrovert so I need to keep busy to keep from going crazy. I have a day job and I have also been working on writing some new shows and skits with my hilarious friend, Jacque Wilke. We are determined to write a show by the time this quarantine is over.
We are also submitting a show to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival which is in August. I am trying to learn how to enjoy running outside. I like to run on a treadmill under an AC vent, hills and bugs are not a fun part of exercising.
I have been reading ‘Talking to Strangers’ by Malcolm Gladwell, streaming a LOT of television, becoming an amateur wine connoisseur while playing the piano, playing chipmunk attack with my dog, Mr. Monty, and of course Zooming and Facetiming everyone I know.
Like many of us, he’s waiting patiently for the theatres to reopen so he can enjoy some of his favorite things again.
My favorite thing about the theatre community is the people. The people on the stage and the audience. Theatre people are some of the most creative, talented, odd, joyful, and strong people on the planet. I can not wait to see everyone again!
The energy that live theatre creates is mind-boggling. They have done studies where groups of people in a theatre will actually start to sync their breathing. I can’t wait to feel that again with an audience.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of theatre to support by watching what they are doing in their virtual spaces while everything is closed. This week you can even see Houck in a virtual cabaret performance this Friday, April 24th from New Village Arts!
Right now a lot of theatres are getting creative and going online. I encourage everyone to watch what they are doing! A lot of it is free and some theatres are offering full shows where you can log in and watch for a small fee.
New Village Arts is doing a free online streaming service where artists can sign up and do a little segment. These segments are wide-ranging from songs, to talk shows, to one-man plays, to smoothie recipes!
These online services are great because you can watch them live or whenever your schedule allows. Also, if you have the means, donate directly to your favorite theatre, especially the smaller ones. Everyone has turned to the arts in some form during this pandemic, so show some love! A little can go a long way. Also, share your favorite memory from a show or performance online. We love to hear from the communities we perform in!
Or you can follow Tony on INSTAGRAM: tonushouck
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