BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Austin Colby
Today's subject Austin Colby is currently living his theatre life touring the country as Rolf in the national tour of The Sound of Music. The production begins performances June 13th in the Opera House at Kennedy Center and will play through July 16th.
Austin has been seen on several of our area stages in many featured roles. Select credits include Smokey Joe's Café at Arena Stage; West Side Story (as Tony), Crossing, and Simply Sondheim, and Spin at Signature Theatre; Hairspray at Toby's Dinner Theatre; and Forever Plaid, Spring Awakening, and Cinderella at Olney Theatre Center. He also performed the role of Tony in West Side Story at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Other regional credits include Hair at White Plains Performing Arts Center and The Little Mermaid at Theatre by the Sea.
After the DC engagement of The Sound of Music Austin departs the tour to once again play Tony in West Side Story. This time it's at the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma in a production that will be directed again by Signature Theatre's Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner. Following that he will be preparing for his most important role yet. Read on to see what it is.
Summertime is a time for families to do things together. The Sound of Music is one of the top family musicals of all time. Here is your chance to see it in a brand-new production. Austin Colby and the rest of the cast are sharing Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic with a new generation of theatergoers all across the country. Whether you are "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" or 95 years old, Austin Colby's performance is sure to please. His voice is wonderful and his acting is great too. "Climb Every Mountain" and get your seats now. "I Have Confidence" that you'll think it's "Something Good."
Who got you interested in performing and what show marks the first time you ever stepped onstage?
I am the youngest of three children and have always looked up to my sister and brother. They played sports, joined chorus, and did plays so I followed suit. It wasn't until college, playing Curly in Oklahoma, that I realized I wanted to make a living as an actor.
Where did you receive your training and how long after you got out of college did you book for your first professional performing gig?
I studied Vocal Music Education at James Madison University and built up enough theater credits with extracurricular classes to graduate with a minor. A few months after graduation, I moved to the MD/DC area and began working in the theater community for the following three years. During that time, I was fortunate enough to be cast in productions at Toby's Dinner Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Arena Stage, and Signature Theatre.
You are currently playing Rolf on the US tour of The Sound of Music. Can you please talk about Director Jack O'Brien's take on the material?
Jack O'Brien used key words to lead us through the script. Every character deals with danger, risk, and, choices. Throughout the story, Rolf experiences his own danger and risk, whether courting the Captain's daughter or falling in line with the Nazi party. He warns Liesel of the world but doesn't realize his choices lead to danger.
Touring life, I imagine, can be fun and stressful at the same time. What do you consider to be the biggest challenge of touring and what is the most fun thing about it?
The biggest challenge for me is missing my fiancée. For the majority of our relationship, we have dealt with long distance because of tours and other work. While we have managed to thrive as a couple, we still prefer being in the same city. Our rule is no more than three weeks apart. While on the road, I have enjoyed seeing cities across the nation that I doubt I would visit without The Sound of Music. Learning about the town's history and exploring the tourist attractions has been a rewarding experience.
Do you have a favorite city you have toured to so far?
It's hard to choose just one city! I think I enjoyed Memphis the most. After the show, we would walk from the theater to hear amazing music down Beale Street. I remember one night in particular, my castmates and I took over the dance floor.
You have done a bunch of shows at Signature Theatre and other area theatres. What do you enjoy the most about working in the DC theatre community?
The DC community is a family. I have never felt more welcomed and supported in a community that sets such high standards for risky and sometimes controversial work in a very unapologetic way. Specifically, Signature Theatre leads the nation by example, sharing stories that challenge audiences. I am proud to have worked there and always look for opportunities to return.
After almost 58 years, why do you think The Sound of Music still endures with audiences all over the world?
The Sound of Music is a timeless story with a magical score. It's amazing how this show reaches audiences. Frequently, we have three generations of family members at the stage door, sharing their first memories with this story. The message promotes defining who you are, confidently choosing a path, and being willing to endure whatever obstacles or risks lie before you.
I know you are taking a small break from the tour to reprise your performance as Tony in West Side Story at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. After that engagement is complete, will you return to touring with The Sound of Music or do you have other projects in the works?
Unfortunately, the show will close a week after I leave. It has been such a pleasure sharing this story with the nation alongside my wonderful cast and crew! After West Side Story at the Lyric, I will be preparing for the best job yet playing the role of Caroline Bowman's husband!
Special thanks to Kennedy Center's theatre publicist Brendan Padgett for his assistance in coordinating this interview.
Additional photo assistance provided by Signature Theatre's Deputy Director or Creative Content and Publicity James Gardiner.
Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.