BWW Blog: BIG NEWS - An Interview with WCSU's Tim Howard
Hey Broadway World! Welcome back to Life In The Key of B! with Bella Bosco.
I'm so excited about today's post, featuring a conversation with the one and only, Tim Howard, Coordinator of the B.F.A. Musical Theatre program at Western Connecticut State University!
In addition to building momentum and growing a reputation of excellence for the M.T. program as part of WCSU's stellar School for Visual and Performing Arts, Tim has an extensive career as a performer and director. A few of his credits include: the Broadway National Tour of Show Boat, directed by Harold Prince; Parade, directed by Harold Prince and conducted by Jason Robert Brown; and Leachman and Howard: Together at Last!, a two-person show with Cloris Leachman. During his time at WCSU, Tim has won several prestigious awards from KCACTF for his direction of Evita, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Parade.
In addition to directing, Tim teaches several classes at WCSU. I learned so much during my fall semester as a freshman in Tim's MT Studio and Music Theatre Workshop. In this class, we weren't only building our books--we were learning how to build our story-telling skills through our songs. Tim asks us, 'What are you fighting for?' He helped me learn that a song doesn't always have to be vocally perfect if you're 100-percent committed to the acting and the story. It has changed how I approach any song I'm learning now.
If you remember my last post, Tim is also the creator of the idea that our learning and our program is to "Be The Best You!," a motto that is well known around campus and the department.
One of the things I value most about my experience in this exclusive and caring program is how available my professors and directors always make themselves to us. I had a great conversation with Tim recently and learned so much in our Zoom conversation.
In chatting with Tim, I asked him to reflect on his experience working two times with the legendary Harold (Hal) Prince. As you would expect, Tim considers the experience inspirational and critical in shaping his life as a performer and director. Tim shared how very grateful he was to get adjustments and notes from Prince. While some actors would take getting a note from Prince as worrisome or negative, Tim viewed Prince's notes as, "Hal wanted to make me a better artist. He saw me. He cast me. It was overwhelming."
Tim also credits Prince for the inspiration and the insight that would be critical in his own directing. He shared that during tech of Parade with Prince he would sneak into the house (actors weren't allowed to sit in the house -- they were expected to be backstage waiting to be called on) and watch how Hal directed and worked with his designers. Occasionally Hal would notice Tim in the audience wondering what the hell he was doing out there. Eventually Prince put it together that Tim was intently watching him. Hal walked over to him and said, "it's like pulling teeth, isn't it?" They both laughed and from that point on it was their secret and he considered it his unofficial mentorship with this iconic director.
"It was a 'pinch me moment. It was like, 'OK, I can die now.' I grew up worshipping him. It makes me very emotional." Tim credits the chance to observe Prince in action as life-changing. "If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't have the tools to be a director of megamusicals."
Another lesson that Tim learned from Prince is "synchronicity is everything in this business." That played out as his first show at WCSU was directing Parade.
"I wanted to find our own version of it. When you're working on something, in the back of your mind, you're thinking, 'what could I do with it'? That was a huge part of how I approached our production. There were cinematic elements and elements of movement that perhaps brought it to a level that hadn't been seen before "
Tim's WCSU production of Parade went on to win 14 national awards at Kennedy Center (KCACTF) including "Outstanding Production of a Musical" and "Outstanding Director of a Musical." These honors and the performance in Washington, D.C., really shined a spotlight on WCSU and further sped up the national reputation and curiosity in the special things happening in this program.
"16 Bars with Tim Howard"
Q: What is the best advice you would give to any student artist about how to make the most of this time when we have to be isolated from one another? How can we make this time count for our lives and careers?
TIM: "It's not just one answer. With anything monumental that occurs in our life, we have to look at it and see why it's been served, and what we can learn from it. It's OK to step back and reflect on where you are in your life, what you want for your life, and what you can learn. Then it's extremely important to reflect upon it and see how that can inspire your creativity. When you're in the business as an artist, when you don't have the structure of a B.F.A program, you have to be your own motivator and you have to create your own work. Creating your own work will lead to other things. It may turn into something big for you, or it may cause your muscles to be so flexed that when the perfect audition rolls around, you're ready!"
Q: What is a quote or piece of art that inspires you?
TIM: "Here are a couple quotes that always inspire me with life and art.
Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art. -Constantin Stanislavski
Q: What is your go-to order from the Daily Grind? (The Daily Grind is WCSU's coffee shop on campus--right across from the VPAC, and where you can see the majority of the MTs on any given day.)
TIM: "A latte with soy milk. If I'm in rehearsal and I'm getting ready to be there until 11 at night -- it's a double!"
****************** Thank you so much to Tim for sharing these wonderful stories. I'm looking forward to getting back to school and taking Acting II with Tim! Now, here are my check-ins this week:
What am I listening to? Two of my very close friends from WestConn, Grace McGovern and Fran Saccomagno, have started a podcast in quarantine, called "A Tough Act To Follow!" It's all about the life of a B.F.A. student, and you can catch a new episode every Monday! I loved their recent Tony-inspired episode with their own wish list of nominees and winners even featuring special guest presenters! You can follow them on @toughacttofollowpod on Instagram, and it streams on essentially all podcast mediums.
What is feeding my soul? I'm inspired and humbled by the growing sense of unity I am witnessing among my peers and in the greater community of theatre artists in regards to understanding that Black Lives Matter. Many of my friends have included comprehensive lists of resources, spanning beyond just performative activism. Every day, you can get online to find information on how to be a better ally, how to donate to an important organization, and better educate yourself on racial inequality. I hope to focus more on the resources I have found to be most helpful with my own journey of understanding privilege and activism in future posts. In the meantime, check out
@BroadwayAdvocacyCoalition, and consider joining other artists in adding your name to the "Public Accountability Pledge."
What arts programming have I watched this week? I tuned in to watch the brilliant Rebecca Luker on a live-stream fundraiser to support Project ALS. I admire her so much as a person and a gifted performer. My senior year of high school, I played Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins, and through the kindness of a friend and acting coach, Rebecca Luker sent me a personal letter along with a signed headshot and photo when she played Winifred Banks, a role that earned one of her three Tony nominations. I will always treasure her kindness. With Rebecca Luker's help, the event raised over $200,000 for ALS research. Project ALS is an incredible organization, and it was inspiring to hear from Rebecca Luker--in her advocacy and in singing three songs that are very important to her. If you're able to donate to Project ALS, here is their website: https://fundraise.projectals.org/give/14863/#!/donation/checkout
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