Life of Art interview: Kevin T. Houle

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? 
I’m a husband and father, part-time office administrator, and community theatre director living in St. Paul, MN. I sit at a computer most of the day and put my organizational and administrative skills to work for a company that assists radio stations sell commercial time to regional and national advertisers. My artistic outlet is directing plays for local community theaters.
Is "community theater director" code for rabble rouser? You decide!

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I’ve been involved in theatre in one form or another since I was 14 years old. I’ve worked onstage, backstage, in administration, and production. Over time I completely lost my taste for performing and being in front of an audience, and after trying my hand at all the different aspects of theatrical production, I discovered that I’m at my creative best when I can help actors make discoveries in rehearsal which can lead to evocative, memorable moments in performance. I also learned that directing, like other disciplines, straddles a line between craft and art, and while I can always strive to master my craft, the eye of the beholder is what defines it’s artistic merit.
Where do you find inspiration?
Is “everywhere” too general of an answer? Reading, people, nature, TV, music, elite athletes, my wife’s dedication to her job (she’s an elementary school teacher), my daughter’s smile – they can all provide inspiration and motivation. One that that really gets me energized is reading about  the process other artist’s go through, because we all share the process of creation, but that process is as individual as the art being produced. I’m a firm believer that a quality process will lead to a quality product.
How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?
In community theatre, those barriers often involve limited financial resources, so it usually takes a more involved planning process to come up with creative ways to produce quality theatrical experiences that don’t cost and arm and a leg. That process demands strong and constant communication with your designers and production staff. With actors in rehearsal, it’s a lot of trial and error and I will suggest alternative ways to say a line or play a scene until we find the best way to communicate things clearly.
How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?
I’ve cut back significantly on the number of productions I’m involved with and have become pretty choosey about what kinds of projects I’ll take on. Significant time in between shows and time spent with my family always reenergize and regenerate my creative impulses.
What does success look like to you?
For me success is watching actors make discoveries in rehearsal – figuring out the playwright’s intent and then choosing the most entertaining and interesting way to communicate that to an audience. Helping and guiding actors through that process is what defines success for me as a director. It’s nice if the show is financially successful and/or well-reviewed, but I consider it a success if the actors found the process of putting it together to be a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience.
What do you want people to know about you and your work?
By doing most of my work in community theatre, I’ve been able to work on a broader range of productions than a lot of professional directors. I’ve directed a wide range of dramas, comedies, musicals, and children’s shows. I’ve done full-length plays, one-act plays, and 10-minute plays. I’ve directed plays by Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Noel Coward, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Woody Allen, Horton Foote, George Bernard Shaw, and many, many others. Community theatre has allowed me to share a professional sensibility and process with people who might be theatrical newcomers or veterans. Professional and semi-professional theatre can sometimes be quite insular and self-important, but community theatre allows anyone to be involved in one of the world’s oldest and greatest art forms – whether as a participant or an audience member.
Thanks for sharing your perspective, Kevin! I love that community theater is an “everybody in the pool” kind of endeavor. It convinces me even more deeply that anyone can have a satisfying creative life if they’re willing to make the time for it.
You can find Kevin on Twitter — follow @kevinhoule.

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