Friday, July 17, 2015

Spotlight On...Oliver Houser

Name: Oliver Houser

Hometown: Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Education: I got my BA in Music last month from the Macaulay Honors Program at Hunter College in New York.

Favorite Credits: Lola, from Damn Yankees, at my parents’ dinner party when I was five. I sang “Whatever Lola Wants.” I think it was a big hit. I also got to play Melchior in Spring Awakening at Virginia Rep a few years ago. It was very exciting to show my butt onstage.

Why theater?: Moss Hart has this idea that everyone in the theater is there because they’re trying to mend psychological damage from their childhood, and that they are all overly desperate for love. I think I had a pretty great childhood, but there’s definitely an element of truth to that. It’s also just plain fun. We’re dressing up and making music and, if it’s good, we’re making people laugh and cry and reflect on the human condition.

Tell us about Held Momentarily: It’s a funny, poignant musical about strangers coming together to help a woman give birth on a subway car. More than that, it’s about the alienation with which we move through the world these days, but our capacity for connection and love when we become mindful of our surroundings and find beauty in the everyday things. It so often is something like the funny look we share with a stranger on the subway that puts the joy and spice in our lives.

What inspired you to write Held Momentarily: I’m a tried-and-true New Yorker, and I initially wanted to create an ensemble piece to showcase the individual talents of some of my immensely talented friends from my alma mater, LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts (including India Carney, who just made it to the top 5 of this season of NBC’s The Voice). So the subway felt like the right setting. The show has since developed into an entity with the previously mentioned themes, which speak to me personally in a big way. I am too often focused solely on the destination rather than the fun of getting there, and exploring that idea in this show in a whimsical, zany way has been cathartic for me.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Anything that captures what it fundamentally means to be human. Good theater and good music inspire me most. When I walk out of a great production, the rest of that day is often when I’m at my most fertile. I just saw Lincoln Center’s King and I and a really cool idea for a song in Held Momentarily kissed me on the bike ride home.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I am obsessed with both Bedlam Theatre Company and Fiasco Theatre Company. Our paths may not cross professionally because we do very different things, but I’d love to sit down with the members of each sometime and pick their brains. Actually, I should get on that.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The most exciting pieces I’ve seen in the past couple months were Jenny Schwartz and Todd Almond’s Iowa at Playwrights Horizons and Fiasco Theatre’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona at Theatre for a New Audience. Both were incredibly inventive, fresh and fun.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think Sandra Bullock would do well. How about: “When Are You Going to Do The Dishes.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I actually like to go back in time a lot and do this at the Performing Arts Library’s Theater on Film and Tape Archive, which has recorded most Broadway productions since 1970. I recently saw Meryl Streep in the Public Theater’s 2006 production of Mother Courage, which was a total knockout. But if I could go back even further, wouldn’t it be cool to see the first-ever production of As You Like It?

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: A massage every now and then at Sang Yuan Body Works, a little hole in the wall a few blocks from where I live in Yorkville. The woman who works on me, Lee, is very powerful. It usually ends in tears (literally), but I feel great afterwards.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Sad!

What’s up next?: I jumped right out of my college graduation into this NYMF production, so I haven’t had a second yet to catch my breath. I’m excited to go into my second year of the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and will be developing a new piece with the Musical Theater Factory, a super exciting up-and-coming nonprofit. But right now it’s all things Held Momentarily!

For more on Held Momentarily, visit or