Watch Larry Houbre Jr. Pull a Rabbit Out of His Hat in Harvey at YTI

 

Screen Shot 2019-01-10 at 8.40.22 PMNew Bedford’s Your Theatre Inc. (YTI) has a pleasant January planned with their upcoming production of the 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Harvey by Mary Chase. The volunteer community theater has been a non-profit mainstay of the cultural scene in the southcoast area for more than 70 years, producing a full season of shows annually. Suzanne J. Houbre directs the cast of a dozen local actors, lead by Larry Houbre, Jr. as Elwood P. Dowd. The show opens January 10 and runs through January 20 at the Your Theatre, Inc. Playhouse, located on 136 Rivet St. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church complex, New Bedford.

Harvey is the beloved story of an amiable alcoholic Elwood P. Dowd and his best friend, Harvey — a six-foot tall, invisible rabbit. Embarrassed by her brother’s very public relationship with his imaginary friend, a comedy of errors ensues when his family attempt to have him committed. Many might be more familiar with the 1950 Oscar-winning movie adaptation that starred Jimmy Stewart as Dowd, something that the theater group seems to be banking on judging from the fact that Stewart’s well-known visage is highly featured on their show artwork.

I spoke to the show’s lead and YTI artistic director Larry Houbre, Jr. about his history with the group and what it is like to work alongside his wife, director Suzanne.

Marilyn Busch (Motif): Larry, you’re the artistic head of the theater…but as an actor, your wife Suzanne is in charge as the director of Harvey; how does this all balance out for you both?

Larry Houbre Jr.: There is a good balance. As you have probably sensed, an actor is responsible to the director, and the directors are responsible to the artistic directors. We don’t let that interfere with the production unless a director has gone terribly astray.

MB: If there’s a disagreement about something, do you take it home with you?

LH: We don’t usually take it home past the driveway. The discussion is the same as between and director and cast, usually worked out at the rehearsals. I’ve directed Suzanne, and this is the first time she’s directed me. We don’t let any “theater” disagreements — or any other type either — create a problem at home. Love!

MB: What’s your working relationship in the rehearsal room like?

LH: No different than any director and actor relationship, at least from my side. Most actors I know who are also directors tend to suppress their directorial selves, and instead focus on acting and solving actor issues and questions with their director. Certainly, they’d want the same courtesy. It’s very easy to become judgmental, but one must realize that an actor on stage cannot “see” what the director sees from the front of their stage. If you don’t trust the director, you should not have accepted the role.

MB: Did you two meet through the theater or did theater come afterward?

LH: Yes, we met at an audition some time ago, for a show I was directing.

MB: You both have been incredibly active with YTI for years now; can you tell me a bit about your personal history with the group?

LH: I started in 1974 as a freshman in high school. Back then I did lighting. I had limited involvement while at college, then got back into it and helped to build sets as well. Eventually I had an occasional small role, then later on was appointed technical director. I also served as president for five years and have been part of the artist director team for a while now.

MB: What was your first “big” role?

LH: It’s hard to pin down the first “big” anything in the theater, for me. It could have been designing lights for a complicated production, or designing my first set, or graduating from a walk-on role of “delivery boy” to a more substantial role of portraying a lawyer in Denial, or directing my first major production for YTI, Bermuda Avenue Triangle. There have been so many fun and educational experiences, where do I start?

MB: Tell me a little about this experience working on Harvey.

LH: The cast is wonderful, professional, thoughtful, helpful and generally a joy to be around. It has been another wonderful experience for me.

MB: How did come to realize that theater was your calling?

LH: I don’t know. Is it my calling? I’m just having fun. Maybe I’ll realize it when I get a chance to slow down.

Harvey by Mary Chase, directed by Suzanne J. Houbre runs January 10-20 at Your Theatre, Inc. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church complex, 136 Rivet St., New Bedford. yourtheatre.org

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