Following your Hartt with Douglas Lyons
Douglas Lyons is a composer, teacher, actor, and maker of ‘hug theatre’. He’s a BFA musical theatre graduate from the Hartt School and has been seen on tour and on broadway in The Book of Mormon, Rent, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and Dreamgirls. He’s a masterclass in being a multifaceted artist and the type of artist the next generation of theatre makers will look to as an inspiration.
Do you remember the moment you wanted to be a performer?
Ah, I think it was a mixture of things. I saw the national tour of Rent come through Connecticut as well as the Cats tour. Coincidentally, I ended up on that Rent tour three years later. Crazy. I loved singing and dancing but had never really had any acting training. When I found out there was a discipline featuring all three called, musical theater I was like, “Oh, maybe I should do that.” So my senior year in High school, after all the pre-college prep and everything, I decided I wanted to audition for programs. In the February of my senior year, I was auditioning for the first time. And the Hartt school was the only program that I got into
Yeah, it’s a real story of destiny and I think wherever you’re meant to fly and swim, the universe can take you there. But yeah, my first years at Hartt were very educational literally haha! I didn’t have show choir or all the things that a lot of theater kids have. I didn’t have rep book and I’d never taken a sight singing class. You know, I sang in church. God was my voice teacher, and I’d taken dance and taught it locally. But I was never a theatre kid, I never had that phase then I fell for it. Then after getting into school I was auditioning a lot which, you shouldn’t always be doing but sometimes it gets tempting. For me, it was great because I left between my sophomore and junior year and went on tour with Rent then came back and finished.
So what was it like for you coming back to the Hartt school after doing rent?
Horrible hahaha! I came back, was leading two shows and learning Shakespeare for the first time as well. I’d gone from being on the beach in Florida and going to do my show to being in a classroom again. I was struggling trying to figure out how to balance the workload, classes, and homework. It was a serious adjustment. I almost had a breakdown because it was hard to go back having experienced a professional tour. Then going back to an educational setting was a little strange, but it taught me how to be a better businessman. It taught me how to really know the business part of our profession.
So how did Rent come about for you, in the beginning?
Six Auditions. Over a two-year process. I’ll never forget, it was the first day of sophomore year and we had our welcome with the dean. For some reason, I didn’t have any classes that day. We just had that thing, and I knew there was an open call in Boston for Rent. Some of my friends asked if I wanted to go then we all got in a car and headed to Boston. When we got there, we waited for hours and I was seen. That was it. Then I got called again in the spring of my sophomore year, Auditioned in April and didn’t hear anything.
They called again in June while I was finishing Five Guys Named Moe, the first time I did it. Got the call Friday and the audition was on a Monday but I was supposed to be somewhere else for a contract. So I went to the city, the audition went really well, and they were like, can you come back tomorrow? I said yes even though I was supposed to be in rehearsal haha! Finished, then went up to Maine to do close our run of Five Guys Named Moe. Then I was going to Ogunquit playhouse to do two more shows. When I got there, they gave me the first day of rehearsals off to go to the final callback.
So I went six hours from Maine all the way down to New York, had a final call then went back to Maine to do my contract.
Then I told them, I need to know if I booked this because I was contracted for one more show and needed to know I’d need to leave.
They said they didn’t know yet, so I waited a couple of days. It was the first day of rehearsal for Cinderella, and I checked my phone and I had a voicemail from a 212 number that said, “you booked it” and I lost my mind.
I was going to be the Benny/Collins swing which meant I covered all the male tracks but Angel, Mark, and Roger. All of this at 19, so initially i wasn’t successful but I did learn a lot.
What were your first couple of years after Hartt like?
See, I was very blessed and had booked gigs before I left school. Second semester of my senior year at Hartt, I was in To Kill a Mockingbird at Hartford stage. Then we had our Goodspeed new works festival. There, I met Gordon Greenberg, who then cast me in Pirates! at the Huntington stage. So I left six weeks early in my senior year to get my equity card, but I’d also booked the Dreamgirls tour. So I moved to the city with three months off and was passing around flyers before we started rehearsal. That tour was crazy; we performed everywhere from the Apollo to Japan.
The anointing in the throat came in handy!
Yeah! There has been favor in my life, but I also work really hard. Knowing things like what you bring to the table. You got to know how to study. You got to know what you are and aren’t willing to do in the business. Ya know? I was very blessed early on.
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