Playbill’s Tyler Mount returns to Austin for high school musical awards

This Texas native trained at the Long Center and St. Edward’s and has thrived on Broadway.


Highlights

Tyler Mount: “Theater gave me a reason to get up in the morning.”

Tyler Mount: “I believe full-heartedly that it saved my life and gave me direction.”

On April 18, the Long Center will fill to bursting with thousands of hopeful teens, parents and fans from 38 Central Texas drama programs, who will cheer the nominees for the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards. Along with the awards, expect a parade of numbers selected from the nominated shows, medleys from lead actors and showstoppers from a select ensemble of the area’s best young performers.

See the nominees: A record 38 Austin area high school musicals up for awards

The emcee this year, Tyler Mount, is an Austin product made good on Broadway. He performs and produces in New York, but Mount, who trained at the Long Center and St. Edward’s University, is best known for his vlog on Playbill.com, on which he has interviewed the theater’s biggest stars. Long-distance, we asked him a few questions.

American-Statesman: Tell us about your high school drama experience.

Tyler Mount: I grew up in small-town Texas — Montgomery, to be exact. I never felt like I really fit in, except for when I was within the confines of the theater department. Theater was, and is still to this day, my safe space. Theater gave me a reason to get up in the morning and made me passionate about something like I had never been before. High school drama changed the entire trajectory of my life, and I’m so thankful it did.

What made you select St. Edward’s for college?

I knew I wanted to stay in Texas but that I had to live in Austin. It was the liberal island in a sea of red, and it was where all the arts in Texas — whether it was music, theater or fine art — was happening. After touring St. Edward’s and the University of Texas, I chose St. Edward’s because of the smaller class size and what I considered to be a more intimate and personalized collegiate experience.

Above all else, St. Edward’s is one of the only undergraduate programs in the nation that is in itself an Equity house and gives its students the ability to work towards their Equity card (indicating membership in the union for actors and stage managers). I was one of the first students to graduate the program a fully vested member of Equity and was able to head straight to New York and apply for jobs that required union affiliation. Most people work for years in the city to get their Equity card, and many don’t succeed — so this “leg up” on the competition to work professionally was invaluable.

You were also involved in shows at the Long Center. How did that help prepare you for Broadway?

Working at the Long Center, specifically during my tenure at Summer Stock Austin, was beyond valuable. It was an all-encompassing crash course in how to work in the theater. Learning a show in two weeks is no easy task, but then when you combine it with multiple off-stage technical tracks for the other shows you are performing in rep, it becomes nearly impossible. Whether I was sewing costumes, or focusing lights, or learning choreography or stage-managing another production, the experience equipped me with the knowledge I needed to be successful in a Broadway track.

RELATED: All rise for the High School Musical Awards

You’ve appeared in several shows in New York, but you are also involved in producing.

I was lucky enough to do five shows on Broadway but most recently have gotten involved with producing. My first show as a producer is “Once on This Island.” I was asked to join the producing team due to my connections in the Broadway industry, but most importantly because I don’t fit the traditional “mold” of a Broadway producer. I’m under 40, I’m gay, and naturally have a different way I approach a show than someone else in the industry. For the first but hopefully not last time, I’m Tony-eligible and could be walking home with an award later this summer.

How did the Playbill gig come about? When did you realize it was a thing that could attract more than 3 million viewers?

During my tenure working on “On Your Feet: The Story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan,” I started to produce a vlog that featured some of my friends who were living in the city at the time. One day, Gloria mentioned it, and a week later she was at my house drinking copious amounts of wine with me. The rest is history. I started producing a biweekly Broadway web series. Playbill eventually started syndicating the show on their platforms and about a year ago brought me on full-time to run their video departments and produce the vlog.

The first time I had my “this is a real thing” moment, I was at BroadwayCon 2017. Keep in mind, I had been producing this show in my house, and I see the numbers but had never equated them to unique individuals. It wasn’t until this event, when some of my fans were lined up for photos, literally crying because they got to meet me, that I realized that this little series means so much to so many people.

What made you decide to emcee the high school musical awards here?

Well, the answer is simple: When Ginger Morris (the Long Center’s education chief) calls, you answer. Additionally, even with my success, I really try to remember why I am where I am. And a large part of that is the theater community in Austin, but most importantly, because of theater education. I believe full-heartedly that it saved my life and gave me direction, and I so want to give that to other young people around the world.

REVIEW: Free play an emotional and timely look at the immigrant experience

The local awards ceremony is packed with advice for aspiring theater folks. Is there something that you can share with the young artists that might even surprise the veterans in the house?

Be yourself and live your life unapologetically. So many people try to be something they’re not, and to fit within the confines of what they think others want them to fit into. That never works. It isn’t until you are truly yourself, and unapologetic, that you start to thrive as a professional.



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