Known for years as a costume and set designer, Kurtz is adding a new title to his resume — that of director. He has spent the last two months in rehearsal for "Biloxi Blues," which will open at Little Theatre this weekend. He has already been asked to direct ‘Broadway Bound,’ which will be shown at Little Theatre next year.
“It’s easier to move people around on the set than it is to hang costumes,” Kurtz said, as he reflects on why he is starting to make the transition.
After years of driving to theaters throughout the area, Kurtz said, “I’m glad to have an opportunity to work in Alexandria. I’m losing a lot of home life and it’s nice that the theater is giving me the opportunity to direct.”
He’s not totally leaving his other roles behind, however. He is currently designing costumes for “Lend Me a Tenor” at Olney Theater. He works at Hillwood Museum on Mondays and Fridays and teaches every Friday evening at Marymount University. He has been at George Mason University for 12 years, where he teaches two days a week. During this time, he has taught everything from Costume Design to Portfolio Review to Introduction to Theater.
All of this keeps him juggling, but since he is on the tenure track, George Mason is good about him taking time off and encourages him to do as many professional shows as possible.
“I’m very busy,” Kurtz said.
He just completed the costume design for “All Night Strut” at MetroStage and has already been asked to design the costumes for their upcoming musical, ‘The Last Five Years.’
“Howard was such a great addition to our design team for All Night Strut — not only were the actors fabulously outfitted appropriate for the period ('30s and '40s), but I had the best costumed, classiest musicians on stage as well. I enjoyed working with him and he will be returning to MetroStage to costume our summer musical ‘The Last Five Years,’” said Carolyn Griffin, producing artistic director at MetroStage.
FOR THE UPCOMING production of “Biloxi Blues,” he’s not only directing, but he also designed the set and the costumes.
“The show requires basic clothes — men’s army gear and lady’s period dresses,” he said.
Kurtz said that the technicians just completed building the set this past weekend, and said, “They’ve done a great job. They told me that they really pushed the limits and that it was a little more than they were used to. I’m used to working with professional theater, and nobody at LTA told me that they couldn’t do it.”
Kurtz majored in acting and design at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. He went on to receive a double master’s degree in costume design and costume construction from Penn State. When he moved to the D.C. area, he began teaching and started working in professional theater.
“I’m either designing or directing,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz resides in Alexandria, near T.C. Williams High School, with his partner, Howard Jaffe. He’s often asked to do costumes for period shows because he’s known for doing a lot of research.
“I love to do research,” Kurtz said. “The costumes are all about dealing with the actor. It’s important to understand the time period. I like to do small shows where I can concentrate on small minute details.”
Kurtz won a Helen Hayes Award for his work on “Dream of a Common Language” at First Amendment Theatre, the professional theater at George Mason.