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Finish Lines: Jeff Howell

Actor and Mt Lebanon resident Jeff Howell at the Benedum Theater in downtown Pittsburgh.

Jeffrey Howell moved to Pittsburgh in 1980 after completing his theater degree at the University of Alabama. He has performed in more than 70 shows for the Pittsburgh CLO, including 24 out of the 27 seasons of A Musical Christmas Carol, in addition to dozens of productions at other local theater companies. He has also appeared in many local commercials, film and television shows. Jeffrey teaches voice lessons out of his home on Magnolia Place, where he lives with his wife, Jane, who is a musician.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
First, there is the job of finding a job! We are fortunate to have such a vibrant theater community here in Pittsburgh, but it all comes down to the seasons that theaters choose; if there is a role that’s right for you, and if the director sees you as that character. Once you are cast, there are lines to remember along with blocking, and sometimes choreography. Some rehearsal periods are generous and some are surprisingly short (one week!).

What is your favorite musical?
Sweeney Todd. It has an amazing score and set of characters. It is so well conceived and put together that you can hear something different every time you listen to it.

What would you say to a young person who is considering acting as a career?
You need to have great training because the industry demands artistry and technique. After you have trained, find a place where you can work and grow as an artist. You have to believe in yourself and hold on to your passion. It’s a hard profession to go into to say the least, but if you work hard you can succeed.

What are you  proudest of in your career?
The fact that I have been able to work and do what I love for the past 40 years. If I had to choose one project it would be CLO’s A Musical Christmas Carol.

If you could play any role, what would it be and why?
I would love to play Sweeney Todd. It is an incredible role to sing and an amazing journey to act. It’s my favorite score and, despite the darkness of the story, is one that audiences should experience.

Why is theater important today?
Theater inspires, holds a mirror up to our society—good and bad—and often entertains and offers an escape from everyday problems.

Photography by Martha Rial