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Curtain Call: Actor Austin Miller comes full circle in Oregon Cabaret’s ‘The Full Monty’

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Austin Miller as Ethan in "The Full Monty," one of several unemployed steelworkers who decide to try a Chippendale's-style act to raise quick cash. Oregon Cabaret Theatre photo by Steve Sutfin
Austin Miller is seen here as Henrik in "A Little Night Music," with Kristen Calvin Gordon in a 2020 Camelot Theatre production. You can see him in "The Full Monty," opening June 30 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Submitted photo.
Ashland actor Austin Miller is in the cast of "The Full Monty," running June 30 to Sept. 4 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Submitted photo.

By Jim Flint

for Tempo

When Austin Miller was a kid, he played the child (Nathan) in the musical version of “The Full Monty.”

When Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s production of the musical opens June 30, Miller comes full circle, playing one of the unemployed steelworkers who tries stripping to make some quick cash.

“Playing one of the grownups in the show this time around is really special for me,” the 27-year-old Ashland actor said.

In the Cabaret production, Miller plays Ethan, not the sharpest tool in the box.

“He is absolutely aware of how little talent he has,” Miller said, “but is still willing to give stripping a try, because what has he got to lose? He’s very positive, very sweet, and very dumb. I’m really looking forward to playing the role, and to the show in general.”

The musical is a 10-time Tony Award nominee and will play through Sept. 4 at the Cabaret in Ashland. For tickets, go to oregoncabaret.com.

Born and raised in Simi Valley, Calif., Miller has performance DNA in his genes. His mom is a choral singer and his dad is a bluegrass guitar player.

“They encouraged my interest in performing from the start and got me involved in local theater at a young age,” he said.

Occasionally, Miller would join his dad on trips with his bluegrass band.

“I have memories of sitting around a campfire, jamming with them on a fiddle, even though I was terrible,” he said.

“Those memories stick with me because of the collaboration and feeing in tune with the other players. Well, not literally in tune!”

A little nepotism got him his first onstage gig. He was cast in a semi-staged Christmas opera called “Amahl and the Night Visitors” in which his mom’s choir was involved.

“I played my mom’s kid,” Miller said. “For a certain scene, the director instructed me to pull my mom across the stage.”

When the moment came, he yanked on his mom’s arm so hard, she nearly fell over.

“The director told me I should simply look like I was pulling my mom’s arm. That was the moment I began to learn what acting was.”

Miller has been doing theater since he was 8 years old and attended a performing arts high school.

Miller’s college career was short.

“I am very proud of the single semester I attended at community college,” he said, “and of the three courses I took. It was a formative time in my life, for sure,” he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Since then, acting is what he lives for.

“It’s the only thing I know how to do,” he said. “It’s been my life for as long as I can remember. It’s the place where I feel fully comfortable.”

His first paid gig was as an extra in the Christmas episode of the TV show, “7th Heaven” in 2006, singing carols. He and the other kids recorded their songs in advance at a recording studio, then lip-synced to their own voices on the day of filming.

“I still look forward to seeing the annual royalty check for that one: eight bucks. Yes, thank you very much!”

When asked about what kind of jobs he takes in between gigs, he said it’s probably more accurate to switch it around, with his theater work filling in the gaps between day jobs.

“I’ve always worked customer service jobs. I look forward to the day that those jobs fill in the gaps between theater gigs, instead of vice-versa.”

One of his proudest achievements before coming to Ashland was originating a role in a two-man play adapting the works of Edgar Allen Poe, which resulted in a nomination for an award alongside Nick Offerman.

“Nick and I both lost, but we’ve come to terms with that,” he said, laughing.

Another memorable period was when he played Igor in “Young Frankenstein, the Musical” for the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center in 2014.

“While playing the silliest character I’ve ever played, on the weekends, I was simultaneously rehearsing during the week as Jamie in “The Last Five Years” (about a troubled relationship), which has some of the un-silliest scenes I’ve ever acted.”

Playing Igor in “Young Frankenstein” was a challenge. It may be a silly character, but Miller describes the role as one of the most difficult he’s tackled.

“I was the tallest member of the cast, playing the shortest character in the show,” he explained. “I spent the whole show hunched over to get down to four feet tall. I had to do that while running and jumping and dancing around the stage. I’d come off the stage at intermission and just sprawl on the floor, exhausted.”

Miller moved to the Rogue Valley about five years ago. He had visited Ashland a couple times as a child and then again as an adult.

“I realized how much I click with the town and how incredible it is to have such high-quality theater in such a comparatively small community,” he said. “It was the right move.”

In addition to his work at the Oregon Cabaret, he also has performed at Camelot Theatre in Talent and for Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford.

He’s open to just about any role, but there are a couple on his bucket list.

“I’ve always wanted to play Jeff in “{title of show},” which is a musical I find hilarious — and the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” simply for all the jelly-legs physical comedy involved.”

Off stage, Miller is an avid player of Dungeons and Dragons, having run games for his friends for many years.

After the run of “The Full Monty,” he hopes to continue to do more work for the Oregon Cabaret.

“I always enjoy my time at the Cabaret and am grateful I get to keep working with them.”

Where does he see himself in 10 years?

“I have some cats that I hope are still alive by then, and I have a girlfriend who I hope is more than a girlfriend by then,” he said. “And I hope I’ll spend every day in a theater.”

Best advice for up-and-coming actors?

“I want every actor who’s feeling uncertain about their talent to remember that you only have to look like you’re pulling your mom’s arm.”

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.