What does it take to be a star of the theater? Most would say a place center stage in the main role of a play or musical or, at the very least, a part significant enough to earn a listing in a production’s “Playbill.”
Northern Kentucky University alumnus Marty Boyer (‘99) isn’t trying to get his name on a theater marquee, but the work he does for local productions is very much a star turn. Which is how he likes it—he wants to craft the main story from behind the scenes.
“I love being the supporting cast member,” Boyer says, “and helping others express themselves.”
Boyer’s role occurs long before the curtain call in his Covington, KY, theatrical supply store, Theatre House. If you’re someone in the theater business, you’ve probably visited the Theatre House—and when the store closed for six months recently, you probably freaked out.
Boyer is the first to admit he doesn’t have a theater background, but he doesn’t think past experience is necessary. With a long history in the local corporate community—including a recent stint as vice president and director of marketing for Cincinnati start-up (and “Shark Tank” favorite) Tom+Chee—he knows that, when it comes to business, the most important question is “Do I have a passion for this?” And Boyer is passionate about the Theatre House.
“The passion for me is, ‘How can other people tell their stories?’ I think the coolest thing that I get to do is help other people craft their stories to tell to the world,” Marty says. “Sometimes that means giving them fabric, sometimes that means help provide costumes, sometimes it’s makeup. Whatever that might be, it’s really their story."
He’s counting on his skills in marketing and communications to keep Theatre House operating and, in turn, keep onstage storytellers equipped with tools they need.
“It’s served this business really well,” Marty says, “the vertical of costume, Halloween, really theatrical supplies. The way I describe it is, it’s a very aged industry and I have a very modern skillset.”
And while an established customer base keeps the doors open, Boyer sees growth opportunities in some untapped markets—like, for instance, drag queens.
“Drag queens have been an incredible market for us,” Marty says. “I get to meet all kinds of folks that come in, and our space is kind of their haven.”
Boyer credits NKU with helping him master his skill set, and a penchant for taking on side gigs has given him room to practice and grow. In fact, it was during his time as an undergraduate that Marty started his first business, doing support for Cincinnati Bell’s DSL program.
“In terms of what my aspirations were, I didn’t really ever say, ‘Oh, this my objective of what I want to achieve. Even as a young person, I knew I should develop the skill sets that I’m really interested in doing.”
Now Boyer’s interested in helping others succeed, and he’s served as a mentor and advisor to tech accelerator program UpTech as well as shared his knowledge as the keynote speaker at a recent Griffin Fest, a presentation of student projects from the departments within NKU’s College of Informatics.
Whenever he meets with young people, Boyer tells them to stop asking themselves what they want to be when they grow up. “That’s the wrong question,” Marty says. “I was more interested in who I wanted to be when I grow up. If I define who I want to be, then that becomes the platform I’m interested in doing. That’s a far more interesting life.”
From computers to grilled cheese to tubes of stage makeup, Marty applies his diverse background to succeeding in the task at hand. Right now, that’s helping a diverse clientele tell their stories.
“I love being that role back to people,” he says. “I think that’s the right role for the Theatre House and for Marty Boyer personally”.”