This Kansas City Musician Leads A Band Called The Misery Boys, But His Day Job Is Entertaining Kids
Stage names aren't just for actors. Scott "Rex" Hobart and the members of his honky tonk and country band, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, have used other people's names on stage since they started playing together in 1997.
But Hobart has another career, one that's off-stage.
For the past 11 years, Hobart has acted, played guitar, designed and built sets and created artwork for set pieces and decoration at the Coterie Theatre, where he now serves as the technical director and as one of the resident artists.
He says he didn't set out on this career path.
"I've always liked to draw, and I built skateboard ramps when I was a kid, and, I guess, did some scenic work for my high school drama department," said Hobart, who grew up in St. James, Missouri. "But at that time, it was just something to do, you know?"
Hobart studied at the Kansas City Art Institute for two years, dabbling in painting and printmaking, and then turned his focus to music. With the Misery Boys, he toured the country and released several albums.
But with a move to Buffalo, New York, for his wife, Paula, to pursue graduate studies in object conservation and the band not on tour, Hobart returned to making things with his hands.
"I decided that I would build, I would do a haunted house for this Halloween party," said Hobart. "So I was having fun doing that, you know, pulleys with fishing line, and wrote a backstory for it."
A fellow musician introduced him to a children's theater in Buffalo, where he helped build sets. And then, with another move to New Mexico, he painted and built sets for the Santa Fe Community Playhouse.
So, when the couple returned to Kansas City, Missouri, Hobart dropped off a resume at the Coterie. It turned out there was an opening.
"And that was 11 years ago. And here I am and I'm still learning," said Hobart. "But it's fun, it's been a fun ride."
In late May, Hobart began building the set for the re-mount of "Elephant and Piggie's 'We are in a Play!'" Author Mo Willems, who's written many children's books, adapted it as a musical from his award-winning series.
"It's a show about very simple life lessons, about, you know, sharing, or being a good friend," Hobart explained. "Elephant and Piggie, they're just best friends, and negotiating the ups and downs of friendship — with songs."
The Coterie's theater, often filled with colorful backdrops, was stripped down to a simple black box with some streaks of green on the floor. Stacks of lumber lined the walls as Hobart started making preliminary cuts.
"Our concept with the set is that it's sort of like a '70s variety show," he said, glancing down at the drawings from set designer Zoe Still. "The good thing about having to rebuild some of it is that I'm getting a second chance at it, which is nice."
But Hobart hasn't given up performing himself. He still fronts Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, as well as another country band, Rex Hobart and the Honky Tonk Standards, and the rock and roll band Giant's Chair, which is scheduled to release its third record in July.
"Whenever I'm in that world of playing music, or fronting a band, you are the center of attention," said Hobart. "But here (at the Coterie), I love not being that. You know, I love to be just kind of the ghost who comes in and makes stuff happen. And then I leave and then I come back and make some more."
His workplace also appeals to the youngest members of the Hobart family, sons Sam, 9, and Avery, 3.
"As a parent having a place like this for the whole family to come and laugh and cry or whatever, live, it's really special," he said. "I feel pretty lucky to be a part of it."
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.