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Proctorville native back as part of Tri-State arts scene

PROCTORVILLE — Jill Houck was a youngster staring up at the wonder of The Nutcracker ballet on stage when she first discovered the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Ky.

The lush music of Tchaikovsky directing the steps of the beautiful women in their swirling tulle costumes and the handsome Prince Charming is a visual image that has stayed with Houck all these years.

Now Houck is back at the arts center, but this time as more than a visitor. She is now an integral part of what makes the PAC able to be a center for the performing arts in the Tri-State. In November the Rome Township native joined the PAC as box office manager.

“I love it and meeting all the different people,” Houck said. “And the shows are amazing and seeing what good we do with the community. The things we do for the students when they can come in and watch a show.”

Houck grew up in a longtime Proctorville area family of teachers. Her father, David Houck, retired as the assistant principal at Chesapeake High School, while her mother, Peggy Houck, taught at Chesapeake before retiring as youth coordinator from the Briggs Library at Proctorville.

Her brother, Nathan Speed, is now eighth grade basketball coach and gym teacher at Fairland.

“They were all teachers, but somehow I didn’t get that bug,” she said.

After graduating from Fairland High in 1999, Houck went to Ohio State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in human ecology, specializing in product development.

“It is about how things relate to people in their everyday lives, like how apparel is esthetically pleasing to different groups.” she said.

She stayed in Columbus and worked for 10 years in marketing and leasing for two different companies selling townhouses in community neighborhoods in Westerville.

“The company I worked for was sold and I decided to move back to my family and my two little nieces so I can watch them grow up,” she said.

Her nieces are Addi Speed, 7, and Marli Speed, 2.

Now she commutes daily from Proctorville to Ashland, a drive she doesn’t mind, especially when her working environment is the 1930s movie palace known for its plush design.

“It is just beautiful,” Houck said about the PAC. “When I got to take a tour, it is just huge. It is a little bit of commute, but it is worth it.”

As box office manager Houck handles all the seating for each show and works with the promoters if they need anything.

She coordinates selling tickets on Ticketmaster as well as the special promotion sales the center offers.

“We are trying to promote the arts and really get it out there,” she said. “We have the Star Program, where we try to give tickets to those who can’t go all the time to the shows.”

As to what have been her favorite shows, Houck diplomatically prefers to look forward to what is coming up next.

“We have the Grand Cirque coming. I saw them at Myrtle Beach and they are outstanding. They make it look so easy,” she said.

And when her duties at the box office on a performance night are over, what does Houck do?

“Hang around and watch the show.”