BWW Interview: DIRECTOR TODD FULLER and THE BOYS UPSTAIRS
Todd Fuller is Directing "The Boys Upstairs".
What does that mean?
It means ... Do not miss this show it will be very good!
It is really just that simple.
Let's talk to Todd Fuller:
MCL:You've acted and directed over several years.
How did acting start for you?
Please talk about some of your more memorable shows.
TF: Honestly, after a rough divorce, and the prospect of not seeing my children on a daily basis, I was in pretty rough shape, mentally. I saw and answered an ad for a Christian theater group's production of "It's a Wonderful Life" simply to have something to do (Little did they know what they were unleashing on the world). Immediately the bug that is theater bit me. I had a home and purpose once again. . This community of ours is unlike any I've ever experienced. We are truly a family in every sense of the word. It has saved my life countless times.
As far as memorable roles, I don't know. They're all special. They're all your children. However for a while there I was getting cast for parts way older than my age. (I think directors and casting agents are trying to tell me I'm no spring chicken). I played Richard Lambert's guardian lawyer in "Harvey", I once played Mary Kate O'Connell's husband once, Hell, I was even God in a musical one time - you can't get much older than that. Perhaps it's time to consider Botox.
Seriously, though, the role I keep going back to in the old (there it is again!) memory bank was The Mysterious Man in "Into the Woods". It was one of my first roles and I played father to the immensely talented David Bondrow. I had to sing "No More" to him, a song about leaving your child behind. Every night as I would come off stage, I would fall into my friend's arms (She played Granny - also cast beyond her years) weeping. I saved thousands of dollars in therapy thanks to that show and to Stephen Sondheim.
MCL:Now to directing. How did that start for you? was it acting then directing?
TF: Yes, absolutely. I have had no formal training in directing. However, as an actor, stage manager and patron I feel as if I've had the best education in the country. I've sat like Plato at the Socratic Saul Elkin's feet and just listened as he would freely share his vast expanse of knowledge. As I said in my last answer I've worked with O'Connell and Lambert, both Buffalo icons and I learned to create a great team and trust the collaborative process. I've had the distinct pleasure of working for the beautiful Javier Bustillos at BUA 4 times now. He is a tough teacher because he doesn't just give you answers; he makes you figure things out for yourself. But each time I've finished working for him, I know I'm a better theater professional because of it. And when you get Javier, as an added bonus you occasionally get to hang with the incomparable Anthony Chase. There is no better library of theatrical knowledge and lore, quite possibly, in the world- certainly not in The Queen City.
MCL:What do you look for in a script?
TF: Meaty, challenging roles allowing me to work with friends and respected collaborators. For instance when Richard Lambert sent me the script for my last show "The Seat Next to the King", I knew two things. One, that I HAD to direct it. And Two, that Bobby Cooke had to play the main character, Water Jenkins. It was a role unlike any I'd ever seen him in and I just knew he could nail it. He exceeded all expectations and I'd not be surprised at all if he picked up some hardware next June because of it.
MCL: I've seen you on stage and you have an excellent sense for improvisation. Where does that come from?
TF: Thank you for the compliment I think it all stems from being crazy. The myriad voices competing for attention in my brain are always offering different takes on any given situation. Well that and also my year with Buffalo Comedy Sportz. There I met John Kehoe the lightning fast comedic genius, and ANOTHER great teacher that I'm lucky enough to call my friend. The whole experience with CSZ taught me to listen and accept whatever my fellow scene partner threw at me. That's a very valuable skill. People need to listen to each other more these days and not be so quick to dismiss things because they're not in their comfort zone or part of their particular world view.
MCL: Next up is a Director gig at BUA. Let's start with what is BUA?
TF:That's the noise I used to make when I wanted to scare my son. BUA!!!!! But seriously, Buffalo United Artists is now in its 26th season of producing LGBTQ themed plays. They've moved all over the city, finding spots to perform since long before it was normal to do so. Javier has been telling queer stories longer than anyone in town and the list of people who owe him a debt of gratitude is incredibly long.
MCL: How important is a BUA to a theater community?
TF: It is invaluable. I remember seeing his advertising in the Buffalo News long before I was willing or able to come out as a gay man. His work has helped so many in our community find a voice and for that I am eternally thankful. Plus, he seems to enjoy putting sexy boys with very little clothing on stage. Who's going to argue with THAT??
MCL: What's the production you're doing at BUA? What the show about? Did you cast already? When is it on stage?
TF: Next up for BUA is Jason Mitchell's "The Boys Upstairs". It's about three collegiate friends, now in their mid 20's struggling to survive in Hell's Kitchen. Part "Friends" part "Sex and the City" it's a fun romantic comedy where the plot is driven by the is he/isn't he gay drama created by the hot new neighbor below them. It opens on November 1st and yes it has been cast (brilliantly, in my opinion) already. As the roommates I have Jeremy Catania, fresh off of a star turn in "Tick, Tick... Boom". I also have Dan Torres, now in Chris Kelly's acclaimed "West Side Story at Musicalfare. He's a staple at Theater of Youth and I'm excited to finally work with him. And playing the third roommate is Jonathan Beckner. I met Jonathan last year when he auditioned for "Afterglow" at BUA. He had recently moved from LA, and I am quite proud to have been the first to put this incredibly genuine talent on a Buffalo stage. Rounding out the cast we have, as the neighbor below, the ridiculously sexy Zach Bellus and playing 6 different characters, we have the far from average (yes, I'm pointing a finger directly at you theater critic who knows who you are) Ricky Needham. One of the 6 is guaranteed to keep crowds talking for a while. He is going to be hilarious!!
ML;Did you choose this play or was it offered to you to direct?
TF:This is the first one that I found and brought to a producer. I saw a production last Winter in Ft. Lauderdale and loved it. It's a play that I immediately recognized as perfect for BUA. Hopefully, a successful run will give me some gravitas so that other producers will let me bring works to them to collaborate on. (There's another, well-intentioned, respectful finger point at you, Mr. or Ms. Producer who knows I'm talking about you.)
MCL: What do you like about the play?
TF:First of all it's funny. My last two shows have been about the big, heavy issues. This one is more of a fun romantic comedy. It's also very smart, and timely. Jason has updated it for a 2019 audience (there just MIGHT be a stab or two at our current Cheeto in office). And lastly, it advances the LGBTQ agenda by exactly NOT being about the big issues. It's just a sweet funny show. The characters are gay, but they could easily not be. The mainstreaming of such gay characters are what makes it important. It's no big deal that they are. We've come a long way.
MCL: Time to promote ... what else is coming up for you in 2019/2020?
TF: Oh my goodness, so much. I've got the producing/directing bug so bad that I'm always seeking new projects. I Winter in Florida and I'm hoping to collaborate with David Gordon at Empire Stage in Ft. Lauderdale while I'm down there. I also have a Summer project with Aimee Levesque and her incredible crew at Inclusive Theater that I'm VERY excited about.
But immediately next is a project quite near and dear to my heart. I'm helping to produce a new monthly literary salon called Naked Boys Reading - Buffalo. It's a show that debuted in London, England and has been running for 7 years there. I met Rick Telfer, the producer of the Ottawa, Canada iteration, when I was at the Polo Grounds in Wellington, FL. He helped me apply for and get approval for the US premiere, quite a coup for Buffalo. It's just what it sounds like, a series of readings based around a central theme all presented by boys without clothing. We run on the third Sunday of every month and are performing on the rarely (if ever) used for a production, second floor space at the gorgeous New Phoenix Theatre on Johnson Park. I'm curating the readings for this show but we will have a revolving group of curators and cast of readers. In fact, we'd love to have you, Mark, as curator, writer or reader some month. What do you think??
FOR MORE ABOUT TODD FULLER: