BWW Interview: Bruce Turk Goes Behind Scenes at North Coast Rep
Known to North Coast Repertory Theatre audiences for appearing under the stage lights in such productions as Faded Glory and Freud's Last Session, actor/director Bruce Turk moves into director's territory in the U.S. premiere of NCRT's upcoming George Feydeau farce, Now You See It, opening Sat., Feb. 27. The Craig Noel Award winning thespian has starred in and directed productions on and off Broadway and at major regional theatres across the U.S.
EM: Bruce, just so you know, I've long been a fan of your acting work at NC Rep. I'm delighted at the prospect of seeing your directing as well!
BT: Thanks a lot. It's nice to know one's work is reaching appreciative people.
EM: What was your journey to the theatre world?
BT: I had an inspiring Drama teacher in high school who took in an odd assortment of social outcasts and brainiacs and consistently challenged us with high level material: Shakespeare, Wilde, Ionesco, the Greeks. We became a family bound by the love of art, literature, and performance. I've never left the family...
EM: How long have you been with NC Rep?
BT: Since I played John Barrymore for David, two years ago.
EM: Oh, I loved that performance! Do you feel that your background in doing leading roles at the Old Globe in San Diego helped prepare you for your work at NC Rep?
BT: My work at the Old Globe was predominantly Shakespeare. I believe that working on Shakespeare prepares you to do almost anything. It requires everything from the performer: physical, emotional, vocal. Perhaps most importantly it provides an incredibly rich, imaginative landscape to play in. So that extensive work on classical material has certainly fed the work I'm doing now at NCRT.
EM: How did you become involved as a director in this production of Now You See It?
BT: A couple of years ago I received a major grant from Theatre Communications Group to research and train in French Comedy. I had recently returned from France when David (Ellenstein) mentioned that he was looking to fill a slot in his season. I had several Feydeau pieces I was interested in doing and gave this script to him, saying that even if he didn't end up producing the show he would at least have a good evening of laughter reading the play. He called me immediately and said he'd like me to be in it, but I offered to direct and he liked the idea. David has been extremely supportive.EM: What are some of the special characteristics of the play?
BT: Feydeau is known for his door-slamming farces of mistaken identity and ribald humor. These situation comedies often have large casts and multiple locations--plays like "A Flea in Her Ear" and "Hotel Paradiso." But he wrote at least 40 plays and though they are predominantly comic, they're not all silly, light affairs.
"Now You See It" belongs to a small group of his works known as the "divorce plays" because they deal with the dissolution of a marriage. It's extremely funny, but it's more of a chamber piece in that it has a small cast and we spend more time getting to know the characters on an intimate level--as we might do in an Ibsen play. But of course Feydeau provides a much different point of view than Ibsen. I can't remember falling out of my chair laughing during an Ibsen play...
EM: Does the fact that this is a U.S. premiere add an element of extra excitement to this run of the play?
BT: O yes! When I first found the play, I felt I'd uncovered a hidden piece of gold. I was surprised that there hadn't been a production over here and I'm sure this play will start to spread around the country.
EM: Are you equally enamored of acting and directing, i.e. working on the stage and behind the scenes?
BT: I am. Both require a huge leap into the imagination and both require a variety of technical skills. You could say that each requires a balance or harmony between the critical/analytical side of the brain and the intuitive/creative side, but in different measure. The fun for me involves the cooperation or "friendship" between these different facets of my self.
EM: What are some of your favorite acting roles and types of plays to direct?
BT: Some of the Shakespearean roles I've played over the last 15 years reveal a gradual shift from Spirits to Villain/Kings to Clowns: Ariel, Oberon, Angelo, Leontes, Claudius, Ford, Parolles, Aguecheek, Grumio, Fool, Trinculo, Malvolio. The natural arc of this casting suggested the theme for my work on the TCG grant and I've started to focus more on comedy. Right now, I'm excited by the specific challenges of performing and directing classical comedy such as Moliere, Marivaux, and Feydeau. But then again, I'm always enamored with the work that is in front of me at any given moment.
Photo credit: Daniel Reichert, Aaron Rumley