Wednesday, June 1, 2011

INTERVIEW: David Furr from The Importance of Being Earnest

1.      While you have had a widely successful career on the stage, you have also starred in several projects on the large and small screen, including three major daytime soaps.  Were you upset to hear about the cancelation of these shows – including the recent announcement of All My Children?

Well of course I never like to hear that ANYBODY is losing their jobs.  Especially these days.  I feel for the actors and crew that had been with these show for years, and think about the loss of such wonderful sources of jobs for other jobbed-in New York actors. It’s sad anytime long running institutions come to an end like that.  I’m not a soap watcher myself, so I don’t have that particular kind of connection to the shows, but it’s certainly sad, nonetheless.

2.      On a more positive note, you have had an extremely successful career on the New York stage – having the chance to work with greats such as David Hyde Pierce, Bill Irwin, Kathleen Turner, and Christopher Plummer.  What is like getting to work with all of these big names?  Have any of them ever taught you a valuable life lesson?

It’s been wonderful working with those names you mentioned.  I was able to work a bit more directly with Kathleen Turner, Bill Irwin and David Hyde Pierce than with Christopher Plummer, and I found them all to be incredibly generous people.  I think I was lucky that way.  Plus, being on stage with them is like playing a sport with someone better.  You raise your game, and it makes you better.   And Bill Irwin gave me a nice ukulele.  To me, that’s a treasure.

3.      You are currently starring in the Broadway smash The Importance of Being Earnest.  What has this experience been like – especially now with a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play?

EARNEST has been a wonderful experience.  It’s just such a wonderful play, and one that gives back in energy.  When we have nice responsive audiences, there is nothing like it.  It can be like a comic rock concert.  Plus I’ve enjoyed the people so much.  Meeting Sara Topham (original cast) and Jesse Austrian (current cast), working yet AGAIN with Charlotte Parry, Brian Murray, Paul O’Brien and Dana Ivey.  Meeting and watching Paxton Whitehead, Brian Bedford, Tim MacDonald, Amanda Leigh Cobb and Jayne Houdyshell.  And of course getting to play Jack and Algy with Santino has been a real treat.

4.      You play the title character Earnest (or Jack).  What did you do to prepare for such an iconic role?

Well, first, you try to not think of it as an iconic role.  I come from a Shakespearean background, which among other things teaches you that you have to try to let go of that aspect of a role.  If you worry too much about the performance tradition of, say, “To be or not to be”, then you’re doomed from the outset.

But I started with reading the play A LOT, seeing how all these moments struck me.  I looked at photos of the period, and of folks like Buster Keaton, who it struck me was going to be a relevant influence.  And really, I just tried to allow my own sensibilities and influences to express themselves.  That’s what we each have to bring to a role that nobody else has.  I thought a lot about Buster Keaton (expressive, but contained and deadpan), Jack Tripper (from Three’s Company; desperately trying to manage whatever web of lies he’d created), John Cleese (in terms of extreme comic passion) and other elements. 

And then, of course, there’s the language that you learn EVERYTHING from; and which gives you almost everything you need.  Such wonderful Wildean language.

5.      What was it like to work with legend Brian Bedford – both as a fellow cast member and as a director?

I often laugh about how strange it was to do the Lady Bracknell scenes, when Lady Bracknell is also your director.  Jack gets such immense disapproval from her, and at times in rehearsal, it was hard not to wonder if that disapproval was coming from the character or the director.

But Brian demands a lot in terms of lifting and using the language, and it was great to have that be such a vital element of the production.  I’d read about many productions where the language wasn’t given it’s due.

6.      Recently The Importance of Being Earnest was filmed in HD to be shown in movie theatres.  What was this experience like?  What were some of the differences during the filmed performances?

The filming was an interesting experience.  They weren't going to edit anything together, but rather just use one of the three filmed show in it's entirety.  That's a lot of pressure.  But the shows went wonderfully that weekend, and I understand the film turned out just fantastic.  I'm not sure if I'll watch it anytime soon, but I know my mom is excited :)

7.      You also recently shot a series of video blogs for that feature Jersey Shore lines presented in Oscar Wilde fashion?  How did the idea for these videos come about?

The idea for JERSEY SHORE GONE WILDE came about because Santino and our wardrobe assistant Lauren are huge Jersey Shore fans and would talk about it in our dressing room quite often.  Santino made the connection between the idle, entitled, trivial lifestyle of the Jersey Shore folks, and the idle, entitled, trivial lifestyle of our characters.  From there it was a very short leap to trying out a few choice quotes in character, which amused us to no end.  Our marketing people loved the idea and we shot the videos for PLAYBILL.COM to do a little promotion.  We were as surprised as anyone that they went viral they way they did.  But I think the parallel between the two worlds really works, and I think people recognize that, if not conciously, then unconciously.

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