The Comedic Thread: First Questions

by Bruce Turk

in Fox Fellowships

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(Editor’s note: The following posts are adapted from the Hartford Stage blog series by Bruce Turk about his experiences as a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellow.)

There’s nothing funnier than unhappiness. -Samuel Beckett-

Once the flush has passed, along with tears of gratitude, I remind myself that I must do something worthwhile with the trust and  funding which has been bestowed upon me by TCG and the Fox Foundation. I have a responsibility not only to these supporters but to myself because I don’t want to squander an opportunity to advance myself and my craft. For this proposal the goal must  be to perform. There are many ways to go around the problem of standing up and executing something, speaking a text, embodying a character…acting. I could spend a lot of time running around the edge of the stage, planning, researching, preparing, and training; but eventually I must perform.

By immersing myself in the architecture, the language, the people and the philosophy of Moliere’s country, my imagination will stretch and the world in which I walk as an actor will be filled with greater detail and understanding. I will enter Moliere’s world and move about in it with greater confidence and a free sense of wonder. Eventually, I will thrust myself across the footlights and put myself into the action there. I must be physically prepared for this. Vocal stamina is required. How can I develop and maintain a voice which can reliably withstand the rigors of performing these long, demanding roles?

Watching the works performed in their own language will yield valuable information about the sensibility and sensuality of the text. Observing how the actors communicate with the audience will tell me a lot about the comedic possibilities in these performances. How much is achieved through the text itself and how much by the delivery of that text? How does the physical work of the actor compliment or detract? Do they use the body in a particular way that helps to communicate the words, the character, the story? Is there any codified movement or actions? Is the style inherent in the text or are we to rely upon the director’s vision and their emphasis of certain elements of the text? Is an understanding or familiarity with the text a prerequisite to enjoying it?

Which brings me to the question: What is funny? What is universal about comedy? Can the humor of one culture transport to another? The Beckett quote above doesn’t use the word “suffering,” which suggests a sense of empathy with others. Unhappiness involves the self only, and speaks not to a greater, deeper sense of un-wellness in the spirit of man. It speaks of a dissatisfaction with the minor inconveniences of life: nagging worries, betrayals, indiscretions, infidelities, constant feelings of injustice. Enter Moliere. Enter Georges Feydeau.


Turk-Bruce-e1372970051323-798x1024Bruce Turk has performed On and Off Broadway, internationally, and at major regional theatres across the country. He has been a resident member of Tadashi Suzuki’s Acting Company in Mito, Tokyo, and Togamura Japan. He has worked extensively with Julie Taymor, appearing in her productions of Titus Andronicus, Juan Darien at Lincoln Center, and playing the title role in The Green Bird. Other New York credits include King John, and Pericles at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His regional credits include seasons and productions at Hartford Stage, the Goodman Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Seattle Repertory, the Denver Center, Cincinnati Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, the Shakespeare Theatres in D.C. and New Jersey, Shakespeare Santa Cruz and many more. San Diego audiences have seen his work in six seasons of the Shakespeare Repertory at the Old Globe Theatre, where he received the San Diego Critics’ Craig Noel Award for Excellence in Theatre.  He has conducted workshops and given Master Classes at Columbia University, UC Santa Cruz, University of Michigan, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, The Old Globe Theatre, and Cal State Long Beach, where he has also directed. Bruce received the 2012 Fox Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

The William & Eva Fox Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation, is committed to the artistic development of theatre actors as a strategy to strengthen live theatre. Through its prestigious Fox Fellowships the Foundation has provided more than $3 million to underwrite periods of intensive study, research and training by actors recognized as having a serious commitment to the theatre. In 2004 the Foundation awarded fellowships totaling $150,000 to ten distinguished actors. The Foundation is the largest grantmaker solely dedicated to the artistic and professional development of theatre actors, and one of very few that provides direct support to individual actors.