A Few Words With David Ferrie
Local actor David Ferrie has a very smart stage presence. In Boulevard Theatreâ€™s production of the two-person drama Roses In December last year, his performance as an author who reluctantly exchanges letters with a young woman sparkled with intelligence. This week he takes the same stage in a ONE-person drama as he stars as the title character in David Rintelsâ€™ Clarence Darrow. I talked with him at the Boulevard Theatre a few weeks ago prior to a rehearsal.
Me:Â So youâ€™re playing arguably the single most famous lawyer in history short of Lincoln. Heâ€™s a character who has been played by some really, really famous actors. But no pressure, right?
David Ferrie: Nonono. No pressure.
David Ferrie: Not until now.
Me: The entire production is riding on you. Youâ€™re the one actor.
David Ferrie: Thatâ€™s the joke is that Iâ€™m still trying to find someone to blame if things donâ€™t go well.
David Ferrie: But yeah, I know. But you have to approach a characterâ€”you have to approach the essence of the character and what part of youâ€”yourself relates. What you have in common. You have to have empathy for the character. Darrow is . . . a bit of a kindred spirit. Heâ€™s got a lot of interests and a lot of . . . his upbringing. His ability to question authorityâ€”to get his own answers. Iâ€™ve got a lot in common with him. And so if others have played Clarence Darrow before . . . of greater statureâ€”it kind of falls into that questioning of authority thing . . .
Me: Were you approached about doing this?
David Ferrie: I was.
Me: And what was your first reaction?
David Ferrie: No.
David Ferrie: No . . . it wasnâ€™t. "No." I was flattered, of course. My goodness. How flattering that is for someone to say, â€śyeah, you could do a one-man show.â€ť
Me: And what had been your familiarity with Darrow prior to that?
David Ferrie: The Scopes Trial . . .Inherit The Wind. . . By name . . . His being a very famous guy. I think there was something on the Leopold an Loeb trial that I had read something about. But not a lot. When I first read the play, I didnâ€™t think it was a good match for me.Â
David Ferrie: Yeah. But Iâ€™m like that. I didnâ€™t think it was a very good match for me and I wasn't real impressed with the script. But then I read it again a second time. As we got closer to this season, I read it again . . . and I thought . . . this is pretty good. This is a pretty well-written play. Now that Iâ€™ve been looking at it and reading it even more, Iâ€™ve grown to appreciate it. So maybe Iâ€™m a bit of a slow learner in that way. Mark [Bucher. Artistic Director of the Boulevard Theatre] is a very fast learner with this sort of stuff. He can look at a script and REALLY has it . . . and maybe Iâ€™m a bit more of a slow learner. Iâ€™ve got to churn it a bit more. It an excellent . . . a VERY well-written script. Itâ€™s orchestrated well.Â You know what Iâ€™m saying?
Me: The composition.
David Ferrie: The crescendos and whatnot. A very well orchestrated script. And although theyâ€™re edited versions, it is Clarence Darrowâ€™s speeches. Itâ€™s amazing. This guy was one of the finest orators Iâ€™ve . . . read. The nuance. Mark and I had talkedâ€”of course there is a bit of the actor in a good lawyer.
David Ferrie: Itâ€™s kind of been my conceit to think that lawyers could learn a lot from actors. And that itâ€™s not just a matter of presenting the evidence. It is also a matter of persuading and allowing the jury to feel the story. Because thatâ€™s all lawyers are actually doing. Each side is telling their story. Thatâ€™s it. Theyâ€™re doing it from examination and cross-examination. But they forget that as part of that story being told, the jury has to feel the story. With Darrowâ€”that wasnâ€™t lost to him. He was almost a dramatist. He was almost a playwright. And Mark [Bucher] thinks that he memorized his speechesâ€”his closing arguments. If he didnâ€™t memorize them, he REALLY rehearsed. Because this is good stuff. This is not extemporaneous. The language in it is WAY too good to be extemporaneous. And the logic of itâ€”the orchestration is way too good.
TOMORROW: Ferrie, Darrow and creating a character onstage.
Boulevard Theatreâ€™s Clarence Darrow runs September 29th through November 1st.