Getting Along With Darrow

David Ferrie pt. 3

Dec. 31, 1969
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Local actor David Ferrie has a very smart stage presence. In Boulevard Theatre’s Clarence Darrow. I talked with him at the Boulevard Theatre a few weeks ago prior to a rehearsal.

In the final part of the interview, Ferrie and I discuss the nature of playing a character over decades of his lifespan and more . . .
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 Rintels’

Me: You’re playing this character over a huge span of his life. Is there not a tendency to want to over-exaggerate?

David Ferrie:
There is. Mark [Bucher] directed that out of me. Although any actor wants to put a little bit in. My first duty is to portray the fire in the belly. If I can . . . again, it’s the imitation thing. If I imitate a little bit too much, then it distracts from what the essence of the play is trying to tell you. If I happen to look a bit older later on. If I happen to . . . if my speech slows or my voice sounds a little more . . . that’ll be great. But it’s not the primary focus of what I’m doing.

Me: So it sounds like you’re starting out aggressive and ending hopeful. Or is that oversimplifying?

David Ferrie: It IS oversimplifying. I think he is hopeful all the way through.

Me: Okay.

David Ferrie: THERE’S the dichotomy. Is that a man who has . . . he’s not cynical, but he does not swallow what other people . . . other people’s theories.

Me: Skeptical.

David Ferrie:
Skeptic. He’s a skeptic. He doubts. He’s skeptical . . . on the other end of this spectrum . . .there really is a practicality . . . is this vision of humanity that is much higher than anything that we’ve . . . been able to achieve. And where does THAT come from? Because here has not been any evidence . . . to show that society is capable. And by the time he dies, there was still segregation in the south . . . ALL of that stuff. There was no reason to believe from a skeptic’s point of view that we are capable of this . . .and yet we HAVE improved. And he was right. I don’t know where.

It’s interesting, because I think there are historians who could go into intimate detail about his life. It’s one thing to be familiar with this historical character on that level, but . . .you’re going to have to eventually present yourself onstage as him. You have a completely different relationship with this guy.

David Ferrie:
This is theatre. This is not a book. I’m not . . . giv[ing] a book report. This is theatre. This is an experience.

So the question is: how are you getting along with the character?

David Ferrie: Uhm . . . I’m getting along with him pretty well. I am . . . I’m getting along with him good. I’m in this part of the rehearsal process, I have not found that part of me that is most comfortable with him.


David Ferrie:
If you think of it as a dance, he’s not . . .I’m not following . . . my toes are getting stepped on every once in a while because I’m not solid yet with . . . how . . . how comfortable he was with himself.

So it’s a professional relationship with this guy right now. You haven’t gone out for a beer with him yet.

David Ferrie:
Yes. Very good. It’s a professional relationship. There are moments in this rehearsal where . . .I’m there. Where he has passion . . .that’s easy for me. His closing arguments? I think every single one of them I’m there . . . I’m clicking. Some of the jocular banter and stuff . . . yeah, I’ve gotta relax into that. I’ve gotta go out for a beer with him. Exactly. But it’s coming along.

And it’s been a couple of weeks since the interview. There’s little doubt that Ferrie ha nailed-down the vague personal moments of the character as the show formally opens at the Boulevard tonight.

Boulevard Theatre’s Clarence Darrow runs through November 1st.


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