David Turner, actor, musical comedy star, bon vivant, stepped out in front an audience last Monday afternoon to talk about his life in the theater. Accepting applause, he wondered aloud, "The show closed last night. I don’t know why you’re asking an unemployed person to come back."
For their welcoming laughter, he awarded them with his broad smile. There was a lot of laughter during the afternoon from the audience of mostly Ridgewood High School (RHS) New Players, and many smiles from the former New Player who has just finished a run on Broadway in the musical, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Turner told the students, "I’m 37. I was born in 1974." He spoke easily about being gay.
He told them, "Thursday night was one of the best evenings of my life!"
That night, 36 New Players, along with New Players advisor Meg Schaefer, were at the theater to see him in the show. One student volunteered, "For everyone here, we loved it!"
Saying he was thrilled to be back in the Little Theatre, Turner talked about his own experience, began a dialogue with them, answering questions, listening to what they were saying and offering advice when asked. ("When your voice is bad, you shouldn’t sing," he cautioned. His remedy: "Water," he said. "And sleeping." )
"Who did you best bond with in Clear?" he was asked. It was Harry (Connick Jr.), he replied.
"Did you ever wish you could do something else?" another wanted to know.
"I feel that way every morning," he grinned.
"When did you know you wanted to be an actor?" the inevitable query came. "I guess I always wanted to," Turner said. When I was at Ridge School …" he paused, asked if anyone went to Ridge and several hands shot up, along with happy shouts of "Yes!" He continued. "When I was there, Jerry DeFalco told me I had something."
Turner told them about college; choosing not a theatrical major but English. "College is time to find out what you want. It makes you extraordinarily equipped."
"I have a love of learning," he said. "Learn before you’re 20: Shakespeare, poetry — you’ll remember it. I still remember what I learned before 20."
Turner added, "I was applying to be a teacher when I was offered my first play." (Clear Day is his sixth.)
The students wanted to know about auditions. "Memorize the lines," he advised. "Learn what they mean. Look above the person, not at him; you can look down when the line calls for it.
"Choose comedy," he said, "nothing depressing. Make ‘em laugh."
"Scared? Yes, I was scared, and my response to fear is learning," Turner said. Asked about nervousness, he said, "I get nervous before; but not during or after. And when I do, I visit all the other actors, one at a time. I knock on their doors, talk to them."
He noted, "It’s a very social job."
At times leaning against the piano, at times illustrating a bit of stage work, and at all times completely relaxed and enjoying himself, Turner held his audience for 90 minutes.
He claimed that "variety in a performance is important; work in a lot of changes in a performance." Also, "You can feel your own feelings. Bring your own feelings to the part."
Turner acknowledged, "There’s heartbreak. You have to have it if you’re going to be good. To be in theater means you will have critics. It teaches you to ask, ‘What do I think?’" He admitted there are "ups and downs, but there are also great moments like we had Thursday night."
Noting his current status, a student asked, "How do you handle being unemployed?"
"I depend on my friends," was his answer. Being a stage manager is a very tough job, he said, one he doesn’t think he would be good at. "I’m good at directing. I know what is good and what is bad acting," he said.
Turner assured the students that "there’s no program like New Players,"
Although he had to rush off, he agreed to a group picture. Everyone rushed to the stage. One student sprinted to the back of the theater, turned on the stage lights and sprinted back. Suddenly, cameras appeared and there were three, four, five photos taken before someone yelled, "Pulse!" and kids were on their feet and onstage, forming a circle.
The New Players tradition took preference over Turner’s appointment and he joined them onstage. It was a star performance.