Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.
NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J.T. Turner shone brightly as the delightful rogue, Alfred P. Doolittle, in an enchanting and exhilarating production of My Fair Lady at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston. J.T. succeeded in winning our hearts in his charismatic performance, especially in "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To The Church On Time." It was J.T.'s ability to listen and react, especially with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (played by 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Nominee Jennifer Ellis), that made his Alfred just that much more lovable.
In his Interview, J.T. tells about his many skills, including as a circus ringmaster; explains about the joy of working with Director Scott Edmiston; and lists some of his favorite movies (we're with you there, J.T., and we see that you learned from some of the best!).
It is a sincere pleasure to be able to interview and speak with you. J.T., tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I am a stage actor, of course, but also work in film, teach acting, do stage combat choreography, work as a circus ringmaster and clown, and run a small non-profit theater company. A lot of my work is in the voice-over field for corporate clients and audio books. I do a lot of work with kids and teens, and use theater and the circus to teach life lessons and social skills. I am a Dr. Who fan, and I am originally from New Jersey, like most of New England!
Tell us about your character in My Fair Lady. Who is Alfred P. Doolittle? Why do you think that his story and character connected with audiences?
Alfred is the loveable rogue, with a surprisingly strong sense of clear morality. His moral view is that he has no morals, and he is proud and happy about it. One of the great pieces of direction Scott [Edmiston, the director] gave me was to think of [Alfred] as a street preacher, spreading the word about how to get away with as much as possible with as little effort as possible. I happen to be an ordained minister, so it was fun to play a character who preaches immorality as a life choice! What makes Alfred great is he knows who he is and makes no pretense about it.
Talk to us about Scott Edmiston as a director for this project. How much latitude did he give you to develop your character? How were rehearsals structured? How did this shape the product?
I am glad you asked me this [question] because Scott is one of the greatest directors whom I have ever worked. His care and concern for the work and the process is thrilling for an actor, and he notices everything. He asks great questions of his cast, and truly listens to the answers. He allows as much latitude for the performer as he can, while making sure his clear vision of the whole story is honored. He is terrific to work for, ridiculously generous with his time and guidance, and puts a cast at ease with his clear grasp of the piece and where he wants to take the performance.
What is one of the most demanding roles that you have played onstage? Why was it so demanding? How did you prepare?
Playing Alfred was an absolute joy, but tons of hard work. I am not a trained dancer, and this role required a fair amount of movement. Thank heavens we had David Connelly as our choreographer. He challenged me to dance more than was in my comfort zone, while supporting me and playing to the skills I had. He was also a great collaborator; I used Charlie Chaplin as a physical template for Alfred, and he helped me incorporate that into the movement.
Do you have a favorite play? Novel? Movie? Why are these some of your favorites?
I love Shakespeare, so any chance I have had to perform in his works has been a treat, especially as King Lear (in King Lear) and Oberon (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). I just adore his language and structure.
Playing Ben Franklin in 1776 is another favorite of mine; he has always been a fascinating character to me.
I am a movie addict, and I love so many [movies] that it is hard to pick one. Citizen Kane, Waiting for Guffman, Midnight In Paris, Shakespeare in Love, and The Great Dictator are all ones that I watch regularly. Also anything with Buster Keaton in it, his deadpan delivery and physical work is tremendous.
Do you have a lyric or bit of dialogue from My Fair Lady that speaks to you as a person?
Well, for many weeks my mantra became “With a Little Bit of Luck!” It is nice to focus on the thought that, with just a bit of luck, or energy or divine intervention or grace, there are great things waiting for you.
Is there anyone in the Greater Boston theatre community with whom you would like to work? Do you have a specific project in mind?
I told Scott Edmiston that he can call me anytime, for any project!
There are several theaters that I have yet to work at in Boston: The Huntington Theatre, Fiddlehead Theatre Company, and Moonbox Productions, for example, and I would love to experience working at different venues.
That said, working with Spiro Veloudos and The Lyric Stage Company of Boston always feels like home to me.
What do you think makes a strong or noteworthy supporting actor?
It is always about the work for me. Working hard and honestly on your craft and sharing that with others makes this a lifelong joy. I also strive to simply be a kind and generous person, with good work ethics. I think people see and know that, or I hope they do.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have a one-man show about Robert Frost that I will be performing this year, hopefully at several venues.
Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?
Just a thank you to both ArtsImpulse and the Boston theater community for noticing my work, and for supporting live local theater. It matters!