Theatre Chat with Chris Bucci
By Dan Tingley
I am very lucky to be able to able to sit down and meet many actors that I admire. This time is no different. I had the pleasure of meeting another great Erie talent. I have watched this month’s actor for years and witnessed his ease on stage and comedic timing. He is truly a great actor and good friend. This month I feature Chris Bucci.
First, give me any background information you want the readers to know.
“I was born and raised in Erie, PA, eventually living right on the edge of it in Harborcreek. In fact, I attended Harborcreek High School where it seemed most of my hobbies, interests and goofiness nicely formed. I then got my B.A. in Communications, Film and Television from Mercyhurst College and have been fortunate to spend over a decade doing what I love to do. I have worked for a couple of local production houses (Pro Video Productions and Z3 Concepts, Inc.) creating video, film, television, graphic design, scripts….almost anything really (although I tend to lean toward the “post-production / editing” side of things). I moved back from Manhattan a few Months ago and am now back at Z3 Concepts, Inc. which is great.”
When did you want to be an actor?
“When I was little my mom and I would attend movies quite often. “Film” really fascinated me. I would stare at actors on the big screen and say, “Hey…that guy who uttered those words will say those words forever…I wish I could have that experience.” From then on I began doing radio programs with my little cassette player, directing / acting in mini-movies, and more. They were all awful of course…today I would show them to no one. Ha ha. But, I truly believe those very early days lead to me wanting to pursue acting in some form.”
What was the first play you were in?
“Aside from numerous chorus and band concerts (I played saxophone for over a decade), my first actual STAGE production would be “Fiddler on the Roof” at Harborcreek High School (1993). I continued doing musicals in school eventually filtering into the Erie Playhouse a couple of years later in “The Music Man” (as Marcellus Washburn). My first actual PLAY was in 1999 at the Erie Playhouse (“The Odd Couple” as Murray: The Cop). “
Do you prefer comedy or drama?
“I tend to gravitate toward comedy. I learned in High School after telling jokes on the school bus (and getting some laughs) that…I kind of loved the “instant feedback.” Making someone laugh became one of my favorite things in the world. Plus, I grew up with The Three Stooges…so what can I say? When that feedback happens on a stage…the energy level you gain from it cannot be explained. It is electric! I have done some drama and also enjoy it but if I had to choose, I would pick comedy.”
Do you perform in musicals?
“I have done a good amount of musicals, yes. In fact, in my early years the ONLY theatrical experience I had was in musicals. “
What was your favorite play?
“Did you mean “favorite play to perform in? If so…that is a tough one because I have enjoyed so many over the years. I would say, in terms of my Erie experience, “Mel Brooks’ The Producers” was my most challenging and fulfilling role…it was a ton of fun. I have to say though that, in terms of scripts, The Odd Couple has always stood out as a favorite play. I love Neil Simon.”
What was your worst?
“I don’t have anything to really say on this one.”
Is there a character you would love to play that you haven’t?
“I think every actor has a “bucket list” of characters that they would love to play someday. You know? It stems from watching others work and saying to yourself, “Hey…I’d love to do that some day.” When I saw Nathan Lane on Broadway OWN the role of Max Bialystock in The Producers on Broadway…I instantly wanted to do that. I can’t honestly give you a specific one at the moment. But, yes. There are some.”
Was there a role you played that took you out of your comfort zone?
“Indeed. The first one I can remember was Nice Guy Eddie in the Roadhouse Theatre’s production of “Reservoir Dogs.” Scott McClelland saw something in me that others did not at the time and cast me totally against type. That character was ruthless, dirty, unpredictable and creepy. It forced me to dig-down-deep into myself and to find some dark places. When you can go “beyond yourself”…and pull it off well…things can be very satisfying.
Have you directed?
“Yes, I have directed many times in Erie and also in NYC. It’s a challenge to be, essentially, the ring-leader for a production.”
What type of memorization method do you use in preparing for a role?
“I like to get as much “rehearsal-time” in as possible before actually trying to memorize. When I finally begin to “memorize” the script, a lot of the dialogue seems to remain in the ole’ brain as a result of the rehearsal process. Of course, in some instances, there is no easy way. When I was in summer stock in NYC, you had to start memorizing before rehearsals began (or else you would run out of time). So…I set aside a specific number of pages-per-day and treat it like a job. Then it’s a line-at-a-time.”
Do you have limits to what you will not do on stage?
“Oh….I guess. So far I haven’t really been in a position where I needed to worry about any limits. But, as an actor, sometimes you just have to suck it up.”
Is there a play you would do again as another character?
“There are a few I can think of. But, the one that stands out the most (which was my first ACTUAL play in fact) is the role of Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple.” I have always been a fan of Neil Simon and that particular script is a favorite. Playing the role of Murray was a ton of fun (in the 1999 production at the Erie Playhouse). But, stepping into the Oscar role someday is definitely something I would love to do.”
Have you refused a great play because of the cast?
“No, I can’t say I have.”
Have you refused a part?
“A couple yes. I have had to turn down a role due to scheduling conflicts or a couple of minor issues. But overall, not really. I think by knowing your “type,” your strengths, what you sound like, what you look like, etc, you can “target” yourself for what is best. In fact, knowing yourself well is a HUGE benefit if you want to pursue this career professionally. Most of my success in NYC, I believe, was attributed to the fact that I was very aware of myself and could market accordingly.”
Is there other stage venues open to you like stand- up comedy?
“I did stand-up for about a year in the early 2,000s. In fact, Jr from Jrs Last Laugh asked me to open a number of times (after taking their workshop). It was a lot of fun and a really unique experience. In the end, I felt like it wasn’t really for me though so I never pursued it further. But…I have always dabbled in a little bit of everything to try and see what I enjoyed, what I was good at, what I didn’t like, etc. It has all been a lot of fun. “
What can you tell us about your move then return to Erie?
“I moved to Manhattan with little expectation other than just “doing it.” It was time and something I always wanted to do. I went there with a plan, researched up and ready to work hard. I wanted to take some classes, experience the city and see if anyone was crazy enough to cast me in the Big Apple. The nice thing is that I accomplished all of these goals within the first year and a half. I was always working in some capacity and I feel very blessed to have had those opportunities. In the end, it was all personally fulfilling and my move back to Erie was a happy one. It is an experience I will never forget…and who knows…perhaps we’re not done yet.”
Do you have an acting mentor?
“There would be too many to list. Growing up I spent a lot of time studying and “watching” others of whom I looked up to. Some were local people, some were from films, etc. etc. It would take me a while to list (I could if you want….)”
Do you prefer the hero or the villain? Why?
“I have not played the villain very often so…it’s hard for me to say. To have an audience like you and be on your side is always wonderful. But, to also be the guy everyone “hates” (and pull this off well) is very satisfying. I think I tend to play the “nice guy” so I often don’t get a chance to be a cold blooded villain. But, who knows what the future might bring. “
Do you have any hobbies?
“I love movies! Always have and always will! If there is something I want to see, I could literally hit the theater a couple of times a week. I still enjoy the theater-experience but I have also collected my favorites stemming way back in the early 90s (Laser Discs began this trend…ha ha…remember those?). I also collect, play and restore pinball machines, focusing mostly on games I grew up with. That collection has been on hold for many years (you can’t fit many large pinball machines in your one room Manhattan studio apartment, ha ha). I also love baseball, Transformers collecting, long walks on the beach, romantic dinners….wait, what am I writing this for again? “
Do you have anything upcoming you want to tell the readers?
“I will be appearing as Sir Robin in the upcoming Erie Playhouse production of “Spamalot.” I have always been a HUGE fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail so…some of the lines I get to say fill me with a weird giddy excitement (“Where did you get the coconuts?”). Also, the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is scheduled to open in movie theaters this Christmas. I had a small role in it and was actually directed by Ben Stiller (who also stars in the film). I might have ended up on the cutting room floor but at least I maybe just sold a couple of tickets. Woo!”
Do you like Maryann or Ginger from Gilligan’s Isle?
“I do have a slight thing for red-heads so…I think that speaks for itself.”
I’ll say this again. I love my job. I’m blessed with the opportunity to meet great theater people with loads of talent. Chris Bucci is no exception. Look for Chris on stage. Go to the theater, sit down and read your program. When you see the name Chris Bucci in the cast list, you know you will enjoy yourself. I enjoyed talking with Chris. He is a talent you don’t want to miss. Thank you Chris and many years of success in life and on stage.