Anthony Perullo never quite felt at home in the academic world, but that doesn’t mean he was ever unwilling to learn.
Now 44, the Long Island native is a few years into a brand new profession: acting. While he was a regular on Dennis Leary’s firefighter show “Rescue Me” on the FX network, he is in the Berkshires this summer furthering his education by participating in Shakespeare & Company’s Performance Intern Company.
“This is giving me everything I hoped it would give me,” he said of his Shakespeare & Company experience, which will include a starring role in the troupe’s production of “EveryActor,” beginning tonight at the Rose Footprint Theatre in Lenox, Mass., and continuing through Sept. 4.
“Working with the stage actors and directors has been great. It has been much more difficult than I anticipated, and that’s why I’m very grateful for the support I have here.”
WHERE: Rose Footprint Theatre/Bankside, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Mass.
WHEN: Opens 5:30 today and runs through Sept. 4; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 413-637-3353, www.Shakespeare.org
Perullo, who had no acting experience, was at a friend’s party almost five years ago when Leary walked in and began sizing him up.
“I was talking about something and he had been listening,” remembered Perullo. “So, he tapped me on the shoulder and said something like, ‘I like what you were doing, and I want you to do it on my show.’ Well, of course I said yes.”
Leary wrote Perullo’s character, Derek, into one scene during season four (2008), then brought back Derek for the entire 2009 season.
“When he turned it into a regular part for the full season, I’m like, ‘I gotta learn something new. I gotta learn to act,’” said Perullo. “So I decided to pursue acting, and I’ve been at it like it was a science for about four and a half years now.”
When Leary approached him, Perullo was working at a local restaurant/tavern as a bartender’s assistant.
“I was a barback; I wasn’t even qualified to tend bar,” he said, taking a good-natured jab at himself. “Now I’m trying to reinvent myself, again.”
He had been skipping from one profession to another, one game plan to another, for quite some time. He quit high school, then earned his GED and “bounced around Nassau Community College for six or seven years.” He did end up with a degree in biochemistry from SUNY Stony Brook, then headed to medical school in the Caribbean. After a few months, however, he quit.
“To me, medical school was like trying to memorize a Sears catalog,” he said. “I got bored, and I never took standardized tests very well. My education was kind of broken, but that didn’t mean I don’t have the facility to learn.”
He came back to the North Fork of Long Island and began making goat cheese on a dairy farm. He was successful enough that he had his own brand, “Captain Kid Dairy,” but that also didn’t last.
“I’ve pushed myself as hard as I could in several different directions, and what I found out is that I am pretty limited,” he said, again displaying his self-deprecating humor. “But I’m also very artistic and creative. The dairy farm worked. Nobody made cheese like I did. I got a write-up in the New York Times. I had a beautiful wife. I was living the American dream. But then . . .”
Filling the void
Perullo and his wife divorced, and it was time again to move on to other things. Acting, with a big assist from Leary, filled the void. But other than his gig on “Rescue Me,” Perullo’s acting resume is a bit thin, and that’s why he put himself through an audition process to earn one of 10 spots in the Shakespeare & Company program.
“We had about 125 people audition for the program, we took 10, and that’s why this is a great opportunity for Anthony,” said Dennis Krausnick, a founding member of Shakespeare & Company and director of the summer intern program. “He’s done some TV and film, but he had never been on stage before. Many of the interns are college students earning their BFA, or actors who have already trained with us. It’s a great experience and that’s why he’s here. He’s learning.”
Bill Barclay, who has directed numerous productions in nine seasons at Shakespeare & Company, is directing “EveryActor,” a play he is creating with the help of the 10 interns.
“Everyone’s writing, making their own costumes, and we’re even teaching them how to play instruments,” said Barclay. “People are staying up late working on our script, and I’m the one who basically takes it and tries to give it one voice. So, Anthony is learning many different aspects of the theater, and that’s important because he is something of a novice. He’s not one of these guys with 20 years of stage experience behind him.”
Perullo does, however, have a lot going for him, according to Barclay.
“He’s a wonderful guy and a great actor with incredible instincts,” said Barclay. “He’s a very naturalistic kind of guy and actor, and he’s the kind of guy with a lot of personal integrity that shows up in his acting. He’s a real joy to work with.”
“EveryActor” is an original production complete with sword fights, puppetry, clowning, music, dance and just about anything else Shakespeare might have put in one of his plays. The story follows a traveling troupe of actors who overcome great obstacles to put on a play in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1563.
“When you’re in front of a camera, you do four or five takes, but this is completely different,” said Perullo, who performed with visual artist Graham Parker at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s EMPAC in 2009. “Here, you’re doing the same thing day in and day out trying to get it right, and it’s not easy.”
Also in ‘Verona’
Along with his role in “EveryActor,” Perullo has also been performing in another Shakespeare & Company production, “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which is being directed by Krausnick and runs through Sept. 3.
“I’ll be performing two different plays at the same time,” he said, sounding a bit anxious about that prospect. “I’m trying to enjoy it all, but it’s a lot of hard work. Fortunately, Bill Barclay is a fantastic teacher and so are the other people here.”
When his Shakespeare & Company gig concludes in September, Perullo will look for more work. But he won’t be changing professions again.
“I guess I had fantasies about acting when I was a kid, but I never thought it was viable,” he said. “Now, it is. I’ll explore some more opportunities here, but I’ll probably spend some time in Los Angeles again, and then go back to New York City as another option. I’ll probably muscle some of the directors I know there to give me some work.”
Categories: Life and Arts