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The things that are happening to Luke Humphrey this year!
For starters, though in just his third year at Stratford, he’s been playing chivalrous musketeer D’Artagnan in the Festival’s Three Musketeers to considerable acclaim (see our June 14th post for more on this). He’s also just opened in his second lead role in John Murrell’s Taking Shakespeare, playing Murph, a reluctant student of Shakespeare, alongside Prof, who is played by his real-life mentor, acting legend Martha Henry. Tackling two such diverse career-making roles (contemporary Murph is one of only two characters inTaking Shakespeare, while the 17th Century D’Artagnan is flat-out iconic) is equal parts challenge and compliment. “As far as playing a lead goes,” explains Humphrey, “it is a big step for me in terms of responsibility as well as physical demand. At times, it has been a bit daunting and sometimes scary, but overall, thanks in no small part to the amazing team of people working here, the whole process has been a thrilling step for me.”
How does he manage it: transforming from jaded, video-game-junkie into Shakespeare aficionado in one afternoon… then on into a rakish, sword-wielding musketeer that same evening? Acute concentration helps, as well as his extensive training. He holds a BFA from the esteemed Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, as well as the elite Birmingham Conservatory of Classical Theatre where, incidentally, his co-star Martha Henry is Director. In short, he’s been taught by some of the best in the business.
Add to this that he is the son of actor Mark Humphrey (E.N.G.) and actor/writer Wendel Meldrum (Less than Kind, Seinfeld, Wonder Years), and so has been immersed in the industry, directly and indirectly, from birth. “This career can be difficult for children of actors,” contends Humphrey. “It often requires a lot of travel, sometimes for long stretches of time, and there can be some serious ups and downs which makes stability a challenge. On the plus side, both of my parents love what they do. Growing up with parents who found their passion and worked hard for it means a lot to me.”
The advantage of being able to learn from these two successful industry professionals is also top of mind for Humphrey, appreciating that his parental support is both professional andpersonal. “Their experience is great to draw on,” he muses. “It is wonderful to be able to turn to them for advice when I am struggling with rehearsals or an audition. They have a lot of experience, and being able to talk shop with them is always rewarding. The biggest thing is that they do what they love, even though it can be hard at times. I have such respect for their integrity in walking that walk.” In fact, one of his first major roles was in the indie film Cruel But Necessary, which was written by his mother and co-starred both of his parents (who play his parents).
Having already worked in film, TV and stage, Humphrey is on the brink of building an illustrious career, and though he recognizes the cachet of the Festival stage, he is not resting on any laurels just yet. His focus is honing his craft and continuing to study (he was the recipient of the Anne Selby Guthrie Award last year, given to an actor so they may travel for study or research)– all while exploring other varied roles in all three media. Does he have a preference? “I am going to have to be greedy on this one and say I love it all, and want to continue doing it all. There is nothing quite like being on stage with a live audience. It is an amazing thing to feel the audience go on that journey with you. On the other side, the film work I have been doing has been a lot of story creation and micro budget work, which I find thrilling because I love the challenge of using what we have to tell a story. I have been fortunate to get to work with really exciting young filmmakers, and I love bringing their visions to life.”
His “dream role”? On stage, it would be Prince Hal fromHenry IV part I and II, transforming into Henry V‘s titular king. “I was able to understudy Henry V in last year’s production here at Stratford, and I fell head over heels in love with the character and his journey. There are far too many actors out there whom I admire for me to cast a production, but I guess as long as I’m dreaming, I’ll just wish for a great casting director.” In terms of film, he is keen to bring new stories to the screen. “I am very passionate about finding new voices and sharing them, so I would have to go with an exciting new part that is not yet written.”
What about “dream co-stars”? When asked to choose three actors with whom he’d most like to work, he feigns surprise. “Only three? Well, for starters, I am a big fan of the English actor Idris Elba (Luther, The Wire, Prometheus, Thor). Particularly, I think his work on Luther and The Wire was fantastic and would love to be able to work with him. Second, Kenneth Branagh. When I was 10, I fell in love with him after seeing Much Ado About Nothing. His performance opened up the world of classical acting for me and shaped my life in a very profound way. It would be fulfilling a childhood dream to work with him. Third, I would have to go with Dame Judi Dench–a true legend. I always love her work. I would mostly like the opportunity to just pick her brain, but working with her would be amazing.”
Intriguing thoughts and worthwhile ambitions–and none of it out of the realm for the talented Humphrey, who immerses himself completely in his roles, managing to look and sound distinct in each. But an actor’s life can’t all be rehearsals and notes and nerves. There has to be some time to let loose, and for Humphrey, fun is usually active: “playing sports like basketball, going camping, or taking little day-long adventures. Also, a good book on a nice day is always a plus.” What about a Guilty Pleasure, you wonder? We all have one, whether it’s weepy movies, sparkly eyeshadows or peanut M&Ms. “I really love board games,” admits Humphrey, “especially Settlers of Catan.” And if you’ve read Humphrey’s Twitter profile, you know he’s a self-proclaimed foodie. So if you want to congratulate him after a performance, pass the roses over for a bouquet of butter tarts.
Taking Shakespeare, directed by Diana Leblanc, plays until September 22 at the Studio Theatre. The Three Musketeers, directed by Miles Potter, continues at the Festival Theatre until October 19. For ticket and forum-event information, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca. To learn what Humphrey’s promising future holds beyond this season at the Stratford Festival, stay in touch at www.lukehumphrey.com.
(All photos of Luke Humphrey and Taking Shakespeare appear courtesy of the Stratford Festival. Production photos of Taking Shakespeare by V. Tony Hauser)
© 2013 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya