As Jerry Rudasill sees it, some people take up golf as their hobby, others pick up a pencil to draw. He takes to the stage.
Rudasill, 34, has been pursuing his hobby for 20 years in everything from serious drama to musicals, to his most recent gig as an extended ensemble member of Philly’s sketch comedy troupe, The Waitstaff.
“I’m not trying to be famous. I do it because it’s something that I enjoy immensely,” says Rudasill, who has also written his own work. “As long as I can do it, I would like to. Always be doing something cool.”
Recently, Rudasill sunk his teeth into the role of Feste in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” even writing the music for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival production.
This past fall, he got his first taste of the Philly Fringe Festival, performing with the Iron Age Theatre Company as Othello in “Shakesploitation!” He’ll take to the stage again in that role Dec. 16 through 18 at the Montgomery County Cultural Center. For more information, visit www.ironagetheatre.org.
Q. When did you start writing?
A. I started writing and directing while I was in college. …I got involved in writing because I wanted to play different kinds of roles, so I decided I wanted to create a couple of roles for me to play, but then I couldn’t get anybody to direct my plays. That’s how I got into directing.
Q. What sorts of roles were you searching for?
A. At Dickenson [College], I got a lot of the best-friend-of-the-family roles, things of that sort and I wanted to do something darker or something with a bit more bite to it.
Q. Did you do a lot of classical drama?
A. I did a lot of classical work, like “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” by Pirandello, “As You Like It,” “Life is a Dream.” That was ages ago. We also did a lot of great comedies.
Q. What are the particular challenges about comedy?
A. Timing. Focus, because you can’t laugh. You can be in the middle of doing something extremely funny and you can’t laugh, because if you laugh with the audience, you blow it. You blow the gaffe. For the characters inside the comedy, life is very, very serious. In drama, you can be a bit more self-indulgent. In comedy, you’re not allowed to be self-indulgent at all. Classical training teaches you basically to stand up straight, to say the lines and not run into the furniture, and comedy teaches you timing.
Q. How did you end up in Philadelphia?
A. After Dickinson, I taught theater and multicultural history at the Lawrenceville School for two years and then when I left there, I moved to Philly and went around to various auditions, checking out the scene. I ended up producing plays out of the living room of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, here on Penn’s campus. That was a lot of fun because I got to direct things I’ve always wanted to do. We did “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Moonchildren” by Michael Weller, “A Visitor from Forest Hills,” Fat Men in Skirts”—really edgy full-length plays. I did that for about three years. The point was to put together quality theater and keep the price down to five bucks a head. I decided to focus in on work when I got my fulltime job here at Penn. The hours were from 11 to 7 and that knocked me out of theater for about five years. Finally, I got my shift changed to 8 to 4 so then it was a matter of going back out and auditioning again.
Q. Did you have to psych yourself up again to go back out there and audition?
A. There’s a Penn alum friend of mine who called me up out of the blue because his production company was one of the producers on “A Raisin in the Sun” with Sean Combs and I hadn’t heard from the guy in years—he called me up out of the blue and he asked me what I had been up to, creatively, and my answer was nothing. So that pretty much embarrassed me into going out and auditioning.
Q. What sorts of things did you audition for?
A. I auditioned for The Waitstaff, which is probably Philly’s premiere sketch comedy troop. I’m an extended ensemble member of The Waitstaff.
Q. What are some things you’ve done with the group?
A. WWPD—”What Would Prince Do”—where a guy is on a date and he’s thinking, “What would Prince do?” because the date is going cold. And it’s the first time I’ve ever had to wear shiny, tight purple pants and lace. One of the original sketches I wrote was “Fistful of Bling Productions Presents: the Massive MultiPlayer On-Line Roleplaying Game: Mackadocious CyberPimping 2K5.” I appear as MC Skrappy Doo. The Waitstaff led to “Shakesploitation!” It’s three one-act plays: “Grand Theft Othello: Venice City,” the sequel to “Romeo and Juliet” called “Romeo and Juliet II: Apocalypse,” which has a zombie theme, and “Ninja Hamlet: Burning Fist of Denmark.”
Q. How does the creative process work with The Waitstaff?
A. Everybody brings in sketches, and we read them and we decide what we like, what we don’t like, and then proceed to basically rewrite everything as we go. It’s all about maxing out the funny and finding the right buttons. It’s actually a very intense process. I’ve never seen people so serious about their comedy.
Originally published on November 17, 2005