ASU grad sees Broadway lights

Article Published: Feb. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
ASU grad sees Broadway lights

ASU grad David Furr is now starring on Broadway.

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Broadway lights. It's what Appalachian State University grad David Furr sees eight times a week.

The Greensboro native landed a lead role in Broadway's "The Importance of Being Earnest," one of those points in an actor's career where a less humble man might relax and think he's "made it."

"But it's all relative," Furr said via telephone.

For Furr, who picked ASU because of the mountains (and the fact that he didn't get into UNC), it all started in Boone.

"I never started acting until I got to Appalachian, so I don't know what would have happened," he said. "I followed a girl to an audition at the theater department."
And he got hooked.

That first audition was spring of 1991 and led to memorable college plays like "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the first show on the Valborg Theatre stage.

Under the tutelage of the likes of Teresa Lee and Ed Pilkington (retired), he gained skills he could never have imagined he'd be using at 42nd Street.

And last month, his show had some special visitors, retired professors Susan Cole and Linda Weldon, along with other ASU faces, like administrative assistant Elaine Hartley.

And it's the connection to ASU that continues to broaden his career off the stage. Since graduating, he's been afforded several opportunities to come back and speak to students in Boone.

"It's tough for student actors," he said. "When I was a student, the only examples of success were people you see on television or in the movies, like stars, and I think it's important to say, 'See? There are other people who are working a lot ... but they're not famous. They're working actors. There are several different versions of success."

It's a lesson he learned from Pilkington one year at ASU when he was auditioning. Two plays were on the docket, a comedy ("Fortinbras") and a George Bernard Shaw play ("Arms and the Man"). It was Furr's sense of humor and that addictive desire to be a ham on stage that pushed him toward "Fortinbras," but Pilkington wouldn't hear of it and cast him in the Shaw show.

"His comment to me was, 'You can be an actor or you can be a star, and that's not always the same thing. I think you are an actor and I think you need to do the Shaw,' and he was right," Furr said.

"That's really good advice to hear, I think, when you're a young actor, because you kind of say, 'I want to be an actor,' and that may or may not lead to fame and fortune, but I can always be an actor."

But it's not just ASU that connects him to the High Country. "Horn in the West" is where he met the person he plans to marry this October (and the wedding is planned for Valle Crucis).

But he's come a long way since his time at "Horn," moving from regional productions like at Charlotte Rep and North Carolina Shakespeare to grad school at Alabama Shakespeare Festival to the New York stage, where he got his first Broadway role (a small part) in the "King Lear" revival.

"But it was technically Broadway," he laughed. "I now had a whole new entry on my resume. I had Broadway."

It led to an understudy role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" with Kathleen Turner. That production led to something aspiring actors at ASU can't help but fantasize about: A night at the Tony awards.

And he's not just on stage. Starting with "Evening" alongside Claire Danes and Vanessa Redgrave, he's been delving into the silver screen. Furr just came off a guest appearance on the new Fox show, "The Chicago Code."

Even with success, he'll never tell you he's "made it."

"I'm just now feeling like I am getting my head above water," he said.

And the show (currently slated to run through March, though that's subject to change), will eventually close, leaving him scrambling for more auditions.

"One of the things I keep coming back to ... the idea of luck," he said. "I feel like what luck fundamentally is is when preparation meets opportunity ... really, I think it's just being prepared, so when opportunity presents itself, you're there to make the most of it."

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