Part of a series on young professionals moving to New York City.
Name: Tom Duke
Hometown: Northampton, MA
Date Moved to NYC: May 1, 2016
Current Residence: Brooklyn, NY
Day Job: Expert at Uber (Independent Contractor)
College: Drew University in Madison, New Jersey
Major: Theatre Arts (Bachelor of Arts)
Class Year: 2015
Ethnic Background: Caucasian (Irish, Scottish, English, Polish, German, Spanish, and a bit of Native American)
Relationship Status: Single
Me: How did you get into acting?
Tom Duke: When I was in 6th grade I did my first play, which was Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and I loved that so I kept doing the play and the musical every fall and spring.
Me: Why did you pick Drew University?
TD: Well, for several reasons. It’s a small, liberal arts school that was far enough away from home but also not too far. It’s in a forest, which I really loved. There’s squirrels and deer and all that. They also have the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, which is on campus, so that was the draw, and the great theater program in general.
Me: What made you fall in love with Shakespeare?
TD: Like I said, my first play was “Twelfth Night,” but I think the real first work of Shakespeare that I fell in love with was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when I did that in 8th grade. I was one of the clowns, Rude Mechanicals, and it was just so much fun that I fell in love with it.
Me: Tell me a bit about your experience as a director. What aspect of performing is most exciting for you?
TD: I directed two scenes in my Acting and Directing class at Drew. One was a “Nonsense Scene,” which is a fairly meaningless dialogue that gains meaning through acting and directing choices, and the other was a scene from a play called “The Children’s Hour” by Lillian Hellman. My only other directing experience was of a staged reading of a student-written play, one of our department’s weekly “Plays in Process” series. I am most excited by language in performances, which is why I am so drawn to Shakespeare. I find great words and phrases delicious especially when they convey the passions of characters in turmoil or ecstasy.
Me: Tell me about “Tape.”
TD: That was for my Acting on Camera class and I recorded that last spring . Each thing I do is sort of challenging in its own way, and that particular challenge was playing the character as he didn’t believe that he’d raped the girl, but his friend had. It turned from what was a friendly hanging out to being accused of raping someone.
Me: What was it like reading through the script for the “Tape” scene?
TD: It was very conversational, very natural, but obviously a very dramatic situation. In my Acting on Camera class we were really focusing on the difference between on-camera acting and stage acting. On-camera acting is a lot more subdued. It’s a lot less projecting and more gestures so I was working on that for the scene too.
Me: What was it like transitioning from Massachusetts to New Jersey and then New York City?
TD: It was really different. Well, Massachusetts to New Jersey was not that different because they’re both kind of rural-ish, kind of a small town sort of thing with nature, but New York City is totally different. It’s so big. I’ve been here before and I’ve seen shows here but living here is just a lot. It’s also really good because there’s a lot of opportunities that I don’t have in other places like theater and also job opportunities.
Me: When you first moved to NYC you lived in Astoria, Queens. Why did you move to Brooklyn?
TD: I moved because I saw an apartment that looked nice and I liked the idea of living in Brooklyn.
Me: Tell me about your time as a legal courier.
TD: I had to go to mostly Manhattan, but a couple of times Brooklyn or Queens. Once I went into Bronxville.
Me: Oh?! So they just gave you the package and sent you all the way up there?
TD: Yeah, but it was only one time, though.
Me: What’s your preferred method of travel?
TD: The subway.
Me: Tell me your favorite line of Shakespeare.
TD: “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York […]” – “Richard III”
Catch Tom Duke as Brutus in “Julius Caesar” at Narrows Botanical Garden on August 13, 14, 20, and 21, 2016.