November 3, 2013

The many faces of Portland actor Dustin Tucker

The transplanted Texan, who has just begun one of the busiest stretches of his career in Maine, talks about life off stage.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Dustin Tucker stars in “Vigil,” now playing at Portland Stage Company.

Aaron Flacke photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company

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Dustin Tucker walks his with dog Minnie in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery. “I liked working here so much, I decided I should live here,” said Tucker, who grew up in Amarillo, Texas. “Portland is a beautiful town, and I have a great circle of friends here.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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IF YOU GO

‘VIGIL”

WHEN: Through Nov. 17

WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave., Portland

HOW MUCH: $40 and $45

INFO & TICKETS: 774-0465; portlandstage.org

It’s in Portland where Tucker has shown his greatest range. He’s been pegged as comic actor, for good reason. Shows like “Vigil” and “The Santaland Diaries” give Tucker a platform for his brand of humor, which involves timing, physical presence and vocal control, said Ron Botting, who directs Tucker in “Vigil” and has worked with him many times over the years as both a director and actor.

“I think his greatest skill is his ability to inhabit the physical sense of a character,” said Botting.

In “Vigil,” Tucker plays a guy named Kemp, who works as a banker and lives an unremarkable life. He’s downtrodden, physically bereft, and not very kind.

“Kemp is just so cynical, and that is not at all what you get from Dusty. Like all of us, he has his dark moments. But that’s not what you see of him. He does his best to take care of other people. As an actor, finding that place – learning to inhabit your character – is the great challenge. Dusty does it as well as anyone I’ve worked with.”

Tucker’s desire to act stems from his early years in Texas. His mother, Gaynor Tucker, remembers her son asking for help building sets for plays and puppet shows in their basement in elementary school. When he was 8, Tucker and his mom were driving through Amarillo when he saw a sign announcing auditions for the play “Auntie Mame.”

“I’d like to try that,” he told his mom. She stopped the car, and they inquired at the theater. Tucker landed a small role, beginning his theatrical journey.

Although she was surprised by her son’s desire, Tucker’s mom said she realized pretty quickly that acting fell naturally to him. “I realized he could probably do this when he was standing backstage between his scenes and he was saying the words to everybody else’s lines – at 8 years old, which is pretty incredible,” Gaynor Tucker said.

At 14, he went off to Interlochen, It was difficult for his mom and dad when Tucker left Texas for Michigan at such a young age. But they knew they had to let him go to pursue his dream. He quickly outgrew community theater back home, Gaynor Tucker said.

“We just felt it was the right thing to do for Dusty. We were both very supportive of him, and would do anything for him. He was so committed to theater, I thought it was a waste of time for him not to go somewhere to practice what he wanted to do. When he went to Interlochen, he got on that plane and never looked back,” she said.

SELF-DESCRIBED ‘ODD DUCK’

An only child, Tucker had a hard time as a kid. He was an “odd duck,” he said, and didn’t fit the mold. He didn’t play sports, didn’t do all the things that other kids did. He was bullied and teased for choosing theater over football. He cited the support of his parents and the interest of a director or two for getting him through his early-teen years in Texas. “I am so fortunate that my parents are who they are,” he said.

Interlochen changed him. There, he found other kids just like him. He learned to opened up among his peers, and his creativity blossomed. “The teachers there would look you in the eye and were interested in what you what you did, what you had to say and what you were thinking,” he said.

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Additional Photos

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Dustin Tucker in the Portland Stage production “The Santaland Diaries”

Todd Brian Backus photo courtesy of PSC

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Dustin Tucker in the Portland Stage production of “Greater Tuna”

Aaron Flacke photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company

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Dustin Tucker in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last summer at the Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Courtesy photo

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Dustin Tucker in Portland Stage Company's "Fully Committed"

Darren Setlow photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company

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Dustin Tucker with Julie Nelson in “Vigil”

Aaron Flacke photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company

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Dustin Tucker, left, with Daniel Noel in Portland Stage's "Bach at Leipzig"

Darren Setlow photo courtesy of Portland Stage Company



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