East Lansing native Tim Busfield is starring in “Vigil” by Morris Panych, with local acting legend Carmen Decker, at Lansing Community College’s Black Box Theatre. The first of eight performances of "Vigil" is Friday. Busfield recently talked with WKAR’s Scott Pohl.
TIM BUSFIELD: It’s enormously funny and dark, and I’ve got Carmen Decker! So, if you get the right old lady in the bed, boy, you’ve got something to play, and it’s just a play that makes laugh. I was, this morning, working it on stage here at Lansing Community College, and at one point I just stopped and looked at the prop person and I said I love this play!
I’ve done maybe 150 performances of it. I’ve probably run the play 300, 400 times, and I can’t get enough of it.
PRAISE FOR CO-STAR CARMEN DECKER
SCOTT POHL: You called Carmen Decker the right old lady. I’m sure she’d being labeled the right old lady! What is it about Carmen Decker that enthralls audiences so?
BUSFIELD: She’s just a great comedienne, and she’s also a wonderful actress. You have to be, especially on stage, you don’t have the devices of music and cutting and editing and performance and extended makeup that can change in every scene. You’ve got to have enough talent to hold the audience and captivate them for a couple hours. She does plays that work and plays that don’t work, and she makes them work. So, you have to have a certain talent level, and she just has it.
Here in Michigan, to find a 90-year-old woman who looks like she’s on death’s door to do a play with, and still have the ability to throw it around with a professional, then you find her and she’s going to steal the play, she’s that good! So, I’m very fortunate.
POHL: Have you worked with her before?
BUSFIELD: Never. Grew up knowing all about her: THE Carmen Decker is really, when I met her, I said you are THE Carmen Decker. I never saw her on stage, but knew that she was there.
POHL: How did you come to arrive at choosing this small theater at Lansing Community College?
BUSFIELD: When I originally did the play, I did it in my 200-seat theater in Sacramento, and I don’t like the big theater experience unless we’re in New York on Broadway. Even then, I don’t think that straight plays will survive large proscenium theatre. There’s just too much sophistication from the audience as far as film. They don’t care about being on your back, they don’t need to hear you facing them, you don’t need to shout. I think we’re accustomed to storytelling in a smaller form.
I talked to a friend of mine from high school, Melissa Kaplan (LCC’s Performing Arts Coordinator), who I’d lost touch with and reconnected with on Facebook, and she told me that she was working at Lansing Community College in the theater, and I said what!? How did that happen!? She told me what she was doing, and then I sent her Vigil.
NOW LIVING IN MICHIGAN
I’ve wanted to come home. I live in Michigan now. I went to Sacramento because it was an hour flight from LA and I started a non-profit which has served millions and is one of the top theaters for children and adult theaters in the world, actually, for the amount of shows we produce and the amount of Equity contracts that we put out…Equity is the actor’s union. But now I’m in Michigan and I want to give something back, some workshops and doing some theater here, especially with the Boarshead folding and the struggle in the American theater that we’re facing. I’m passionate about rectifying that. I think that we have problems; I know I have a solution for arts in our country. I’ve proven it. It’s on paper with my theater in California. There’s no reason why we can’t boost all of the performing arts, at least opera, music, theater. There’s an opportunity. It’s very simple to do, but it requires professionals.
POHL: Tim Busfield, welcome home.
BUSFIELD: Thank you. That means a lot to me!