The Delaware Theatre Company’s current production of “Heisenberg” marks not only the regional premiere of Simon Stephens’ critically acclaimed play but also the Delaware acting debut of one Bud Martin, DTC’s own executive director.
Martin will re-visit his acting roots in the role of Alex Priest, an inhibited septuagenarian whose monkish existence is upended when a brash — and much younger — American ex-pat kisses him on the back of the neck in a crowded London train station. That event thrusts these two strangers into life-altering situations they never could have imagined. That’s where Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle comes into the mix.
“It’s just a lovely play about a guy who has not let anybody into his life for 50 years and somehow or other this woman gets to him,” Martin said.
Martin fell in love with the play three years ago when he saw it staged at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s small Center City space.
Martin, who did quite a bit of acting during college and graduate school, entertained the idea of stepping into the role but decided against it, even though co-star Karen Peakes, who plays Georgie Burns, expressed her desire to work with him.
“I said ‘no’ as much as I wanted to,” Martin said. “I sort of like the idea of putting my work out there and not myself because then if people didn’t like it, they can say ‘I didn’t like the play.’ If you’re the actor, they can say ‘I didn’t like him’ and Karen said, ‘Welcome to my world.’”
Peakes got her man, though, when the actor originally cast to play Alex pulled out of the project. Subsequent auditions failed to produce someone either Peakes or Martin thought appropriate and Martin found himself onstage for the second time in 37 years.
It’s not unusual for actors to become directors, but directors rarely turn to acting except for cameos and occasional roles in films they’re directing. Nevertheless, Martin feels that directors have a definite advantage over actors in making their move to the other side of the footlights.
“I think one of the challenges of actors becoming directors is that the director has to see the big picture and all of the production elements, whereas the actor doesn’t,” he said. “So I feel like I came to the show with a lot more in my tool box than I would have if I were just acting.”
Still the transition has not been without some speed bumps. Martin admits his bête noire has been memorizing lines. “I go home at night and I have to study lines, I get up in the morning and have to study lines, and I come in here and still forget them,” he said.
One thing that’s gone smoothly, though, is his collaboration with director Matt Pfeiffer.
“We’ve never had an issue because I think we have similar sensibilities and we’re on the same page with the show,” he said. “I actually felt like ‘Wow, it’s so nice not to be in charge.’ I joked with him that I’m ceding my power every once in a while.”
Pfeiffer, who still acts on occasion, says Martin is uniquely qualified to play Alex, since both are in a sense venturing into uncharted territory.
“There’s a kinetic energy between what the character is going through and what Bud is going through and I think that feeling is easily accessible for Bud,” he said. “Plus he’s really good at it.”
Martin has a similar, if not slightly less sanguine, take on his relationship with Alex. “There’s a great line in the play that says, ‘The older I get the more I realize how very brief everything is,’” he said. “I feel like I’m in that situation and to have this opportunity to do such a lovely role in a beautiful play with someone I adore, I needed to do it.”
“Heisenberg” by Simon Stephens is directed by Matt Pfeiffer and stars Bud Martin and Karen Peakes. The show will be performed at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington now through Feb. 25. Opening night is Saturday, February 10 at 8 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.delawaretheatre.org or call 302-594-1100