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TV Producer Bruce Cervi makes directorial theater debut with 'ART'

'ART' directed by Bruce Cervi
Walker Texas Ranger, Magnum PI

Seasoned television producer Bruce Cervi is heading to the theater in search of “ART.”

Cervi is best known for his work as a TV writer and producer on the uber-successful “Walker: Texas Ranger” and “Magnum P.I.”; and as co-executive producer on “Scoundrels.”

Now, Cervi will be making his directorial debut with a newly mounted production of the acclaimed Tony Award winning play “ART” by Yasmina Reza and translation by Christopher Hampton. To help tell this comedic story about art and friendship, Cervi pulls together actors John Ruby as Serge, David Morgan as Marc, and Joshua Thomas as Yvan; and he teams up with producer/actress Adeye Sahran to get it done. The show begins a six week run at The Actors Workout Studio in North Hollywood on January 17th.

We recently caught up with Bruce Cervi to find out more about “ART” and what attracted him to directing for the stage.

Can you share a bit with us about your all-new production of “ART”?

BRUCE: The piece is fairly familiar, especially to veteran theater goers. Yasmina Reza’s other well-known play, “God of Carnage”, explores similar themes. How people conduct themselves within a veneer of civility, but when the stakes are raised, as when Serge buys the painting in “Art”, our decidedly uncivilized tendencies erupt and explode from under the surface. The painting in “Art” is really only a catalyst for the destruction of a fifteen-year long friendship, and the play explores the reasons why that friendship had already been treading on shaky ground.

Although this play has been seen by many previously, are there any new surprises your audiences can expect?

BRUCE: Most productions of “Art” that I have seen have delivered a very intellectual presentation of the play, and in view of the beautiful language of the dialogue, that makes a certain sense. But what we’ve discovered during the development and rehearsal period is that this is also a very emotional play. The end of a friendship, or, more precisely, the redefinition of a friendship can be a very explosive event, and what we may surprise audiences with is the intensity of that explosion.

What do you hope audiences will take away after seeing the show?

BRUCE: “Art” is also about the roles we all play in our relationships, more specifically, the hierarchies that are formed, consciously or otherwise. What I hope the audience takes away from this play is, at the very least, a reason to wonder about those positions in their own lives. Are they an “alpha” in their social circles, or a “beta”? Do material objects define those parameters? Are we even aware of how “class structures” exist in our own relationships? I really do hope “Art” raises those questions, without, God forbid, wrecking any friendships.

What made you set your sights on directing for the stage?

BRUCE: Simply put, after informally “retiring” from the television business, I found myself with nothing to do. I’d been very active in the theater during school and after college, but I’d left it all behind during the course of my career. I had an opportunity to become part of a theater company in recent times that focused on integrating military veterans into the works of Shakespeare, and I’d acted in several plays with the founder of that company. Then the founder, Stephan Wolfert, created a one-man show about his own military experience and how Shakespeare influenced his life after his tours of duty. I had co-directed that production, which eventually went on to the New York theater scene with great success. But when he went to New York, our company naturally dissolved, and I again found myself idled. Then Adeye Sahran invited me to direct a couple of staged readings over the last year or so and I found I had developed a “directing bug”. Which led to “Art” and hopefully more opportunities.

Did you discover anything new or challenging from working in this medium?

BRUCE: I found every element of this medium new and challenging. Actors have their own inner timetables about when and how they are going to develop a character. I had to respect that, but I also had to be a part of that process in a way that was not intrusive or insensitive. I’d never truly blocked a play. I had to gauge how and why a character moves from Point A to Point B. As a writer, I knew that understanding the text was my strong suit, but I didn’t dare fall into the trap of imposing my interpretation of the play on the people who would be performing it. Luckily, I’ve had great theater mentors and I have an amazing cast.

Naturally, we have to ask…which do you prefer: TV or Theater?

BRUCE: Without a doubt, I prefer the theater. The immediacy, spontaneity and outright adrenaline can be a very addictive combination. Television is like a space launch. Every moment is mapped and planned and choreographed for the camera. Theater gives you the freedom to do something a little different every night.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

BRUCE: I never thought I’d describe a production of “Art” as a “great ride”, but this cast and this production team have managed to make this one exactly that.

Thanks, Bruce! And, we hope you enjoy the ride!

"ART" runs from January 17 - February 22

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