A former Smithereen is lighting up tinseltown.
Kyle Durack just finished a run of his one-man play Naked Man Rising at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (HFF) to rave reviews.
“This tale of revenge rips through the stage like a Grindhouse film and features a balls-to-the-wall performance by Canadian wildman and naturalist Kyle Durack,” wrote Broadway World, an online theatre magazine.
“The writing is crisp and the play moves along at a deft pace. But the words are simply a vehicle for Kyle Durack’s powerful interpretation. The Canadian actor was born with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, and in this piece he sheds his disability along with his clothes to reveal the inner strength concealed by a “weakened” body.”
Durack was very pleased with the audience response.
“I mean, it’s wonderful that all the hard work from the writers and myself coming in running it again and again is showing,” he said. “And people are enjoying it, which to me is the most important thing.
“I’m grateful to have this opportunity to be here in beautiful sunny California doing what I love more than anything else in the world. My gratitude to the writers Travis Perkins and Chambers Stevens for all their work to help make this story what it is. My gratitude to the Fringe Festival scholarship program for choosing me to win the National Endowment for the Arts award (NEA). And I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
The play, produced by Durack, written by Perkins and Stevens and directed by Perkins was previously a crowd favourite at the Son of Semele Solo Creation Festival, which earned Durack the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Scholarship for First Time Producers, funded by the NEA.
Durack told The Interior News it was very gratifying to be honoured in that way.
“That’s given out to very few people a year and it’s hard to believe that I got it,” he said. “But here I am.”
The piece is very personal to Durack, who dealt with bullying growing up because of his physical condition. He said it is cathartic to be able to tell the story to audiences.
“I think part of the fun of acting is getting to do things that you normally would never be able to get away with in the real world,” he explained. “You can create this universe and do whatever you want. I think it’s also healthier to tell a fictional tale like this than to go out and live it in real life. Art can be beautiful for that.”
Apart from the personal catharsis, though, he also feels stories like Naked Man Rising have a role to play in public discourse.
“I think it’s important to tell and show how damaging it is when kids are bullied,” he said. “The evidence of its distraction lasts for years longer than anyone realizes. In some aspects it never goes away. There’s still not enough done to fix this. The only way to start tackling a problem is to start talking about it. I’m showing material that brings the issue to people’s attention.”
He also believes baring all, as he does in the show, addresses another important societal issue.
“One of the things I’d like to do in my career is break the fear of the human body and wake people up to the harm of body shame,” he explained. “I think it’s one of the bigger issues in our society overall that very few people are willing to address. I think the best way to bring attention to it is again to show it. Anyone who’s watched the show admits to being slightly unsure about the nudity. But once I get into the story they forget I’m naked and they’re totally fine. I love when I hear that.”
Durack, who is now 28 years old, went to Walnut Park Elementary School and, briefly St. Joseph’s in Smithers before moving to Prince George where he attended high school. He left home at age 17 to study theatre in Los Angeles Theater Academy’s professional acting conservatory program at Los Angeles City College. He currently lives and works in theatre, film and web video in both Calgary and Los Angeles.
He is hoping the success of Naked Man Rising will translate into a full-time career.
“This business is my passion and my life,” he said. “I’ve been living in it since I was 17. There’s honestly nothing else I want to do. I do hope that this will help get me to the next level of working full-time in the creative process of acting and producing.”
Durack currently has no solid dates for a return to Smithers, but said he will be back, and there may even be an opportunity for local audiences to see Naked Man Rising.
“I have family in Smithers still, so there’s always a reason to go back,” he said. “Still nothing else quite like seeing those mountains. If the arts community of Smithers wanted to have me and come together to put [the play] on, I would consider it.”