When Sunnyside resident Brian P. Murphy decided he wanted to be an actor, he made sure no other career path would remain open to him.
“If you have a back-up plan, you’re going to use it,” Murphy said. “You ask yourself, do I want to do this? If the answer is yes, there are certain things I must do.”
Right now he is in the middle of one of those things appearing Off-Broadway in a new play, “The Clearing,” by Jake Jeppson at the Theatre at St. Clements.
In the intense family drama, Murphy, 31, plays the man-child Chris, who along with younger brother Les, witnessed an unspeakable tragedy years before. The two agreed never to tell anyone what they saw and that promise has had dire consequences for them both and everyone in their lives.
“Secrets are a heavy load,” Murphy said following a recent rehearsal in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. “There is a power in telling stories and a power in sharing with people. I think this play will change people in some ways.”
Murphy hasn’t changed much since his days growing up in the working-class northwest corner of Westchester County.
In high school he was a jock, who juggled lacrosse practice with drama club rehearsals. Fortunately, he didn’t have to be a trailblazer since there had been an upperclassman athlete-actor, who had made it OK to dabble in both fields.
He’s also proven to be a bit of a scrapper after boxing in the Golden Gloves during the 2011-12 season. Then living in Brooklyn, Murphy went by the moniker The Bed-Stuy Brawler. Murphy’s athletic background helps during an extended scene in “The Clearing” when he is on stage wearing only a pair of flannel pajama bottoms.
But Murphy wants to make sure he is more than just an attractive set decoration.
One of his acting teachers along the way told him it takes 10 years to make an actor. So after a few earlier missteps — including an ill-fated year at the University of Miami’s business school — Murphy appears to be right on schedule.
His recent move to Sunnyside means he spends less time getting to the center of the theater world across the East River.
“The quick commute is very appealing to me,” Murphy said.
After spending days in Midtown rehearsal rooms or auditioning for producers and directors, he can return to a home that feels less urban and gritty, he said.
“My building wraps around a courtyard,” Murphy said. “It’s nice and peaceful. It doesn’t feel like living in the city.”
Of course, he has spent most of the last decade in that setting. After graduating from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 2005, he appeared in small productions around the city and in several student-directed movies. In between he continued to take classes and auditioned for everything that came along.
He has seen success in spurts along the way, including a stint in the Off-Broadway interactive comedy, “My Big Gay Italian Funeral,” He just wrapped a film, “A Good Marriage,” where he plays a younger version of star Anthony LaPaglia as an up-and-coming boxer. Another movie, “Back in the Day,” is on tap after “The Clearing” ends its run Feb. 9.
Although he is comfortable both in plays and in front of the camera, Murphy admits stage work remains a priority in his current career trajectory.
“My best experiences have been in the theater,” he said. “It’s almost like being an athlete. You have a road map of plays you’re going to play,”
Right now, Murphy appears to be in a running game rushing toward the next role whether here or in Los Angeles. Murphy believes he has the training and the talent to bring something to audiences looking to connect with the common human experience through the lens of dramatic arts.
“I’m making a journey on these stories,” Murphy said. “Now I have to figure out how to get from one story to the next.”
If You Go
When: Through Feb. 9
Where: Theatre at St. Clements, 423 W. 46th St., Manhattan
©2014 Community News Group
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