By Robert Simonson
19 Apr 2012
Photo by Joan Marcus
Norris doesn't perform in his own plays — "I don't think I can do both jobs well," he says — but he does think about how he might play the people he creates. "I don't think it's possible for me to write a character if I don't think I could act it," he explains. "I think writing is a private improvisation. I've never had the courage to be an improvisational actor, so I do it in secret, and let other people do it."
Though he calls acting "the thing I wanted to do my entire life," Norris seems content to neglect his old trade. "I kind of feel I got my fill of doing that, and also reached the limits of what I can convey as an actor." Neither does he necessarily hold the acting game up as a terribly high calling. He once called it a "lazy person's job," and stands by that characterization.
"Being in a play, once you get out of rehearsal into the run of the play, you work two hours a day," he says. "It's not such a hard job." (Before the actors out there howl in indignation, know that Norris thinks that "writing is even lazier.") What isn't a lazy person's job, he says, "is acting in a television series that shoots for..." He pauses briefly before thinking better of following this line of thought. "I don't want to get into that whole thing that has recently happened to me."
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Obviously, the production was eventually salvaged by other producers. And the writer is grateful, while remaining, well, Bruce Norris. "When you grow up you imagine things — the Pulitzer Prize, Broadway, the Royal Court — as things that happen in some Valhalla, some exalted realm that you're looking up to. It's incredibly gratifying to finally reach that supposed summit. But then when you get there and you look around and think, 'Oh, it looks the same here as it does everywhere else,' you think, 'Gosh, these are people just like me.'"
(A version of this article appears in the May 2012 issue of Playbill.)