Who is Bruce?


© 2016 www.mattsimpkinsphotography.com

NOTE: I wrote this page when I first set up my original website in 2002. And while it is now over a decade old, and some of the more recent facts are a bit dated, it still tells the story pretty well, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Who is Bruce?

Thanks for asking.

Well, for one thing, I’m an actor. A very lucky one. Since 1997, when I started pursuing this crazy art form/ business, I have studied (and studied) my craft with the greatest acting teacher alive, performed on many (small) New York stages, had lead roles in several independent films, performed in a national tour, played “the Scot” in an unforgettable production of Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play”, acted under the direction of the amazing Sidney Lumet, chatted with Kevin Spacey, and been “called back” by Susan Stroman. Among other things.

I said I was lucky. I don’t mean that in the “big break” sense of the word. I mean lucky to be doing this — pursuing this dream — at all.

While acting was a passion of mine from a young age, it never occurred to me that I could actually pursue it as a career. I came from a very practical upbringing. Dad spent 37 years as an engineer at Kodak, Mom stayed home, and pretty much everyone we knew either worked for Kodak, Xerox, one of the Rochester colleges, or was a doctor or a lawyer. Not too many artists in my early circles.

And even though my childhood days and nights were often spent singing and acting, my career aspirations were to come to New York and be a huge success — as a businessman.

So I went to Harvard. Majored in Applied Mathematics (sang and toured with world-famous a capella group the Harvard Din & Tonics and did plays in my spare time). Came to New York as a computer consultant for Arthur Andersen (took a few acting classes). Got discovered by investment bank First Boston (in NY, mind you) and went to work for them designing “derivative securities”. Went to Wharton to get my MBA (starred in The Wharton Follies, the annual original show). Came out as a strategy consultant with a big job at the Boston Consulting Group (in NY, mind you). Helped huge banks and telecomm firms figure stuff out (took a few more acting classes). Got discovered by American Express and went to work for them developing new products. And then…

I realized something was wrong. I wasn’t happy. In fact, I hadn’t been happy for a while. I had been busily doing what I thought I was supposed to do, but never stopped to think for a minute how I wanted to spend my life. My wife Karen was instrumental in getting me to figure it out. It was in May, 1997 when she told me she was sick of my bitching about my job and not knowing what I should do.

Finally she said, “forget for the moment about all the practicalities — where it would be, money, logistical stuff — if you could do whatever you wanted, what would it be?” Without even taking a beat I answered what seemed suddenly to be such a simple question. “I would act.” Then, with my practiced critical voice, I responded to my answer, “but of course, that’s ridiculous. You can’t just — do that.”

We debated all the obvious reasons that becoming an actor is a terrible idea — the odd hours, the uncertainty of getting work, the lousy pay, the travel and on and on. And the more we talked, and the more I allowed the prospect of becoming an actor to seep into my head for the first time, the more I realized that this was something I had to do.

I had always been jealous of people who knew from an early age “what they wanted to be when they grew up”. All of a sudden, I realized that I was one of those people — I had just been ignoring myself for 20-odd years.

So the suits and ties went to the back of the closet, and I began a new journey. I was fortunate to be led to the brilliant teacher Bill Esper, who learned from and then taught with the legendary Sanford Meisner. Meisner’s (and Bill’s) approach to acting BEGINS with a rigorous two-year course which breaks acting down to the most basic elements — much the same way as one would approach a musical instrument — to enable the actor to act truthfully, from impulse and with great vitality. It was an approach that really resonated with me.

I studied movement with Loyd Williamson and his great staff at Actors Movement Studio, vocal production with Andrea Haring, and singing with Joyce Hall. And the training never ends. Just as an athlete never stops working with his coach, an actor continues to build his craft, and needs experienced and trusted guides to help him along. I am lucky to have such people to work with.

So on I go. I am thrilled to be pursuing a career as an actor. It is daunting, frustrating, exhilarating, sobering, and I love every minute. And I am so lucky to have the support of Karen and my boys, Jeremy and Michael, who keep me balanced, and remind me what is really important.

I have never once regretted my decision to do this. And I cannot fail, because in my mind, success is not in the result, but in the joy of the journey.

See you at the theatre…

January, 2002