This is the first in summer series focusing on the real characters behind Dallas’ theater scene. To read other installments in this series click here.
Lee Trull woke up at thirty, realized he needed glasses and he was going to die one day.
An aspiring actor in his twenties, for Trull, mortality had not been something he had the leisure to consider. Death was a line in a script; he was invincible. He had to be. As an actor, he lived in expectation of rejection, and becoming unbreakable, Trull says, was “just part of it.”
Now 32, the Associate Artist, Casting Director, and member of the Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Dallas Theater Center admits it takes a certain kind of person to deal with the type of rejection that comes from endless auditioning. To walk into a room and hand someone a picture of yourself, show them your most vulnerable self only to be told “no thank you” is demoralizing, to say the least.
But for Trull, rejection became the flame at his heel that fueled his hustle, and hustle is actor’s only drive to survive. The hungry stomach, the wonder about how he was going to pay his rent or water bill: these are things Trull says kept his adrenaline going.
And it was during his twenties that Trull collected 60 plus small jobs. He was a security guard, a house painter’s assistant, the Barney and Friends extras coordinator. He sent out emails each month to friends that simply read: “Need a job. What’s out there. I’ll do anything.” Anything, that is, that would also allow Trull the time to write and audition.
“No sign they were ever, ever going to hire me,” Trull said about his many auditions. “Ever. No sign.”
Call it tenacity; call it masochism. Trull kept going back.
“You are auditioning your ass off to get in from of them,” he says. “Begging them to hire you.”
After hustling the Dallas acting market for five years, Trull’s best audition came not in a casting room, but during a performance of a one-man show, Rum and Vodka, at the Water Tower Theater’s annual Out of the Loop Festival. He caught the eye of Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. The new head of Dallas’ regional theater later sent him an email informing Trull he had an idea, and he should come by his office.
Trull tried not to get his hopes up. He knew there was already a full artistic staff in place. He purposefully wore jeans and a t-shirt so it “wouldn’t be embarrassing.” However Trull left Moriarty’s office honored, not embarrassed, as Moriarty had asked him to be the first member of a new resident acting company he was starting.
In Oprah-talk, these self-affirming life moments are supposed to be “empowering.” Trull says that doesn’t quite get it.
“Any moment where I felt like I had power is a moment where I felt like a jerk and stupid,” he says. “There’s power at times at being able to be on stage and own a moment and live inside a character, but that’s all on the surface of a story and the audience.”
If anything, Trull said he was humbled by Moriarty’s offer and disclosed what a truly wonderful and strange relief it was not to have to hustle to get a job, especially because he had yet to line up work for that coming month.
In terms of being an actor in Dallas’ theater scene, Trull struck gold. He has the opportunity to do three plays a year, something even his friends in New York envy.
“They can’t believe all I have to do,” Trull says. To work everyday and help out the theater, they would love to do that.”
But Trull isn’t in New York. He’s in Dallas, where he can still afford the rent, afford to go out, and has found a theater that has invested in him.
“That’s rare,” he says.
As it turns out, every rose does have its thorn. Trull found his dream job, but becoming not only a resident acting company member but also DTC’s casting director left Trull with fewer friendships, which he calls the “sad perk” of the job. Now he’s the stone-faced inquisitor on the other side of the casting table, and his role proves most difficult when he finds himself watching auditions by his close friends from before his time with the DTC.
“That’s just part of it,” Trull says. “The casting director of the DTC has always been a much hated person.”
So is it his new role as a thespian gatekeeper that’s causing him to consider his mortality, or is it simply that he’s reached that unsavory stage in an actors shelf life?
“We actors in our thirties, there’s not many of us and we start to dwindle out,” he says.
But Trull is not slowing down.
“I don’t know what Lee does,” says his boss, Kevin Moriarty, “I think he just goes twenty-four hours a day.”
Trull admits his high-energy, breakneck pace can’t be the best way to live. But having stoked the drive as he has for so many years, it is the only way he knows now.
Lee Trull will make his directorial debut with Second Thought Theatre’s final show of the season, Dying City, which opens June 16.
Image: Lee Trull (left) with Wade McCollum in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Cabaret (Karen Almond).