I am pleased to introduce David Beukema. David is a fellow actor that I met working at a restaurant in Times Square, who ditched NYC to continue his acting career in Minneapolis, MN.
When did you move to NYC?
I moved to New York City initially on New Year’s Eve, 2003. I was there to work at Warner Bros. TV Casting as an intern for school credit my senior year of college. After the internship was done, I went back to school (Otterbein College in Ohio), and moved back to the city in August of 2004 for keeps.
What brought you to that decision?
When I graduated college with a BFA in Acting, I thought New York was the natural place to go. I had many friends from classes before me and my own class who had done the same, and I sort of assumed that if I really wanted to be an actor, it was where I had to go. I lived for a year in Spanish Harlem (SpaHa, as we called it, to make it sound chic), and three years on the Upper East Side, a stone’s throw from the Guggenheim.
What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone thinking about moving to NYC?
Have a support network if you can. I moved to New York with a group of friends from college, and having that network made a world of difference. We could experience and explore the city together, compare notes, and offer help when the city would get confusing. I know not everyone can have that when they move to New York, but there’s safety in numbers (not necessarily physical safety, either, but mental and spiritual safety).
What was your favorite thing about living in the city?
I was a theatre junkie when I lived in New York. I loved having such access to the New York theatre scene, and I took full advantage of it. I saw hundreds of shows, and rarely at full price. As a young person living in New York, there are many ways to get tickets: the TKTS booth, seat filling organizations, or hell, just hold onto your student ID and pretend you’re still in school to get student tickets! I saw so many of my heroes onstage: John Lithgow, David Hyde Pierce, Bill Nighy, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Linda Lavin, Nathan Lane, Jefferson Mays, and countless others.
The city was also incredibly exciting when I first moved there. The electricity of those streets, the pulse and vigor that the entire city seemed to somehow constantly sustain; was thrilling. For a 22 year-old, fresh out of college, it was entrancing.
There’s the perk of accessibility, as well. Any kind of food, culture, or store you could possibly want is within your reach.
What was your least favorite thing about living in the city?
My least favorite thing about living in the city, and what ultimately drove me away, is the hardness of the city. And I don’t totally mean the difficulty of living there, though that was a consideration. I came to realize how much I am affected by my environment. The greys, browns, concretes, and steels that make up New York City really got me down.
I finally pieced this together after getting a summer stock gig at the Peterborough Players in southern New Hampshire. While I was there, I found that I was missing things I didn’t even realize I had been missing: space, fresh air, nature, trees, and quiet. A slower pace. A better quality of living.
When I returned to New York that fall, something had shifted for me, and the city felt stifling. I knew it was time to go.
A side note about the difficulty of living in the city: living in New York is like living nowhere else in the world. If you can do it, more power to you, but it’s a unique challenge. The money you make immediately turns around and flies out the door to pay for rent, subway fare, cabs, groceries, etc. It’s hard to feel you’re getting a foothold anywhere financially, especially as an artist working day jobs. The constant barrage of stimuli that started out as exciting became grating after time. I’d leave the apartment to buy a loaf of bread, and would return feeling like I had fought a war. Peace and quiet were rare. Sure, I could always go to Central Park, which is beautiful, but I think a lot of its beauty comes from the contrast with the cacophony that surrounds it.
You left the city to continue your acting career in Minneapolis, MN. Why Minneapolis?
I’m a Minneapolis kid, born and raised, and when I was going through the decision to leave New York, I stopped and said, “Where can I go that’s a city (because as much as I love nature, I didn’t want to be in the boonies), that works with nature instead of against it, that has a great theatre and arts scene, and that’s in a blue state?” I kept rattling off all these things that were important to me, and I suddenly realized, “Oh, wait. I’m from there!” So, in May of 2008, I packed up a U-Haul and my father and I drove it halfway across the country back home to Minneapolis.
Do you feel the change in locale was the best decision for you?
Absolutely. The Twin Cities theatre community is remarkable. We are now the second best theatre town in the country, after New York (based on theatre seats per capita), and from the very first show I did here, I felt a sense of community I never felt in New York.
In New York, I was lucky to do one or two shows a year, in the basement of a church somewhere on the Lower East Side, with an audience barely numbering in the double digits. Things were so scattershot, and there was so much competition, that it was hard to feel part of something. (A note: I’m talking about when you’re starting out, trying to do New York theatre. I’m sure if I’d ever made it to Broadway or Off-Broadway level, I would have felt more a sense of community).
In Minneapolis, the theatre world is a big network of support. People see you in one show, and ask you to read for another. Your name gets passed on to others. We all socialize with each other, and it’s much more accessible for someone just beginning their career. I’ve been lucky enough to keep working steadily since moving back.
There’s a stigma against people moving back to their hometown. People see it as running back home, defeated, with your tail between your legs. I never felt that way. I feel more independent right now, living in a five mile radius of all my immediate family, than I did living thousands of miles away. I’m financially independent, I have a much bigger apartment all to myself, and I live just around the corner from a lake. I’m much more in tune with the things that make me happy. Minneapolis is home, and I don’t plan to go anywhere else, long-term.
Do you ever miss New York?
Sure, sometimes. Every year around the Tonys, I wish I’d seen everything that’s nominated (show queen that I am, I still watch every year armed with opinions of shows I’ve mostly only read about). I miss my friends from there (many of whom, incidentally, have moved away as well); your friends when you live in New York are the most important thing you have and they become your family.
There are rare moments when I miss the hustle and bustle of a New York street, but then I get a sense memory of garbage wafting through the stifling summer air, or a rat scurrying up the subway stairs under my feet. Then I walk down the street to the lake I live by, take a deep breath, and I don’t miss New York anymore.
What is your next theatrical endeavor?
I’m currently in an outdoor production of Twelfth Night, playing through June with a wonderful company called Theatre Pro Rata. I’m playing Malvolio, which is certainly a dream role. And I don’t care if this sounds braggy, but it’s my 32nd production since moving back to Minneapolis, and I couldn’t be prouder!
During your time in NYC, what was the craziest thing that happened to you?
I’m not sure if I should answer this one truthfully! All right, I’ll keep it vague, to protect the innocent.
One night, after a night of drinking at our favorite midtown bar, a friend and I were stumbling home and we passed a Broadway theatre where a big Tony Award Winning Musical was playing. We noticed as we passed, that the stage door was not totally shut; the doors had the tiniest crack still open, and in our inebriated state we pried them open, and crept into the theatre. The only illumination was from the ghost light left onstage, and with hushed, reverent steps, and our hearts beating madly, we climbed onto the stage and looked out at the empty, quiet house of the Broadway theatre.
We didn’t really do much (a few dance steps, some nervous exploring in the wings), and it was fairly innocuous, but it was thrilling. Before we left, I snuck backstage and wrote our initials on the call sheet. Who knows if anyone even noticed?
The next day, of course, I was convinced that we’d been caught on a security camera and there would be a big story on Playbill.com: “Drunk Idiots Break into Broadway Theatre”, but we got away with it! I’d never do it again, but at 24 years old, with a lot of appletinis in your system at two in the morning; you don’t stop to think of consequences.