Actor Mark Feuerstein ’93 has starred in USA Network’s Royal Pains, appeared in shows such as Sex and the City and The West Wing, and released a sitcom about his life, 9JKL.
But his career began at Princeton in a production for Theatre Intime as a freshman. Feuerstein never stopped acting and studying theater after that, eventually studying English with a certificate in theater and dance.“It’s a good example of how you find yourself in college — I was a completely different person,” Feuerstein said during a talk April 23 at the Wallace Theater co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life and the Lewis Center for the Arts.
“If you would have asked me what I was going to do at Princeton my senior year [of high school], I would have told you I was going to be in the Woodrow Wilson School and be a lawyer in New York, and would not be following my bliss [today],” he said.
His experience at Princeton led Feuerstein to study theater at Oxford and at the London Academy of Music and Fine Arts on a Fulbright scholarship, which culminated in studying with French master clown and theater professor Philippe Gaulier. Feuerstein did not pursue “clowning” professionally, but credits Gaulier with teaching him to accept failure as part of learning.
“Learning not to take yourself too seriously was a great lesson I got from Philippe,” Feuerstein said.
When he is fully immersed in the emotions of the scene and can reference his own life, he produces his best work, even if that means improvising, Feuerstein said. “It’s the moments that smack of authenticity and you can’t always plan for them,” he said. “The idea of being an artist is to be available to those moments.”
Feuerstein merged his life and career when he created and started in 9JKL, based on his time living next to his family in a high-rise when he was first married. Although he had to dramatize personalities and parts of his family life, some aspects of his namesake character mirrored his personality, such as his competitiveness.
“It was an airing of a private, competitive quality,” Feuerstein said. “We got parts of myself in there I never could have [referenced] otherwise.”
9JKL may continue for a second season, and Feuerstein said he is pursuing other projects as an actor and writer.