Troy David Mercier considers life as an artist
By Chris Gonzalez | Thursday, February 22, 2018
By Chris Gonzalez
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Student Chris Gonzalez interviewed Troy David Mercier on his journey as an artist and how he finds fulfillment in the face of the obstacles life sets in his way.
Troy David Mercier’s story is one of a quest for fulfillment in the rapidly evolving world of professional theater. Our interview seemed to keep circling back to the idea of fulfillment. He has had the opportunity to study physical theater with some of the most renowned companies in the world, including Gardzienice Theatre in Poland, SITI Company in NY, and Double Edge Theatre here in MA. Since graduating he has also had the incredible opportunity to work with Admiration Theatre in London and PUSH Physical Theater in NY. But in talking to Troy, I got the sense that although he has had the privilege to travel the world studying with masterful teachers and ensembles, he is most interested in knowledge gleaned from the real world. He is the type of Theater Professional I aspire to be: one who is thoroughly trained and skilled, and yet one who is not consumed by the world of theater. He has both feet on the ground, and has found the delicate balance of a passion for the theater, and personal fulfillment in a life outside the theater.
One of the things that is most impressive about Troy’s career is his commitment to being honest about his needs. I thought it would be interesting to interview Troy because I was curious about his long path through theater. I had seen him on advertisements, for example, for his beloved PaintBox Theatre in Northampton MA. What was the entry way into Paintbox Theatre? How did he wind up there given the many roads that were open to him? Again, everything we talked about circled back to the word 'fulfillment'.
Troy’s interest in theater began at UMass Amherst as a freshman. When he graduated top of his class from Bay Path High School, he received a four year scholarship to UMass Amherst and declared his major his first year. But in order to keep his scholarship, he needed to keep up his grades. He spent so much of his time with his head in books he started to feel like he was missing a more social part of his college experience. For Troy, academic success was fueled by fear. “I was afraid of failing, because if I did, my scholarship, and thus my opportunity to be there at UMass, would be gone.” It was this fear that kept him in the library instead of out in the world. But eventually Troy challenged himself to do what he needed to do, to meet his needs. It wasn't until after his graduation from UMass that he decided to create a devised physical theater piece called, Wake of Dreams. He worked in collaboration with his close friend and current, at the time, UMass student, Stephanie Kalil. Troy found fulfillment through both the collaboration of the devising process, and through the risk of failure necessary to engage in that process. Wake of Dreams went up in the Curtain Theater and stands out in Troy's memory as the first moment he knew, “I could really do this.”
After UMass, Troy travelled to Poland to study with Vodek Stanyesfski, of the Gardzienice Theatre — a sister company to Double Edge Theatre. Troy also travelled to Serbia in a production of SeriousPlay Theatre’s Milosevic at the Hague. And yet, he says, “In all my travels, I found one of the most fulfilling theatrical experiences right in my own back yard.”
Troy was talking about PaintBox Theatre, a children’s theater company that Troy has been working with for many years. He loves it because, “there is no fourth wall, you are talking directly to the audience.” Again, this goes back to satisfying Troy’s need to connect with others. He has developed a very special friendship with the Director of Paintbox, Tom McCabe. Troy respects Tom’s ability to delegate and trust the performers to do what they do best. Troy likes the creative freedom he is given in this company, and the community it has created.
Troy has also received his MFA in Playwriting, with a focus on devised physical theater, from Smith College. He worked closely with Len Berkman, who he considers a dear friend. “Len is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met”. Troy's thesis is a play called Have Ladder: Afraid of Heights. This piece originated when he was contacted by Strong Coffee Stage to produce twenty minutes of clown work. It began as a one man, one scene, wordless skit, and expanded into a four person, four-scene, one-act show with lots of audience participation.
Troy has come a long way from sitting in the library with his head in books. He has found a path that works for him. He has discovered the secret to integrity in the life of the theater, which, in my opinion, is no easy task. “I don’t want to be one of those people that only talks about theater, I want to talk about the world.”
This was my favorite thing Troy said. Ironically, this was an interview about his life in the theater. And it was inspiring because I believe that Troy’s commitment to real people in the real world will influences his playwriting and devising work for the better.