Jud Pierce, left, with cast in Art.Jud Pierce, left, leans into his role in Art in Winchester, Nov. 7-22.

One-act play in Winchester closes tonight

I met Jud Pierce at the Kickstand Café in Arlington, dressed down from his usual lawyer garb, wearing athletic clothes and a blue Red Sox hat with sunglasses resting on the visor. He had just come from his son’s baseball game.

At 42, Jud is a partner in his father’s law firm on the North Shore; an Arlington resident since 2003; husband of Laura, a public relations and advertising professional; father of 10-year-old Ben and 7-year-old Harper; a member of the Arlington School Committee since 2010, whose family practices Conservative Judaism, and he is an actor at heart.

Jud is enthused to be starring in the Winchester Players’ production of Art, which opened Nov. 7 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Winchester First Congregational Church, Chidler Hall, 21 Church St., Winchester, at 8 p.m.

Art, a one-act drama by Yasmina Reza, won the Tony for best play in 1998. Jud stars as Serge. Mark Soucy plays Marc and Jim Remmes is Yvan.

"The play is only 90-minutes, so there is plenty of time for the audience to go to the Black Horse Tavern afterward," says Jud with a smile. He has not acted since 2009, so he has been relishing all the preparation, the exercises for getting into character and rehearsals.

Family love of theater

Growing up in Stoughton, he and his parents shared a love of theater, music and the arts with him and his brother Michael, 3½ years younger. The "sports gene passed me by"; Jud and Michael’s parents encouraged them to do what they enjoyed, which was acting. A memorable role for Jud in elementary school was Jacob Marley’s Ghost in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

In addition to their studies in elementary school and practice of acting, Jud and Michael further developed discipline going to Hebrew school. When his father had a job change to the North Shore, his parents took the opportunity to relocate the family to Marblehead, where they felt their sons would receive an excellent high school education.

Their high school offered students ample opportunities to participate in the arts; there, Jud wrote, performed and bonded with other teens who loved acting in the summer, he did summer stock. Jud acted in The Chopin Playoffs at the Gloucester Stage Company, cofounded by award-winning playwright Israel Horovitz in 1979. He and his brother were in a production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder with Marblehead Summer Stage in 1990. High school helped him "get his confidence up in acting."

Jud went to Vassar College for a liberal arts degree and focused on drama. "That’s where Meryl Streep went for undergrad," he pointed out.

Michael went to NYU to pursue theater, eventually directing Jud in A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee in Marblehead in the summer of 1995.

A turning point

A turning point occurred when, like his father, Jud went to law school. Despite having many friends who moved to L.A. and now have successful acting careers and his brother Michael studying theater at NYU, he decided acting was not his "vocation" but his hobby.

Jud’s last performance in a major role was in the 2009 Arlington Friends of the Drama production Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson. He loved portraying Ben Hecht in this play about the creation of the film "Gone With the Wind." He became a partner in his father’s law practice, his kids were growing up and on the side, he would take bit parts in plays to keep the acting going. He missed being immersed in a major character in a theater production.

This summer he and Laura were in New York City in August, and going to the theater woke up Jud’s dormant desire to be an actor. They were at Idina Menzel's new show, If/Then, when he received the call that he was cast in Art. Laura urged him to follow this stirring and return to acting.

Stallone a longtime friend

He was further inspired when they saw the recent American Repertory Theater production of Broadway-bound Finding Neverland. Jud received a call from his friend and longtime Arlington resident Joe Stallone at Friends of the Drama, who was directing Art, and asked whether he wanted to audition. The timing could not have been more serendipitous.

Art is a play about long-term friendships and changes that occur in them over time. Jud’s character, Serge, has become passionate about contemporary art and spends a fortune on a completely white painting.

This sets off a "crisis" in his friendship with Marc, who cannot fathom the appeal in his friend’s new passion.

The third character is a younger "neurotic and comical" man Yvan, who is getting married soon. The play takes place over a period of approximately a week, with the setting limited to two of the character’s apartments. Playwright Reza uses silences in effective ways, creating tense moments for the characters and audience, though Jud adds, "There are some funny parts!"

Jud praised Stallone for being a smart and respectful director. He had the idea to give the actors exercises to get into their characters, including taking a 36-question personality analysis as the character and as themselves.

Jud plans to do an interview with his character Serge to further embody the role. He would ask Serge why he got into collecting art, how he became a dermatologist, how long he and Marc were friends, where did they meet?

'Gentle gibes'

As Jud will take over Pierce & Napolitano of Salem when his father retires, and "being a partner in a family practice puts on pressure to get it all done," his fellow lawyers give him "gentle gibes" and chide him when he leaves work promptly to get to three rehearsals a week for Art on time, which he takes in stride.

Discipline, along with family support and encouragement to do what you love is a major theme in Jud’s life. While attending elementary school and religious school, his children, Ben and Harper, enjoy acting. Both will be performing in the Wizard of Oz with the Menotomy Musical Theater with artistic director, Michelle Clifford, formerly at the Bishop School, overlapping with performances of Art on Nov. 14 through 16. Before taking the part of Serge, Jud spoke to his kids to make sure they were on board.

Jud’s passion for acting is palpable; he treasures all of his acting experiences since childhood, obviously responding to a calling.


This story was published Tuesday. Nov. 4, 2014, and updated Nov. 5.