On Their Way reacquaints MV Times readers with people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, business, in social services, in the military, in academics, in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.
Oak Bluffs native Daniel Cuff, a 2009 graduate of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), is an aspiring actor who hopes his involvement in a first-run production in New York this spring will lead to a career as a professional actor.
“I hope to be performing and making a living doing it,” Daniel said in a recent conversation from his home in Oak Bluffs. “I have found that theater and performance is really my passion over everything else. I hope to gain some recognition in New York. I am looking forward to the thrill of being there, just the concept of being noticed by the right person, being at the right place at the right time.”
The show is called “The Brink of Us,” a dark comedy about a group of friends and their shocking secret. It opens April 25 and runs through May 17 at The Great Room in Brooklyn. The play was written by Delaney Britt-Brewer and directed by Daniel’s friend and former college teacher, Kara-Lynn Vaeni. Seven of his friends from college are also involved in the Brooklyn production.
The group is self-producing the play with help from the New Georges Theater, a nonprofit organization that works with female playwrights and directors to help produce new material. They are raising money through Indiegogo, a website where people can donate online and can receive different “perks” depending on the amount of their donation.
Daniel is also putting together a dine and donate night at Offshore Ale, where he currently works, on Sunday, March 2. Twenty percent of the food sales will go to the production. He will give out free tickets to the show and is putting together a silent auction as well.
The 22-year-old graduated in April with a bachelor of science in psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He took six drama courses, almost enough for a double major, classes in performance, scenic design, and even costume design.
He is currently back home in Oak Bluffs living with his mother, Donna Bouchard, and working at Offshore Ale and Mocha Mott’s while he awaits his debut in New York City.
His interest in theater began in high school. At the start of his junior year he had to choose an elective class. Nothing really piqued his interest except a drama class.
“I had walked by drama teacher Kate Poole’s classroom,” he recalled. “They had a couch and they looked like they were having fun. I could give that a shot I thought. I could do that.” He signed up.
Soon after beginning the class he acted in a showcase of scenes from plays by Shakespeare. Vineyard Playhouse producer and artistic director M.J. Bruder Munafo saw the performance and asked Mr. Cuff if he would be interested in auditioning for the Playhouse’s holiday show. “The Homecoming: A Christmas story.” He got one of the lead parts. “That was the first play I was in,” he said.
A Times review of the play at the time said, “It is Mr. Cuff, making his acting debut, who raises the bar on a show that rests in great part on his delivery. His natural stage presence and assured delivery, even his restrained and consistent Blue Ridge twang, is impressive.”
He was in several more plays at MVRHS. Most notably a student-teacher written and produced show in his senior year called “Letters,” which was a semifinalist in the statewide high school drama festival and selected to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, the following year.
“It was some of the most fun I have ever had in theater,” he said. “It’s what got me to want to keep going with it. Being part of the process from step one, coming up with the original idea and being so involved from start to finish. It made me realize how much goes into theater as an art. I learned that everyone in a show plays such a huge part.”
He was in college when the show went to Edinburgh but got to see it while in Scotland on an unrelated college program.
“The idea of acting in college terrified me,” he said.
He spent one semester at Bridgewater State where he took an acting class. It was less than a positive experience. He transferred to the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he found an acting class that brought back all the positive parts of his high school theater experience.
“Theater was the first real thing I did in high school outside of just going to class and hanging out with my friends,” he said.
His friends were about a dozen kids who all grew up about quarter of a mile from each other in Oak Bluffs. He said their major common bond was a shared interest in playing video games.
“I still play. I like the classics, the old school games, Super Mario Bros. and the other Super Nintendo games,” he said.
Mr. Cuff has four half brothers and eight half sisters all older who grew up in Maine, children of his father, Richard Cuff, who died in 2002.
He said that if he is not making enough to stay in New York after this show he will come back to the Vineyard to earn some money and try again.
If he doesn’t make it as an actor his backup plan is to become a high school guidance counselor on the Island. He said he knows the importance of having a good high school guidance counselor, as he did. “I think it is really important for the kids here to have someone they can talk to who knows what it is like to grow up on the Vineyard.”
For more information on how to support the project, go to indiegogo.com/projects/the-brink-of-us.