Eric Lutes

Television fans are likely to recognize Eric Lutes as Del Cassidy on Caroline in the City or Tom Duran on Frasier, or from one of his many guest appearances on such series as Ellen, Mad About You, Ally McBeal, CSI: Miami, and Desperate Housewives. What they may not know about Eric is that he’s a Rhode Island native who grew up in Charlestown and got his BFA in Theatre at URI in 1991.

While he may have moved on to broader horizons, he’s still connected in many ways to his home state. His artwork, for example, is displayed in local galleries. Additionally, he acts as a guest artist at URI, teaching acting for the camera, and he has a lot to share with the students who now learn their craft on the same stages where he learned his own.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Eric recently, and asked some of the questions I thought his students might be interested in having answered.

I first asked Eric to take a brief stroll down memory lane and to share his favorite recollection of the URI Theatre department. Turns out it was performing in Ted Tally’s Hooters, a play in which two nineteen-year-old guys pursue two attractive girls while on a Cape Cod holiday. “I played such a convincing misogynist,” he told me, “that I received hate mail from some irate females” along with, from those who were able to distance Eric from the character he was playing, “some very nice fan mail – my first.”

One of Eric’s most defining moments, meanwhile, was playing the lead in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. “I was a freshman,” he said, “and it was a big deal for me.”

How did his experiences at URI help to prepare him for his current career? “One of the biggest takeaways from my time at URI,” he answered, “was that we were always expected to conduct ourselves professionally and be on time. Being on time is one of those things that sets the ground work for professionalism.”

While reviewing his memories of his days at URI, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask him how current students in the URI Theatre program might apply some of the lessons he learned when he was in their place 23 years ago. “My advice to current students,” he began, “is to get into as many productions as possible both on campus and off. Experience is the best teacher.” He continued: “I encourage current students to take on-camera classes as most of the work you will do in the ‘biz’ is on-camera work. TV, film, commercials, trade/industrial films. It is very difficult to make a living as an actor doing just stage work.”

What, I wondered, does he suggest that students, many of whom will seek as he did the show business centers of New York and Los Angeles, do once they begin pursuing their dreams? “I always tell students to submit headshots and resumes to casting directors and agents. If they get in a showcase or are cast in any show to send postcards promoting the piece to industry professionals they have already sent headshots and resumes to. Shell out the money to take a casting seminar to get in front of a casting director or agent they want to work with.” Eric’s advice was practical and clearly suggestive of his more than two decades in the business.

Finally, I asked him what could be the most important question of all that a beginning actor might put to him. If he had to begin again, knowing what he now knows, would he still pursue an acting career?

“I would encourage anyone who has that desire and can’t imagine doing anything else, to commit to it,” he told me. “If I had to do it all again, I would still be an acting student.” Considering the effort that Eric Lutes has expended since graduating from URI toward compiling a resume which any actor would undoubtedly be proud, I believe him!

By Sergio Suhett