Thomas DeMarcus and the ‘Holy Grail’
UT Knoxville theatre alum in US tour of ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’
UT Knoxville alumnus Thomas DeMarcus has found what any theatre student might consider the “holy grail” of acting: appearing in the national tour of a Tony Award-winning show.
It’s not just any show: DeMarcus is a cast member for the national tour of the Tony Awards’ Best Musical of 2005, Monty Python’s Spamalot, based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The show will arrive in Knoxville for three performances at the Tennessee Theatre on May 21 and 22 as part of the Broadway at the Tennessee series.
DeMarcus, who appears in the production as the characters Brother Maynard, Historian, French Guard, and Minstrel, says he loves the show and has already signed on for a second year of the tour.
The Brentwood, Tennessee, native became interested in theatre when his high school drama teacher started teaching him about diction, choices, and character objectives and “really put a problem-solving aspect into drama.”
“I had always been into math and puzzles and figuring things out, and a character in a play posed a new kind of problem: how to make the lines on a page appear truthful and entertaining at the same time,” DeMarcus says.
But it was when he went with his high school drama class to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville to see Death of a Salesman, starring Hal Holbrook, that DeMarcus definitely knew he wanted to be an actor.
“I was mesmerized by the story on stage,” he says. “I wanted to be that good.”
DeMarcus later visited UT Knoxville and met the “one-of-a-kind” theatre professor Bill Black. Black spent an hour talking to DeMarcus and his parents, and DeMarcus knew then that he wanted to be involved in the UT theatre program. When he first entered UT in the fall of 1997, DeMarcus was a math major who did theatre on the side.
“After a year of some difficult math classes and some incredible theatre experiences, I decided to switch my focus to acting,” he says.
As a wide-eyed newcomer who had only performed in musicals in high school, DeMarcus found himself working alongside professional actors at the Clarence Brown Theatre (CBT).
“The juxtaposition between a high schooler’s mentality of acting and the regional theatre actor’s mentality was incredibly educational,” he says. “I knew that I wanted to work toward that caliber of dedication and performance.”
DeMarcus credits his theatre education to the guidance and teaching offered by CBT managing director Tom Cervone, professor Terry Weber, and artists-in-residence Carol Mayo Jenkins, Tony Cedeño, and John Forrest Ferguson. He’s especially grateful for professor Bonnie Gould.
“Bonnie was tough as nails, and I had her for three of the hardest classes I took in college,” DeMarcus says. “I still remember her class on auditioning, where we learned more about the business of acting and the harsh reality of choosing it as a profession than we wanted to know.”
DeMarcus was also involved with All Campus Theatre (ACT), the student-operated theatre group open to all students. During his time at UT Knoxville, he performed in twelve CBT and ACT productions on all three UT stages.
After UT, DeMarcus was involved in theatre in Chicago and Nashville before moving in 2005 to New York City, where he currently shares an apartment with a fellow UT theatre alumnus and another friend. He says the UT theatre graduates in New York get together occasionally and help each other with job opportunities.
Now, DeMarcus stays busy with Spamalot. Rehearsals began in August 2010, and the cast has continued to work with very little down time.
“No Thanksgiving, no Christmas, thirty-seven states, and five Canadian provinces,” DeMarcus says. “But what’s great is that this show has consistently sold out, and the crowds could not have been more giving.”
As for the future, DeMarcus says he certainly wants to continue acting. He hopes to perform on Broadway and eventually make a name for himself on television and in film. He would also like to try his hand at writing and directing.
However, DeMarcus maintains a grounded, humble attitude. “In this business, it’s up to chance as much as it’s up to talent,” he says.