Mark Turner has found success in New York, but not exactly as he planned. Instead of securing it onstage, he's so far gotten more attention online, with comedy and ... puppets.
The Sheraden native, 27, is a Point Park graduate who later starred in Pittsburgh CLO productions like Forever Plaid. Like most actors, he takes paying gigs when he can, including one with Disney Cruise Lines: "I am the Peter Pan in the stateroom videos," he notes.
But it's tough even getting auditions. "In New York, you cannot get seen for something unless you've been on Broadway," says Turner. He asked himself, "Do I bust my butt at an audition and not get looked at, or do I do something that I feel is substantial?"
So a couple of years ago, Turner launched Scratchy Dog Productions, mostly to give him and his actor buddies some work, however unpaid. (His main paying job is managing an organic-burger restaurant in Astoria, though he lives in Pittsburgh part time and shoots industrial videos here.)
Early efforts included the comedy series "Brothers N 'At," in which Turner and fellow Point Park alum Marcus Stevens play heavily accented yinzer siblings whose mishaps include forgetting their tickets to the Steelers game. It's funny stuff, and debuted in late 2009, a good two years before the similarly themed online hit "Pittsburgh Dad."
But Turner has gotten the most attention for "Taking a Risk." The short video features a dorky adolescent-puppet and his harried mom (played by an actor) who separately daydream about masturbation, and sing the catchy original title song: "I'm taking a risk, I'm gonna masturbate / I'm taking a risk, it's gonna feel great." Posted on YouTube in February, it's gotten more than 35,000 views
In March, Turner had another hit with "Thoughts From Emily," in which 8-year-old Emily (another hand-puppet) charmingly but pointedly asks Rick Santorum and Kirk Cameron why they hate gay marriage, when her two daddies make such a loving home. "Emily" — which Turner plans as a web series — has 26,700 views and was featured on the first page of Out magazine's website, "next to Nicki Minaj and Fran Drescher," he notes.
With 45 videos produced in two years, Turner has high hopes.
"We don't have any money. We're bubble-gum and tape. But people are listening and that's the important part," he says. "I'm waiting. Eventually someone's going to say, 'I'll pay you for this.'"