David Butler
Renaissance man
By Ron Ehmke

I’d be hard pressed to think of any longtime friend with whom I have a more multifaceted connection than David Butler. Over the last twenty-two years the fortysomething Virginia transplant and I have collaborated on performance projects, I’ve booked shows and edited writing of his, he’s designed sets for shows of mine, and last summer he helped plan my wedding. If his name or face seems familiar, you may know him from his two decades of Artie-award-winning work as an actor for any number of local theater companies or from his frequent appearances on TV commercials. You may also have read about his work as an interior designer (www.davidbutlerdesigns.com) in our September/October 2005 issue.

When you have to check off a single box to describe what you do for a living, which one do you choose?
This is always tough; I have never been good at fitting into a box. In fact, I resist it. [I usually pick] “Artist” or “Designer.”

What’s the single most important change you’ve made in your life in the last ten years?
About eight years or so ago I was starting to get chubby. I was awakened to this fact during a family reunion, when, after playing in a pool with him for hours, one of my adorable nephews asked innocently, “Uncle Dave, will I be as fat as you are when I am your age?” When I returned to Buffalo, I immediately started searching for a gym. I was never real athletic so I needed to find a place that would keep me on track. I knew I needed to make an investment for both my health and my marketability as an actor. I can’t say that I am buff by any means, but I am in the best shape of my life. I owe that to Dan Sheff of Cosmic Fitness. That appointment twice a week has kept me sane and healthy.

How has the gay community in WNY changed during the course of your adult life here?
After the end of a nearly ten-year relationship, I had hoped that the dating process would be somehow fun. So much had changed: TV shows, anti-discrimination laws, etc. The Internet was a new place to meet people, replacing nightclubs. On a national scale our lives seemed to be more accepted, yet somehow it seems that much of the WNY community has not caught up. There seems to be a lot of low self-esteem [and] deception. I don’t mean to paint such a bleak picture, but I could write a comedy book on my dating experiences.

How has the arts community in WNY changed during that same period?
I feel lately that the Buffalo arts community is in a period of slow and vital change; a lot of new theater groups are popping up, many [of them] moving away from the same old stuff and producing shows that are more risky and thought provoking. I am lucky enough to be a part of the new ALT Theater which has allowed people like me to experiment with new forms, like staging poetry with actors and combining sounds, music, and dance. … This is one of the great things about Buffalo—you can play creatively here. I think the country and maybe finally the area itself are becoming aware of what is here.

Do you tend to date people within the arts, or outside your field(s)? Any thoughts on which works better for you?
Dating other actors is doable but it’s similar to long-distance relationships: the chance you are in a show together is rare, and if not, you may not see each other for weeks. It takes a huge amount of trust, self-confidence, and making use of the little time you may have.

I think one of the vital characteristics about any long-term relationship is finding someone who will both challenge and support you. Two people sharing their lives together who see things differently is much more interesting. When looking for dating material I look more for anyone—plumber or lawyer—who is good at what he does, and wants the best out of every moment.

How does it feel to be described as an “eligible”?
It’s both flattering and awkward. I am lucky enough to neither look nor act my age. … I have developed a philosophy that fits somewhere between my spirituality and my old days as a lover of punk rock: I think our lives are intended to be spent achieving happiness and no [cultural stigma] should keep anyone from that.


Favorite play of all time?
Poor Superman by Brad Fraser.
Favorite role:
That is a hard one; there are so many fun parts I have had. I’ll pick the Colonel in Passion with O’Connell and Company.
Role I wish I could play:
Something meaty and Shakespearean.
Most romantic spot in WNY?
Delaware Park, Hoyt Lake in moonlight.
Last movie loved:
American Beauty.

Ron Ehmke is an associate editor of


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