Lexington theater runs in Timothy Hull's family.
"It started back in seventh grade," Hull, 41, says. "My mom used to direct plays at Bryan Station High School, and when she had a production of Carousel, she cast me as one of the kids in the show."
Hull's mom is Barbara Hull, who taught at Bryan Station for years and is now retired. Through his school years, Timothy Hull enjoyed theater, but the bug didn't really sink in its teeth until Hull took a year off from college and, left to his own devices, found that theater was what he was really drawn to.
From there, he embarked on a journey that included living on both coasts and a tour of duty in Iraq before coming home, where he has enjoyed a good year on Lexington stages.
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In December, he starred in Actors Guild of Lexington's production of David Sedaris' one man show The SantaLand Diaries. This summer, he took on dual roles in SummerFest's Pride and Prejudice, including a scene-stealing turn as the cluelessly self-absorbed Mr. Collins. Now, he is set to play the title role in Balagula Theatre's production of Grigory Gorin's Forget Herostratus.
The Russian play, being presented in Lexington for the first time, tees off on a historical event in 356 B.C., when a shopkeeper named Herostratus burned down the great Greek temple of Artemis at Ephesus, hoping the crime would earn him lasting fame.
The play finds Herostratus in prison right after his crime, trying to "con everyone into spreading his name and making him famous in opposition to the ruler's decree, 'Forget Herostratus.'"
Director Natasha Williams says events in the play echo those leading up to World War II, including the 1933 burning of the Reichstag, where the German parliament met, and the imprisonment of Adolf Hitler.
"It's the rise of a little man to power, basically by conning the population," Williams says.
Not that Herostratus is necessarily a Hitler.
"It is more interesting to make a play about a man in the position of a little man who is interesting and deep and belittled so much that to redeem himself, he goes for something as big as burning the temple," Williams says.
The Balagula Theatre take is more contemporary, Williams says. In its original production in 1972, it was a more straightforward Nazi allusion.
Either way, Hull has a complex character with good and bad points, which is what he likes to play.
"Tim crafts a character that is simultaneously likable and despicable, a flame in which many moths are undone," says Randy Hall, who plays the role of a citizen in the Balagula production.
Veteran actor Ed Desiato, who plays Cleon, says, "Working with Tim Hull is to understand what the term 'professional' means."
Hull is a trained professional. After finding his calling, he went to Western Kentucky University and found himself intrigued by a Marlon Brando biography.
"It was his fearlessness at expressing his individuality," Hull said. "I really admired that."
After Western, her pursued a master's degree in acting at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, then he made the move to New York, which proved to be disappointing.
After several years watching fellow actors rotate in and out of his day job at an ad agency and settling for a role as "the guy with hemorrhoids" in a play called White Trash, he joined the Army. He intended to enlist for two or three years, but he ended up serving six, culminating with 16 months in Iraq.
"I'd go on patrols with the infantry, and one of the infantry's jobs was to get people to shoot at them," Hull says. "They want people to attack them, so then they know where they are and they could go kill them. It was constant stress."
Safely back home in 2007, Hull quickly got back into theater, appearing in Love's Labour's Lost with Actors Guild's Shakespeare at Equus Run and The Crucible at SummerFest.
Now, with his local stage career on a roll, Hull wants to keep it rolling.
"One of the things I've learned about Lexington and places like this is I would never get the opportunities in bigger cities I get here — really good plays, really good roles," Hull says. "I want to stay in Lexington, and I want to do theater, and I want to find a way to make a living at it. And I want to work with everybody."