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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Actor challenges himself with every new role

Tags: Heebonics
Josh Epstein, left, and Dylan Trowbridge in character in The Grapes of Wrath. [David Hou photo]

Actor Josh Epstein said that he tries to bring as much depth to his musical roles as he does to his Shakespearean roles.

Epstein, 31, is currently performing at the Stratford Festival in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, as Quintus, and in The Grapes of Wrath, as part of the ensemble cast.

He said one of the advantages of performing at Stratford is having access to expert coaches, including vocal and movement coaches. He also enjoyed the longer-than-usual rehearsal process, which he said allowed him to step away from the material and get an in-depth understanding of Quintus.

“I also love being part of great theatre companies,” Epstein said. “At the Stratford Festival, I get to be in a company with some of the greatest actors in the country.”

The Vancouver native began acting at eight years old in a production of Peter Pan. He said that he remembers getting in trouble for showing up in the wrong costume and fooling around backstage, which he joked wasn’t that different from now.

“It was a more innocent time. I was just showing up and enjoying myself,” Epstein said. “It’s all about getting back to that.”

Some of Epstein’s recent roles include Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which he said is his favourite performance because it was physical, comedic and dramatic, a combination of everything he could do.

Epstein likes to take on different roles so that people don’t always see him as good at only one thing. “People want to take something you do really well and keep you in that role,” he said, “I always want to take it to the next level, and with every show and every part I play, I probably work harder.”

After high school, Epstein pursued another passion by getting his bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia in 2001. He has also written plays, and in 2009, he started a production company called Motion 58 Entertainment. He said that writing and producing has become just as important to him as performing.

“I get a thrill out of using both sides of my brain again,” he said. “It’s added so much more to this profession.”

The production company was awarded the National Screen Institute’s Drama Prize for 2010 for the short film Wait for Rain, which will have its world première at a film festival later this year. A feature film is in development with Chorus Entertainment. Epstein is also developing a TV series with Andrew Woodward and Josh Ramsay of the rock band Mariana’s Trench.

He has won several awards, including the 2009 Ovation Award for lead actor for playing Leo in The Producers. He was also nominated for Vancouver Jessie Awards for his roles in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Much Ado About Nothing and Alice: A Wonderland.

In 2010, Epstein was featured as a singer at the Winter Olympics, which he said he knew he wanted to be a part of because it was in his hometown. “We entertained throngs of people and it was the best two weeks of my life,” he said.

Epstein wants to continue acting and taking on bigger roles, as well as develop his production company further. He said he’d love to play the lead in Parade, and he’s always wanted to be Hamlet. He’s currently working on a Hamlet monologue, and he said he keeps imagining himself playing the role.

“I love playing stuff that’s not typical for me,” Epstein said. “I wouldn’t be the first considered for it, so I’d make a different kind of Hamlet.”

He has been in many musical productions. He said that he loves music and listens to music throughout the day, but approaches musicals from an acting perspective.

He added that no matter what kind of show he’s doing, he always gets a little nervous at some point. “I could be feeling fine all day, but the second I walk on stage I get a bit of butterflies,” he said.

“If I didn’t get nervous, I wouldn’t be living life to the fullest because emotions, whether they’re good or bad, are what we live off of.”

Epstein said that people starting their careers shouldn’t be afraid of new challenges. “You need to find your own path,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of what you’re good at, but also don’t be afraid to challenge yourself at what you’re not good at.”

He said his family has been very supportive of his career. They come to all his shows, and he added that his sister’s first question to him is always whether he has the lead role. He said that his father, who died two years ago, is his biggest inspiration.

“I feel like he’s with me every time I go onstage,” Epstein said. 

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