I met Joshua Volkers in 2008 when he was starring in Dog & Pony's AS TOLD BY THE VIVIAN GIRLS. No it wasn't at the theatre. It was at a restaurant, where he was a server. The "Waiting for the Show" section of my blog is a nod out to Josh and all the actors in Chicago that have to work multiple shifts to support their theatre habit. Over the last three years, Josh has had a handful of shows, numerous auditions, and several callbacks. He started working on his own action theatre project to translate the comic book genre to stage. He starred in a national television Public Service Announcement. Although his acting craft still does not pay the bills, Josh is no longer a server. Now, he's a personal trainer at Equinox. And on June 11th, Josh opens in another Dog & Pony Theatre Company production, DEAD LETTER OFFICE. The world premiere is being performed at the DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph.
There are 168 hours in a week. In the past seven days, Josh has spent over 40 hours in technical, dress and preview rehearsals. In between, he's worked his traditional 6am-11am, 3pm-5pm trainer shifts. He commutes almost four hours a day between his Roscoe Village home, his fiancée's Rogers Park place, Equinox at 900 N. Michigan, and DCA Storefront Theatre in The Loop. In his spare time, he sleeps. When I finally caught up with him on Monday, it was for a not-so-leisurely 52 minute lunch. He was tense. He had overslept that morning and missed his first client. Our server's inadequacies didn't help take the edge off the situation. Despite his exhaustion, he opened up about his acting life and uncharacteristically giggled before answering some of the questions.
T4W: When was the first time you knew you wanted to be an actor?
JJV: I was in a play at 9, "The Adventures of Brer Rabbit." I was Brer Rabbit. My mom arranged summer activities to keep us out of trouble. She acted so we did. All my siblings were in a handful of plays. I'm the one that got hooked.
T4W: What are the parts of your personality that align with an actor's mentality?
JJV: I'm loud, brave and I like to think about things too much.
T4W: The ones that conflict?
JJV: Security, reason and financial concerns.
T4W: You made plans to follow your acting dream to California, switched to London, stopped over in New York and landed more permanently in Chicago. What is the greatest challenge facing a Chicago stage actor?
JJV: I can't speak for Chicago actors in general. For me, it's the financial aspect of acting in the city. Making a living 'just acting' is tough. You need to do something else. The balance between a job and acting is impossible.
T4W: From the reading last Fall to now, there has been a shift in the DEAD LETTER OFFICE script with two playwrights. How was that challenging?
JJV: I needed to be flexible and open because some of the elements of the story and character changed from the audition material. And continues to change. I have to be adaptable and open to possibility for the character and story.
T4W: Your character is a postal supervisor with questionable management practices. Have you ever had a bad boss?
JJV: A number of bad bosses.
T4W: Did any of that experience influence your interpretation of this character?
JJV: No. I didn't pattern the character after anyone in real life. Maybe I should have. I don't work that way.
T4W: Actors are known to be superstitious. Any personal rituals pre-curtain?
JJV: I frequently pee. I get nervous and pace a lot.
T4W: What can the audience expect from DEAD LETTER OFFICE?
JJV: A good story.
T4W: Three words to describe DEAD LETTER OFFICE...
JJV: Hopeful, persistent, dramatic
T4W: What's next theatre-wise after DEAD LETTER OFFICE?
JJV: I'm working on a series of audio podcasts for the Dog & Pony website. Utilizing a comic book genre, Honor will be weekly (5-10 minute) webisodes of action theatre. The internet project is part a larger initiative to build an audience base for the upcoming theatre production of Birthright.
T4W: What's your fantasy role to play as an actor?
T4W: What Chicago director would you want to help you nail the part?
JJV: David Catlin
T4W: What Chicago theatre company, that you've never worked with, would be your ideal?
T4W: What three words describe you...
JJV: Fun, conflicted, strong
Sipping my coffee and wading into my day, I know Josh is already well into his 16-hour day. His commitment to want to do... everything is admirable. With the opening of the show less than 36 hours out, our usual witty text banter is silent. His intensity is dark, determined and, frankly, a little disturbing. Waiting for the show, I know my exact three words to describe Joshua Volkers: passionate, deliberate and bodacious. Joshua Volkers wants it all. If his alarm clock goes off, he'll be awake for most of it.
Dog & Pony Theatre Company presents
DEAD LETTER OFFICE
In association with the DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
June 11th thru July 18th
Conceived by: Ben Viccellio
Written by: Philip Dawkins
Directed by: Dieterich Gray
Christian: John Fenner Mays
Agatha: Susan Price
Rolo: Joshua Volkers
Je' T Aime: Kristen Magee