Jake Epstein's 'Awakening'

Published: July 10th 2010
in Culture » Stage

Jake Epstein and Christy Altomare in "Spring Awakening."
Jake Epstein and Christy Altomare in "Spring Awakening."

As a teen, Jake Epstein was already a veteran of Canadian television. By the age of 16, he had appeared in more than three TV shows -- including a starring role as Craig Manning on Degrassi: The Next Generation.


After Epstein left Degrassi, he studied at the National Theatre School of Canada. Once he graduated in 2008, he caught the theatre bug and started to make a name for himself within the theatre community.


That same year, he charmed audiences in the Ross Petty production of Cinderella alongside Degrassi castmate Paula Brancati. He then went on to star in the Canadian production of Dog Sees God, an Off-Broadway play that looks at Charlie Brown and the rest of his gang.


Last year, Epstein, 23, got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was chosen to star in Spring Awakening -- the edgy, Tony Award-winning musical that once featured Glee’s Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele. He performed in sold-out venues south of the boarder as Melchior, a role originated by Groff on Broadway.


Having just wrapped up the year-long tour, Epstein -- who was born and raised in Toronto -- talks about his experience working on the musical, his addiction to theatre and his plans for the future. 


How would you describe your experience touring with Spring Awakening and what are you going to miss the most?


Touring with Spring Awakening was a once-in-a-lifetime experience -- it was that perfect combo of doing your favourite show with the best people. I am gonna miss singing the song "Totally Fucked," at the top of my lungs, in front of two thousand people every night.


When you're performing the same show for almost a year, what do you do to keep things fresh?


I used to pretend that every show was my first. Even after doing it over 250 times, I still pretended like it was the first time I was ever playing the role.


Did Jonathan Groff or Kyle Riabko give you any advice when you took on the role of Melchior?


I hung out with Jonathan Groff and we talked a lot about the play and the role. He had some great advice. When they first did Spring Awakening Off-Broadway, they were sort of creating the show and creating the roles as they worked. A lot of Melchior was based on who Groff was as a person and as a performer. Groff helped me realize that to play Melchior you have to bring a lot of who you are to the role -- as opposed to doing what the last guy did. He was a really amazing person.


I didn't get a lot of time to talk to Kyle. But I had the pleasure of watching him in his last two weeks with the show.


Two Spring Awakening alums have gone on to star in the megahit Glee. Do you watch the show?


I totally watch Glee! I love how that show is introducing musical theatre to the popular masses!


You graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada but you've also starred in Degrassi and a number of other TV shows. Do you prefer the stage over TV and film?


I like them both a lot. But I do think there's a special place in my heart for live theatre. There's nothing like seeing a live performance. I think I'm addicted to that rush of being onstage -- it's like a drug.


What advice would you give young Canadian actors who want to pursue professional theatre?


I think the best advice is to read the greats -- Shakespeare, Shaw, Wilde, Miller, Coward, Williams. Take some classes. Get out there and audition. Like any job, if you work hard enough and you meet the right people, you can absolutely do it.


I know you love music and you've recorded songs before. Have you thought about focusing on music and releasing an album?


I always felt like if I tried to release an album it would ruin music for me. I love the freedom of being able to come home to Toronto, play some gigs, write music, without the professional pressure of the music business. But really... who knows? Maybe one day I'll have an album.


What's next for you?


Definitely a well-deserved break. After a year on tour, it wasn't too shabby to come and reacquaint myself with my couch. Just recently I've started working a bit in Canadian film and TV. There are a few other projects in the works that aren't confirmed yet.

Related articles: (Jake Epstein, Degrassi, stage, Broadway, Spring Awakening, Jonathan Groff)

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