Talking Theatre with Dmitry Chepovetsky

The Dora-nominated actors starts in "Forests," on stage at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre.

Published: April 30th 2011
in Culture » Stage

Dmitry Chepovetsky

Dora-nominated actor Dmitry Chepovetsky is featured in the English premiere of Forests, written by Wajdi Mouawad (the playwright behind Scorched, the play that was adapted into the recent Oscar-nominated film Incendies). We chat with the Canadian actor about the play -- on stage at the Tarragon theatre -- and his upcoming projects.  


What got you into acting?


I had always been the family entertainer since I was a kid, writing sketches, reading poetry, singing and doing impressions of famous Russian comedians back in L'vov, Ukraine where I was born.  I remember being 4 and singing at my mom's work, a holiday concert and getting a chocolate bar, which I thought, was the best thing ever. When we immigrated to Canada, we waited in Rome until our visas came through. My brother had gotten a job at a gas station to make extra cash and I'd hang out with him and entertain the customers, earning tips and making people laugh. The immediate response of hearing people laugh was an intoxication that never left and I haven't stopped since. I began in high school musicals in grade 9, when I was 13, and by 16 was doing community theatre and at 17 working professionally in Regina. By my senior year, I was the lead in the high school musical, doing fairy tale theatre on Sunday mornings, improv shows Sunday nights and working at the dinner theatre throughout the week and going to school full time. When I moved to Toronto, I went into commerce on scholarship to U of T for about three weeks, dropped out and pursued my dream, getting into Ryerson Theatre School. Finishing that program in 1992, I have been working professionally since 1995.


What drew you to Forests?


Richard Rose, the director, and I had worked previously on Remnants in 2003, and since have only done workshops together of various new works throughout the years. Forests was an offer last year, and with the previous success of Scorched, working on a show of Mr. Mouwad's was a gift I couldn't pass on. Since my immediate family was born at the beginning of World War II, my lineage comes from the former USSR. My interest of identity and the rich history that is my own family, parallel the journeys of many of the characters in this piece and has been an unending source of enlighten and humility. To realize that I am here because of the sacrifices, promises and determination of those who came before me and paved the way for a brighter future for me is exactly why I chose to do this for a living. To excavate the truth, and what really is truth and familial mythology.


What can you tell me about your characters?


I play six characters in total, four live and two pre-recorded voiceovers. They range from a neurologist, Dr. Freedman, to a weather announcer, a deformed monster in a pit whose voice is melodious and the only thing you hear of him, a artist friend, guest at the birthday of Aimee's, Albert Keller, an idealist post the Franco-Prussian war in 1870s who cuts ties with his father and moves his family to the Ardennes Forest to build an Utopia, a zoo in the middle of the forest with his new family, and Samuel Cohen, a surrealist performance dance artist who eventually, in response to a friend's death, forms the Stork Network, a resistance group during World War II in Paris.


Did you do anything to prepare for the roles?


Besides the historical research of a show that spans 130 years, I delved into neurological studies, learned some opera, watched and read about the resistance in France, and studied Wajdi Mouwad's previous works. But the best, a visit to the Toronto Zoo and a day with hanging with the animals was my favourite.


As an actor who's involved with film, television and theatre, is there one that you prefer over the others?


I am extremely fortunate to be able to work in all the mediums. Film and TV provide a certain security to be able to do the work that is true to my heart. There is nothing like a live audience, a partnership that is extremely immediate and present. On set, I enjoy that same response with all the people that work so hard around me, on every technical aspect, and they in turn become an audience of sorts. All in all, both allow me to tell stories. To quote a teacher of mine once, Carol Rosenfeld, "If you stay in the business long enough, you can travels centuries, be all the professions and explore hundreds of careers." It's a pretty good gig.


Are you working on any other projects?


Next week, I begin auditing a directing class and doing a workshop of a new musical for the Tarragon, oh yeah and running my show. We'll see what the future holds.

Related articles: (Forests, Incendies, Oscars, Wajdi Mouawad, Denis Villeneuve)
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