2014 Best Leading Actor in a Play Nominee Interview: Victor Shopov as Liam in SpeakEasy Stage Company's "Bad Jews"

Before we announce the winners of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards, we are proud to present our Nominee Interviews. 

NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here.

Victor Shopov had quite the 2014, featured in four award-worthy productions throughout the year, earning multiple nominations and awards for his acting. His Liam in Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews at SpeakEasy Stage Company blended some of Victor's most impressive talents: his versatility, his ability to make seemingly unlikeable guys to be the heroes of their own story, and steady transitions from comedy to drama with the flip of a switch. In his Interview, Victor discusses Liam and his own connection to religion, his acting fears, and his upcoming projects (including The Submission now running through May 30). 

Photo by Joel Benjamin

Photo by Joel Benjamin

Victor, it’s a pleasure to interview you again.  Can you introduce yourself to our new ArtsImpulse readers?  Who are you, what do you do, and what’s new?

Hello, AI readers! I’m Victor. By day, I work in health care, and by night, I act in and around Boston. I’ve been trolling around the Boston theater scene for about seven years now and I am still enjoying (almost) every second of it.

What roles did you play in 2014?  Tell us about the productions.  What was your favorite production? 

I had a somewhat hectic 2014, but a rewarding one. I started out playing Bernard in Death of a Salesman (Lyric Stage Company), then took a little breather until I unexpectedly had to jump into Translations (Bad Habit Productions) following an actor injury. I was also rehearsing Bent (Zeitgeist Stage Company) at the same time, then immediately jumped into Bad Jews (SpeakEasy Stage). So, it was a little bit of a mad dash, but it all worked out, and I had a ton of fun. I enjoyed all of the productions in different ways, but I think I had the most fun with Bad Jews. I mean, going on an eight-minute rant while jumping on a bed and screaming expletives is not something I get to do onstage very often. (Offstage is a different story).

Who was Liam, and what was his story in Bad Jews?  How did audiences react to this character?  To this show?

Liam is the eldest brother in a family that has just lost its patriarch—Liam’s grandfather. Liam feels entitled to a precious family heirloom and engages in a pretty vicious battle with his equally intelligent and obnoxious cousin, who also lays claim to the item in question. What follows is a pretty hilarious and jarring examination of what it means to be true to one’s faith and how family dynamics can break down over the most petty of squabbles.

I think audiences were equally enamored with and repulsed by Liam. Yes, he is a somewhat abrasive (very abrasive) character, but he has a certain charm. Also, I think we all know someone kind of like Liam in our own lives, and people seemed to relate to that. Plus, it is always amusing to watch a grown man throw a childish tantrum of volcanic proportions. 

Are you religious?  How would you define your religious views?  Did you do any research for playing Liam?

Not at all [religious]. I’ve identified as atheist since I was very young. My family never forced religion on me—they let me come to my own conclusions on my own time without trying to persuade or dissuade me from any particular point of view. At present, I simply don’t believe in a sentient, omniscient being that takes a keen interest in the moment-to-moment activities of our lives, let alone our adherence to archaic “rules” that are so grossly outdated that people should feel silly still following them. That said, I do feel a sense of wonder when I think about the enormity of the universe and how tiny we really are in the grand scheme of things, and more to the point, just how much is out there that we don’t know and understand. So, I prefer to keep an entirely open mind about things and not lock myself into a narrow belief system that disregards every other possible explanation or experience.

In terms of research, I did a bit of digging into what Liam’s background, culture, and childhood probably involved. He himself is not very close to his faith, so I didn’t have to focus too much on that, but I did try to examine how that distance might have influenced his actions in the show. I spoke to some different folks about modern day Jewish culture—especially in the younger generation—and how Liam seemed to be very representative of a somewhat more distant approach to faith; a more casual or liberal acceptance of certain cultural aspects, or a simple disregard for them.

What was your favorite show that you saw in 2014?  Why?

I absolutely loved the Lyric’s Into the Woods. It was the first time I have ever seen the show onstage, and I adored every aspect of it.

What scares you most about performing?  What excites you?  What energizes you?

I can’t say that I get scared anymore, honestly. I’ve had to learn roles in three days and then jump onstage. I’ve had fellow actors just start making stuff up while working opposite me. I’ve had sound loud (that shouldn’t have been there) play through entire scenes while catching a designer sprint to the booth to fix it. I’ve had audience members have very loud conversations in the middle of a show, take phone calls, and faint/fall off the top riser of a black box. So, there is not much that can really shock me at this point, I think.

Also, all that stuff I just described? That’s what excites an energizes me—the possibility that absolutely anything can and will happen in the middle of a show, and that I have to be ready to manage it either way.

What is one of your goals for 2015?

I finally, at long last, finish one of the half-dozen scripts I’ve been writing for the last several years. I have a terrible habit of starting projects and not finishing them, and I would like to break that habit.

Do you have any secret skills?  Have you ever been asked to perform any of your skills during an audition?

I can aggressively raise a single eyebrow (but only one—I’m not yet ambidextrous) and I can play a mean ukulele, I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked to do anything unusual in an audition. Maybe to behave like my favorite wild animal, but I really hate that stuff, so I probably didn’t do it very well.

How would you like to see the Greater Boston theatre change in 2015-2016? 

The loss of the Factory Theatre was a huge blow for the small/fringe theater scene in Boston. What is encouraging, though, is the response that was generated as a result, and I would like to see that enthusiasm continue over the next year. People have already gotten very creative in finding new spaces to work in and explore, and while I think that is terrific, I would like to see a bit more dedication from the powers that be to supporting the small/fringe scene—especially emerging companies—so that they can continue producing new work and providing opportunities to up and coming and veteran actors alike.

Do you have any upcoming projects or productions?

I do! I am actually in the throws of rehearsal for The Submission (Zeitgeist Stage Company) that runs from May 8-30th. After that, I’ll be working with Wax Wings productions on the premier of Eyes Shut.Door Open by Cassie Seinuk, then heading back to Zeitgeist in the fall for Boys in the Band.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

I think I’ve droned on long enough. All I’ll say is a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who continues to support the local theater scene—we couldn’t do it without you.