Review Fix chats with actor Ilia Volok, who discusses his reimagining of the classic “Diary of a Madman.”
About the Production:
Nikolai Gogol’s dark piece as reimagined by Ilia Volok centers on the gradual decline into insanity by Poprishchin, a low-ranking civil servant who yearns to be noticed by the beautiful daughter of a senior official. More than just unrequited love, MADMAN delves into class wars and an everyman’s quest for individuality in an indifferent urban city. Don’t be so quick to think this only happens over there.
PREVIEWS: Tuesday/, October 24 & 25 at 8:00 p.m. OPENING: Thursday October 26 and running to November 12
PERFORMANCES: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday @ 8pm; Saturday @ 3:00 & 8:00 pm and Sunday @ 3pm.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Ilia Volok: Nicolai Gogol is one of my favorite writers. His ability to show the depth and the complexity of a common,”little” person is beyond words. This masterful combination of a realism, specificity, attention to detail and a heightened reality, as well as humor and drama of it, is extremely appealing to me. Diary of a Madman has always interested me, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it until I started working with the director Eugene Lazarev. Together we were able to find our own voice to interpret this wonderful material.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Volok: The most important thing for me is to connect to a material and the charachter on the emotional, visceral level. Having that connection is like having a foundation for your house… After that it’s a road of trial and error… Being a member of the Actors Studio and a graduate of the Moscow Art Theater School, I consider myself a “Method Actor.” There have been plenty misconceptions and different interpretations of Method. But In fact it’s quite simple: Method is making things personal for yourself. To create and live the imaginary life by using my own experiences. I work through substitution, puting myself in the circumstances of the character, envisioning as many specific details, freeing my imagination. The biggest benefit of that kind of work is a gain of trust in yorself, learning to let go of the fear of “not being good”, learning to let things happen to you- rather than forcing them upon yourself…
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Volok: A number of things:
Brilliant writing- this is a unique material for an actor.
Sharing the same origins as the writer- Nikolai Gogol was born in Ukraine. I was born and lived in Kiev Ukraine.
Working with the director who has the same theater training- we both went to Moscow Art Theater school(different years).
Practically having no set- I use bed sheet and a chair. This show 100% is about acting.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Volok: I learned to trust myself even more. I learned that being able to take a step into uknown, into an “abyss” can be a great thing!
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Volok: I feel a big deal of responsibility- no doubt! And at the same time being able to touch the greatness of Nicolai Gogol is a thrilling and unforgettable experience!
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Volok: Maybe take it to a bigger venue, take it on a tour, play it at the festivals, but, the main goal is to keep performing it, keep it alive!
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Volok: The story of Poprishin- the main character in the Diary of a Madman is timeless and Universal- anywhere in the world people can relate to it. It deals with love, desire, obsession, rejection, hope and broken dreams… I hope the audience will feel compassion for Poprishin- it would be the best reward for me as an Actor.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Volok: As far as my theater plans-I have another solo piece that I have done in Los Angeles 2 years ago- “Who killed comrade Rabbit?” which I co-wrote with Will Manus. I hope to bring that to New York as well in the near future! Overall life of an actor is unpredictable… as of now I’m planning, after completing my NY run of Diary of a Madman, to come back to LA where I have been living for the last 27 years. With my friend David Scott we are finishing the post production of our independent Feature Film-comedy “Fakov in America,” which we co-wrote and where I play the title role.