Erik Mrakovcic, a former summer ensemble member, is a theatre and film actor. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada.
Select Credits include:
- Jaws in The Clinic
- Father in Tidel
- Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.
A fun fact about Erik: He can spin Fire Poi, and is able to beat box; Because of these skills, Erik is pretty cool, but he is cool regardless.
Let’s Learn More About Erik Mrakovcic!
Meet Erik Mrakovcic! An Interview With Erik!
You graduated from National Theatre School of Canada. Could you expand on what you learned there and what were some of your favourite courses? Is there a moment that sticks with you from your acting days at NTS?
Through the structure of the NTS Acting program I became more aware of my body and how I can utilize my physicality for performance. I could identify bad habits I’ve grown up with that would interfere with the clarity of my acting. It was useful to learn different strategies and ways to establish routines that would help me apply myself more to the character.
A moment comes to mind, it was in rehearsal for a commedia dell’arte play, The Liar by Carlo Goldoni, I was playing the role of Doctoree Balamzone. I was wearing a mask that covered half of my face, a fat suit and trying to find a suitable voice that I could sustain for the duration of the play.
I had a rough idea of the character but with all those elements it felt forced in the moment. The director, Tadeus Bradecki, gave me a note that I was going against the comedy of the scene and that I should move as if the audience could watch the character walk for hours. That note gave me a whole new perspective on how I should play the Dottore character and incorporate all the different elements of commedia dell’arte. Instead of forcing the comedy I found the freedom to breathe like the character and permission to be completely observed in his behavior.
The old lesson of not just focusing on the goal but to appreciate the journey was a big theme in Mind and Body class taught by Tedi Tafel. Something I understood intellectually but had great resistance in practice. The class consisted of doing particular movements in line starting on one end of the room and moving towards the wall on the other side of the room. Often my focus to get to the wall was so great that I muddled the particular movements missing the point of the class.
Even after NTS I find that those kinds of lessons continue to be useful for professional acting. It’s an ongoing learning process.
Do you have any tips/advice for people entering theatre school?
When I entered theatre school I was very excited to learn more about acting and to develop and deepen my craft. Although that’s nice and useful it’s not the only thing necessary to be a professional theatre artist. I think it’s valuable to think about what it means to be a professional and how to better yourself not just in terms of craft but also what will make you a better collaborator. To learn about the theatre companies and the people who are already working there. Theatre school provides a great opportunity to get honest feedback about the creative work you’re doing and different resources to learn from that are not so easily available outside of theatre school.
Is the theatre different in Canada than it is in Croatia? What were some of the biggest differences you felt in the theatre industry in Canada in comparison to Croatia?
Yes, they are two different cultures and that reflects in the theatre practice. Professional theatres in Croatia all have regular acting ensembles where actors are employed full time and in Canada it’s generally more project based. Professional theatres in Croatia are funded by the government and don’t rely on ticket sales whereas Canadian theatre does; which results in longer rehearsal time in Croatia than in Canada. The Academy of Dramatic Arts has a more gatekeeping role than acting schools in Canada. The style of acting and the plays are different. I find that musicals are more prominent in Canada than in Croatia.
You are not originally from Canada, can you expand a bit about where in Croatia you are from? Why did you want to come to Canada?
I grew up in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It’s a beautiful city with a vibrant history and culture. I was always curious about Canada because I was born in Halifax and have a lot of family in Nova Scotia. In the past, I had a chance to visit Montreal and parts of Nova Scotia while in high school. I wanted to study acting so I thought it was a great opportunity to apply for the Acting program at the National Theatre School. I sent my audition video and did the callback over Skype. Once I got accepted I realized my dream of coming back to Canada.
We heard you are an amazing Baker, what are some of your favorite things to bake? How did you find your love for baking?
When I moved to Canada I was craving my favorite dessert to eat which happens to be an Austrian chocolate sacher cake. I decided to make it myself and enjoyed the process of putting it all together and witnessing simple ingredients transform into a decadent dark chocolate-apricot jam-crushed-almond cake. I also enjoy making/stuffing my face with an Italian eggplant dish Parmedjada. Love goes through the stomach.
What is a fire poi and how did you find yourself practicing it? What is your favorite song to beatbox and why does beatboxing call to you?
Fire poi is a kind of performance that uses swinging wicks that are soaked in fuel and lit on fire to create rhythmical and geometric patterns. I was introduced to it in a summer theatre camp by swinging balls on a string with flowy decorations attached to create patterns in the air. I had a chance to try the fire version in Montreal. It’s an aesthetically pleasing and relaxing activity that’s even more fun when it’s on fire. I enjoy exploring different resonances with my voice and amuse myself with unconventional sounds and percussive beats. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the insane beatboxing world that I have yet to explore.
Can you expand on the “Jaws in The Clinic, Father in Tideline and, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.” a general synopsis about them and a bit about how you prepared for your role?
The Clinic by Daniel Spragge is a two-hander between a troubled childhood trauma survivor and a man with a broken jaw, set in an abortion clinic. It was a unique challenge to play a character that’s unable to speak and uses only gestural language. The Bible was a good source of inspiration for my character. In rehearsal I was focused on establishing a connection and a unique dependency with the other character. Their relationship shifts throughout the play as each other’s aggressor, victim and savior.
Tideline is a play by one of my favorite Canadian playwrights, Wajdi Mouawad. I played Wahab’s talking dead Father, which he takes from Montreal back to Lebanon to bury and in the process learns and grieves the tragedy of the civil war. It’s a challenging piece of theatre and requires a strong ensemble to commit to the swift changes between antique and contemporary storytelling style. It deals with dark and heavy themes mixed with a lot of imaginative humor. Because it’s such a dynamic play it requires a lot of focus and energy to commit both to the hilarious and heavy dark parts of the play.
Throughout school and certainly with this play my favorite kind of performance is with a strong ensemble. There’s nothing better than a committed group of people overwhelming the audience with different strong performances and creating a small functioning universe on stage that not only tells the story but let’s the audience experience it.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a fun Oscar Wilde play. A satire of Victorian traditions, marriage, and pretending to be Earnest. I played Lady Bracknell and it was also a great ensemble where a bunch of high school Croatians escaped into 19th century England and criticized the world in posh over the top British accents. She was such a delicious toxic character to play and completely outside of my comfort zone. Since then my comfort zone in playing characters I have nothing in common with has only been expanding.
What is your favourite place to eat in Mississauga?
I liked the Indian restaurant that was close to the Crane Creations Theatre space, “Ambiance of India”
What is your favourite activity to do in Mississauga?
Walking through Lakeside Park.
What shows are you currently part of and what project will be working on going forward?
A radio production of ”Our Miss Brooks” from Haven theatre that will be released in February.
How do you prepare for a show? Have your preparation methods changed since you were a student to a working professional in the theatre?
I think they were much more detailed at NTS. The way I rationalize it for myself for not being so detailed is that it was the learning phase where it’s important to experience every kind of warm up and see what it does. So in the future you can draw on all that experience but I might just be lazy. I think for shows I like to do what I feel is necessary. Sometimes being completely relaxed and zen doesn’t really help me to get ready to act. Push ups were never really a part of warm ups at NTS. I feel that kind of muscle tension and breathing helps me be more in my body.
I think it’s good to assess the present moment and energy levels, then proceed with methods that will leave you feeling ready to play. My favourite is an exercise from one of the Alexander technique classes at NTS. You just stand still for a long time with your arms up and let gravity do its thing. I carry tension in the shoulders so that kind of stuff tends to be useful. My go to preparation is basic stretching, vocal warm ups (phonation+tounge twisters). I also do a number of push ups depending on how I feel.
What was one of your favourite activities you did at Summer Ensemble? Is there any theatre that you like to watch that is outside of North America?
Exploring different meanings of certain scenes in Romeo and Juliet. I also enjoyed the readings of plays. I grew up with Croatian theatre so I love to watch a lot of Croatian theatres like Zagrebacko Kazaliste Mladih, Hrvatsko Narodno Kazaliste, Gavella, Teatar ITD, Teatr Exit and many others. It made me really happy I got to see a production (Tartuffe) from Schaubuhne Theater and a show from Madrid Todo el cielo sobre la tierra (El síndrome de Wendy). It’s a real privilege to be able to see great theatre shows from different cultures.
Can you expand a little bit more on the project(s) you worked on in Summer Ensemble?
When I was at the Summer Ensemble we mostly focused on Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Julliet. Discussing the circumstances and potential backstories of the characters and who they would be in the world today. I think this kind of exploration and analysis of Shakespeare has the potential to have a great impact on audiences. We also did some initial scene work with other directors on Christopher Durang’s play Titanic and Sarah Kane’s Crave. These plays made an impact on me personally because I as an actor feel that the only way to improve my craft is to work on well written material.
In between all those projects we focused on educating ourselves about theater companies in the world and Canada, contemporary artists in the world and different acting techniques. Improvising scenes and discussing money and how it influences individuals in society and connecting those topics to the scene work of Romeo and Juliet.
Was there a favourite warm up you did at the Summer Ensemble?
I’m a fan of good classic tongue twisters that we would go through in crazy speed: Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers, Red Leather Yellow Leather, Woodchucks, Six thick thistle sticks etc.
How many languages do you speak? If more than one, what is a difference you could describe between English and the language you speak?
I speak English and Croatian. There are a lot of differences. .Croatian is considered a Slavic and English is a Germanic language. Croatian “Rs” are rolled. I still have trouble with pronouncing the sound “th” in English. Me and other Croats incorrectly pronounce it as “d” instead. The word order in Croatian sentences is quite fluid which often gets me in trouble when writing in English. Plus the sentences in Croatian tend to be very long .The opposite is true for English. My speaking voice is higher in register in English and lower for Croatian. Croatian is produced more from the back of the throat whereas with English it feels more forward in the mouth. Croatian is a more phonetic language. The word’s pronunciation can be predicted from its spelling and its spelling from its pronunciation. A Croatian spelling Bee would be very underwhelming.
Whom did you enjoy working with in Crane Creations?
Everyone was delightful in their own special way.
Any favourite (it can be fun, sad, or memorable) memory that sticks with you?
Learning Shakespeare lines in a hallway and eating microwave popcorn. Also a fun and sad acting exercise comes to mind is where we had to come up with two solo scenes where the goal was to make the audience cry and laugh. My laugh scene was a character trying to commit suicide with a spoon. I’m not sure I achieved the goal, but it was fun to see the rest of the ensemble tackle this essential acting exercise.
Do you have a favourite play, video game or book? Can you give a slight synopsis and why it is your favourite?
There’s a novel by Jose Saramago called “The Cave” that I keep thinking about long after I have read it. It’s a story of an old potter who lives in the country with his daughter and son in law. His pottery is rejected by The Center, a futuristic huge shopping mall complex where most people live. The novel follows his attempts to come up with a new design so that he can still keep selling his pottery to The Center and survive. It’s written in such a gentle philosophical way. And it has a terrifying twist that makes the whole story resonate on another level. I admire Saramago’s writing style and how he manages to accurately shed light on human nature and the state of the world.
What is your favourite cookie recipe?
Oatmeal cookies: Beat butter(170g unsalted) and sugar (210 brown) in a large bowl until creamy and smooth. Add one egg and vanilla extract to beat and combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour (105g all purpose), baking soda, salt (half a teaspoon), and ground cinnamon(half a teaspoon). Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in the walnuts (110 g chopped), oats(260g ), and dried cranberries (1 cup) and/or chocolate chips. (also a cup of coconut flakes if you can find). Form balls with the batter and flatten with a fork, depending on what size cookie you are going for. Heat for 10 to 12 minutes 350 F/ 180 C. They are ridiculously tasty.
Do you have a favourite recipe to share that is not a cookie?
I’m happy to also share a ground carob cake. Mix eggs (3), sugar (150g), oil (100ml) and milk(100ml). Add flour (200g) that’s been mixed with baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add 150g of ground carob and 3 grated apples. Heat for 30 mins 350 F / 180 C. Cover with a dark chocolate glaze.