In the Spotlife: Petra Ulrych of 'Johnny Got His Gun'

by John Moore | Oct 28, 2016
Petra Ulrych. Johnny Got His Gun.
Photo by Charlie Byrne, San Francisco Art Institute.

(The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)

MEET PETRA ULRYCH

Multiple roles in Germinal Stage-Denver's 'Johnny Got His Gun'

  • Hometown: Prague, Czechoslovakia
  • Home now: Denver
  • High School: Mapleton High School in Denver
  • College: I have a BA in Theatre and Communications and a Masters in Counseling Psychology, both from CU-Denver
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Aurora in How He Lied to Her Husband and Mrs. Juno in Overruled in Germinal Stage-Denver’s production of Victorian Romances 
  • Petra Ulrych. Johnny Got His Gun. Photo by Ed Baierlein. What is Johnny Got His Gun all about? It's the stage adaptation of Dalton Trumbo's 1938 American Book Award winner. The play focuses on Joe Bonham, who has survived a shell that has left him with no arms, legs, eyes, ears, nose or mouth. He struggles to make sense of what has happened to him by tracing his memories and thoughts, and working desperately to communicate to the British nurses and doctors who care for him.
  • Tell us about your characters: I play one of the voices in Joe's head, Joe’s mother, girlfriend, various nurses, a doctor, a soldier, Hughie (a British soldier who was in the foxhole with Joe), and a childhood friend named Bill Harper. So, that’s a lot of people for a play that only runs about 80 minutes! We move between these characters rapidly. At times the characters overlap. For example, I play a nurse, but Joe perceives me as a memory of his mother or girlfriend. The challenge there how to play distinctly two entities without creating a muddled mess.
  • What do you love most about this play? This play grapples with the conflict between what propels us to war and the reality of war. It also explores the very essence of what makes us human: Connection to others, and how devastating that is when you lose it. I love projects where I can float between different characters rather than focusing on a single person. The structure of the play takes the audience into a pleasant memory for Joe, and then slaps them back into the current reality for Joe, which is that he has survived the war - but only to be alone. “I’m the alive man who's dead! I’m the dead man who’s alive!” sums it up nicely. 
  • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I was born with a club foot. I was scheduled to have my first surgery around my first birthday, but that was derailed by the Warsaw Pact troops invading Czechoslovakia. My family escaped Communism five days after the invasion, and I ended up in a German hospital for my first surgery. I ended up being in the hospital for three months with no contact with my parents, as the thought at the time was that it would be traumatizing to a 12-month old to see her mother, and then separate, and then see her. So, my mother was able to see me through a glass window, but I was not able to see her. Essentially, I was removed from my language, my family, all that I knew for three months.
  • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? Homelessness is not a character trait; it is an economic state. It’s been estimated that there are more than 10 million Americans who qualify for low-income rent, but there are only about 4 million units that are designated as low-income rent. The answer to homelessness lies in creating affordable housing, not in blaming and shaming people.

(Photo above and right: Petra Ulrych and Sinjin Jones in 'Johnny Got His Gun.' Photo by Ed Baierlein.)

Veterans' Voices' Johnny Got His Gun: Ticket information

• By Dalton Trumbo, adapted by Bradley Rand Smith
• Directed by Laura Cuetara
• Through Nov. 6
• Presented by the 73rd Avenue Playhouse, 7287 Lowell Blvd.
• Performances: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, plus 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.
• Tickets $23
• Info: 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com

Cast List:
• Sinjin Jones as Joe Bonham
• Petra Ulrych in multiple roles
• Dan Hiester in multiple roles

More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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