In the Wings: Mercury Fur Star Joshua Tyler McLucas

Getting to know Philly’s brightest theater stars, one rapid-fire Q&A at a time.

This week, BrainSpunk Theater Company debuts the surreal and trippy Mercury Fur. Set in a post-apocalyptic London, it follows two brothers who make ends meet by trading objects stolen from places like the British Museum, and holding parties for wealthy clients “where their wildest horrific fantasies come to life.” It stars recent Swarthmore grad Joshua Tyler McLucas as one of the brothers. In anticipation, he chats with us about his multiple experiences with Mercury Fur, listening to terrible metal bands to get into character and why he wants to stay in Philly to pursue his theatrical endeavors.  

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My name is … Joshua Tyler McLucas. Josh in person, Joshua in writing (for a small maturity boost). In middle school I really wanted to be JT, but I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask anyone to call me that. Please don’t start now.

I am … an actor, a director (most recently of Mercury Fur as my Swarthmore College thesis and soon to be assisting Joe Paprzycki on Charlie Victor Romeo at South Camden Theatre Company), co-artistic director of [redacted] Theater Company, a web designer/developer, a guitar player, and absolutely clueless about what I want out of the real world.

On opening night, I … go over all my lines at breakneck speed, thoroughly warm up my voice and body, and breathe a lot to try and calm my nerves. I always get nervous before shows, especially on opening night – I take it as sign I care about the project.

Whom do you play in Mercury Fur? Elliot, the kid responsible for success and survival, loving and loathing brother to Darren, and a guy who’s seen some serious shit.

To get into character for Mercury Fur, I … ride my bike the 7 miles from my house in University City to the theater in Kensington. When I pull into the neighborhood I stop listening to music and take in as many sights and sounds as I can. My cast mates (who play Naz and the Party Guest) and I speak in the East End accent until we get home again. Sometimes I’ll listen to the band King 810 (a rather terrible metal band from Flint, Michigan). No matter what, though, I always try to imagine how Elliot’s day has gone up to the start of the play and how much his knee must be hurting.

McLucas with cast member Samuel Fineman as Darren

McLucas (background) with cast member Samuel Fineman as Darren. | Photo by Matthew Gephart

What’s your favorite moment in the show? There are so many, especially after having directed it. It changes from week to week but right now it’s playing “Frank and Jesse James” with Darren. It’s such a rewarding scene after the onslaught of the play’s opening, and it’s genuine fun to do.

You studied at the British American Drama Academy (BADA). Pretty fancy. What was your biggest take away there? How to audition. Swarthmore doesn’t cover auditioning, and the dean of BADA, Ian Wooldridge, really stresses audition technique—not that there’s a right way to do it, but how to make your personal audition practice better.

The first play I was in was … The Last Gladiator. I played Gladius, the titular gladiator. It was in eighth grade, one of those plays written specifically for middle schoolers. I honestly don’t remember it at all.

My dream role is … stereotypically, the Hamlet-Macbeth-Lear trifecta, but I’d also really love to play Hoss in Tooth of Crime by Sam Shepard. If you don’t know the play, it’s best described as a futuristic-Western-rock-and-roll-opera-gang-war. Crazy stuff.

My surprising celebrity crush is … Maria Brink, lead singer of the metal band In This Moment. 10 points if you didn’t need the explanation.

The most famous person I’ve ever met is … Fiona Shaw, at BADA. She gave a masterclass on modern text and monologues. Unfortunately, I was not one of the volunteers who got chosen to perform for her.

My first stage kiss … was freshman year of high school in the winter night-of-scenes. I don’t remember the name of the scene, but I was a fake psychic on a first date and at one point the waitress pulls me out of my seat and plants a big one on me. She was a senior so it was a pretty big deal. We rehearsed it like 20 times one day, and after that I felt like I could do anything.

mercury fur brainspunkMy acting inspiration is … ever-changing, mostly based on what I’ve seen recently. At the moment it’s actually Henry Goodman, who I saw in a mind-blowing performance as Arturo Ui in an exceptionally watered-down production on the West End. Directing inspirations are more constant for me.

You just graduated from Swarthmore. Will you stay in Philly? Why or why not? I will absolutely stay in Philly for as long as it continues to inspire me. As a web developer, I can live comfortably pretty much anywhere, so I want to be where the most exciting communities and art are. Philadelphia, to me, has the most supportive and challenging arts community I’ve seen thus far, and the variety and quality of work it produces is top-notch. I really want to be a part of that.

Where would you like to see yourself in, say, five years? Living in a nice house around 44th and Osage, paid for by freelance web development gigs I only have to work once a month, creating 365 Days of Performance with [redacted] Theater Company, performing as Orestes at the Wilma, and directing a future production of Tooth of Crime as a metal opera at BrainSpunk or South Camden Theatre Company. This sounds like a lot of disparate things happening at once. It is. It’s exactly how I like to live.

Mercury Fur runs July 23rd to August 8th. For more information and tickets, go here.