Bessy Reyna/ CTLatinoNews.com
Few times we have the opportunity to interview a Latina actress like MICHELLE ARAVENA, who grew up in Bethel, Connecticut. From a very early age, her mother encouraged her to develop her skills first in gymnastics, to which classes in dancing followed. After her participation in theatrical productions in “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music” she tells us that her love for the theater. and her future as an actress was set. West Side Story took her to the famous opera house La Scala Opera House in Milan. She was also part of the original workshop of Broadway-bound A Bronx Tale directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. While being a great admirer of the city of Chicago because of its theaters and acting community, she has decide to make her residence in New York City, close enough for her to travel to Connecticut to visit family and friends, This time, the reason for her visit is her part in the play “The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd-An Unexpected Musical” where she plays the role of “The Kid.” That play is described as “In a world turned upside down, a group of vagabonds relies on humor, sonand dance to create a new life. Some of the more popular songs from this show are “Who Can I Turn To?” and “A Wonderful Day Like Today.”
The show will be playing until June 26. For more information call 860-873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org
IN CONVERSATION WITH ACTRESS MICHELLE ARAVENA
BR: Where are your parents from? Did they speak Spanish at home?
MA: My father is from Concepcion Chile. My mother was born here in the States.
BR: How was growing up in Bethel, CT?
MA: I’m a huge fan of CT! I think it’s beautiful. Not fond of the winters, but nothing can beat a CT fall. Living in Manhattan can be a bit exhausting and trying at times so I’m grateful to have family and friends next door in CT to escape to.
BR: You started as a gymnast. When did you become interested in acting and singing? Which one was your first play?
MA: I started dancing at the age of three and it was my dance teacher at the time that thought it would be a good idea for me to audition for the local musical. I guess she saw some natural talent and enthusiasm for performing and wanted to have a go at it. I ended up landing my first role as Ngana in Richter Park’s production of South Pacific. After that I was hooked! I was fortunate to grow up in CT in a time where there were so many professional theaters that would hire their kids locally. I grew up performing at Candlewood Theater in New Fairfield, Downtown Cabaret in Bridgeport, Darien Dinner Theater.Thrilled to finally get out here to Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.
BR: You were part of the cast in the ever popular “West Side Story,” for which you received an award. How was that experience?
MA: When asked to choose my favorite show I’ve performed in and why, I was stumped. Anytime I get to step into Chita Rivera’s shoes, is an honor and a dream come true. I have performed the role of Anita which she did, across the world and for years at a time and not once did I ever forget the brilliance of the piece and character that I was fortunate enough to re-create night after night. West Side Story is not an easy show to do. Physically or mentally. Though very rewarding it can take its toll. I spent a decade of my career playing Anita in different productions and took home a Jeff Award for my performance at Drury Lane in Chicago in 2015. I was so excited you thought I would have won the Tony that night. I left my blood, sweat and tears on that stage every time I stepped into that purple dress. You bet your bootie I get a trophy for that. Joking aside it was an honor to receive recognition. I recently went back to the same theater to play Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, another role Chita made famous.
BR: If you have participated in different stages, do you have a favorite one?
MA: When I was younger I was auditioning for a lot of TV and film. I remember always getting the feedback that my expressions were to big for the camera. I needed to be more natural. So, i then started taking classes that were supposed to help me be my natural self. I would get frustrated because they kept telling me to do less. Just be natural. I would say, ” Im half italian, half spanish! Big is my natural!!!”. So , I decided at a young age that film didn’t come “naturally” to me. I’m happy on stage and as long as its paying the bills that’s where I’ll stay.
BR: What do you do for fun?
MA: What do I do for fun??? Well, I love obstacles and adventures. Whether that means getting lost in the woods for an afternoon, or finding the closest amusement park. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’m pretty much game for anything. BR: Thanks so much for spending this time with us. Wishing you great success with this show and in the future. Can’t wait to see the show.
Bessy Reyna is a member of the CT Theatre Critics’ Circle. (www.bessyreyna.com)