For Raya Malcolm, spending a month or so working in Saratoga Springs is a great way to spend the summer.
A Schenectady native and 2016 graduate of Suffolk University in Boston, Malcolm has spent the three previous summers working in Saratoga Springs as an intern/apprentice for Saratoga Shakespeare Company. This year, however, she’s doing it as a professional actor, playing the female lead in “Romeo and Juliet.” The show opens Tuesday, Aug. 2, and runs through Aug. 7 on the Alfred Z. Solomon Stage in Saratoga’s Congress Park. College of Saint Rose grad Ethan Botwick is Romeo.
Malcolm started acting early, landing a role as one of the ensemble cast in a Schenectady Light Opera Company production of “Annie” in 2007 when she was in eighth grade. She soon immersed herself into the John Sayles School of Fine Arts at Schenectady High School and then headed east to Boston for college where she majored in theater and minored in environmental studies.
When the summer is over, Malcolm will head back to Boston and perform at the Central Square Theater in Gregory Maguire’s “Matchless,” beginning in November. Maguire, a University at Albany grad who wrote “Wicked,” based his holiday story on Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Match Girl.”
Q: Are you enjoying your first experience as a professional actor?
A: This is my fourth summer working at Saratoga Shakespeare, but the last three years I worked as an apprentice, so it’s really, really exciting to actually get hired by the company as an actor. Saratoga is like my home away from home, so it’s nice to be so close to Schenectady, but also nice to be able to escape to Saratoga for the summer. It’s a real treat.
Q: “Romeo and Juliet” is obviously a well-known story, but how familiar were you with the play?
A:I have never seen a stage production, and I haven’t seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. I saw an older film version directed by [Franco] Zeffrelli a while ago, and I read about it and studied it in high school and college. I really love and admire the honesty of the two young lovers. They have a very intimate relationship in a short amount of time, and it’s their own little secret world, apart from the adult world that’s surrounding them.
Q: How important was your experience in Schenectady at the John Sayles School of Fine Arts?
A: Very, very important. I would say it was a privilege to work with Bill Ziskin and Tim Dugan. They brought such tremendous energy to the Blue Rose Theater, our theater company in high school, and they were always encouraging us to get involved and gain as much confidence as we could. We learned so much from putting on our own productions, and it was truly a gift to have the two of them to work with.
Q: What is your favorite play?
A: My new favorite play is “Appropriate,” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. I read it a few months ago and saw a production of it out in Boston at Speakeasy Stage Company. Talk about a great punch in the stomach. It presents issues of prejudice, self-love, parent/child relationships, without giving an answer as to what is right and what is wrong, and how can tough conversations about those things even begin.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: OK, I am a total nerd. I love “The Fifth Element.” Chris Tucker and Ian Holm’s character work crack me up. I also just saw “The Big Chill” for the first time earlier this summer and it is for sure one of my favorite movies. The specificity of each relationship between the friends in that group is stunning, and, of course, the soundtrack is killer. “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” is my new go-to dance song.
Q: Are you interested in films and TV as well as the stage?
A: I would love to try my hand at film acting. From the few acting for the camera classes and auditions I have gone to I have really enjoyed the intensity I feel when in front of the camera. But I will always be a dedicated native to the theater. It’s where I feel most connected to my identity as an artist. As well as my music. I get to play my ukulele and sing some great songs in “Romeo & Juliet” and I couldn’t be happier to be integrating both of those elements.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]