BWW Interview: Ricky Araiza
Ricky Araiza is an Arizona based theatre artist and movement specialist. A graduate from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Theatre in 2004, Ricky went on to become an ensemble member of Childsplay Inc. In 2009 he decided to challenge himself, and enrolled in a year long study of Physical Ensemble Based Theatre at Dell'Arte International in Blue Lake, CA. In 2010, Ricky returned to Phoenix and continues to work as an actor, director and teaching artist throughout the Valley. He is artistic director of Teatro Bravo.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, Ricky. I'm wondering how you became interested in the theatre. Did you do plays as a child? In high school?
I did my share of school plays when I was a kid but the idea of performing and ritual for me started in church. I was an altar boy for many years and I remember hearing the priest give their homilies/sermons and I remember thinking to myself," these could be more entertaining." Ha.
Oh, man. As a cradle Catholic, I sure do relate.
The real attraction to theatre, in the formal sense, started in high school. I was really into movie monsters and makeup fx, still am, and I was looking for an outlet like that. So, in high school, tech theatre was the closest I could get to that, so I dove in. I came into theatre wanting to design and be backstage. I was always interested in making the show happen.
What was your first professional theatre experience?
The first professional experience I ever had was actually a small paid staged reading I did with Xicanindio way back before they became Xico Inc. I could not tell you the name of the play but I remember I was in it with Daniel Valdez (from Teatro Campesino and brother to playwright Luis Valdez) and I remember being so starstruck, because I grew up watching him in Zoot Suit and La Bamba. The whole experience was a blur other than me walking nervously up to him at the end of the reading and just thanking him for everything he has ever done. A nice full circle story is that I got to work with him years later at Childsplay when we collaborated on the creation of The Sun Serpent by Jose Cruz Gonzalez. Its pretty rad that I can call him a friend. A maestro.
I see that you were at Childsplay for a long time - what made you decide to move on from there?
I was an ensemble member with Childsplay from 2004 to 2014 as an actor and teaching artist. I think after ten years I got antsy and wanted to do more than act and teach. I actually started to not have fun acting anymore, to be honest. I have really bad anxiety sometimes and performing became a real stress for me, emotionally. There was one point that I was in a main stage show at Childsplay and directing a show at night, and I was terrified that I could not do both but once I began to direct, my anxiety almost melted away. It felt more comfortable and more me at times. I was also really hungry to get back into the classroom as a learner, so I decided to leave Childsplay and go get my MFA at ASU in Theatre for Youth and Communities where I entered the program as a director. I needed a shift. I still act though from time to time. Mostly non verbal physical comedy, clown work, and mask work. I'm currently creating an outline for a possible solo show for Teatro Bravo. We will see what happens.
WOW!!!! I will keep a look out for that with massive enthusiasm.
You studied in Blue Lake with Dell Arte. Please tell us about that experience - being in a beautiful region with a very cool alternative arts community, right now in the height of summer in Phoenix, I can't imagine ever wanting to leave northern California.
Its true! The weather is so amazing up there.
Dell'Arte changed my life. If you know me, Dell'Arte seems to always find its way into a conversation.
They are the best at what they do - their work often transcends age and cultural boundaries, making it universally accessible, which is enormously important, in my view.
The program is highly specialized and really intense but its not for everyone, to be honest. But it challenged me to challenge myself and my perceptions of art, theatre, and performance. It forced me to ask more of myself and of other artists and to ask ourselves why we do what we do. The program's placement in a secluded part of the Redwoods in northern California is no accident. Being out there, in nature, learning what many consider classic or ancient forms of performance, was almost a step back in time. It was a place to strip down theatre to its purest form, the actor/poet in space. It taught me to never take theatre for granted and to understand that it is a sacred practice and should be treated as such.
Thank you, again, Ricky, for talking with me today. We look forward to your next offering in the Valley.