ARTIST VIEW: Ana-Rachel Richardson
BY STEPHANIE BOUVIA
Drive. Passion. Control.
These are the three things that set Ana-rachel Richardson, a junior at Solvay High School, apart from other performers her age.
Richardson is a performer with the Media Unit, a Central New York theater organization that is located in downtown Syracuse that aims to produce shows regarding teen issues or concerns. This year, Richardson won “Best Individual Female Performance in a Play” for her performance in the Media Unit’s “Severely Normal,” at the Michael Harms Theater Festival at Cayuga Community College.
“Ana-rachel is constantly challenging herself. She is very self-critical, her characters evolve even after the script has been completed and the show has begun,” said Walt Shepperd, founder of the Media Unit. Richardson has been performing for years, she said. When she was younger, she performed with Syracuse Children’s Theater. She’s taken ballet classes, and has also performed in some high school productions.
Richardson joined the Media Unit in 2008 after a friend recommended it to her, she said. The organization’s mission moved her. She said the Media Unit is a more powerful way to present messages to other teenagers, rather than lecture them. Plus, she said, it makes the messages “a lot more meaningful to come from people their own age.”
Her favorite performance has been, “From the Back of the Bus,” which she performed for the Media Unit in 2010. The show addressed issues of racial stereotyping. Richardson said she liked performing in this show because the character she played was extremely different from her real-life personality. It’s this kind of challenge that drives Richardson. “I’m pretty goal-oriented, which is kind of my own inspiration,” she said.
Currently Richardson is working with eight other performers on the Media Unit’s summer production, “Angels with Broken Wings: Open Your Hearts to the Arts.” The show promotes using artistic endeavors as an alternative to violence. Members of the Media Unit will perform “Angels with Broken Wings” in Columbus Circle at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 6. Richardson said the show allows performers to create and develop their own characters. She said she wants to play an older, inspirational woman. “I just wanted the challenge of being something different.”
But apart from her age, Richardson might not be so different from the character she is developing. “She’s an inspiration to others,” said Shepperd, founder of the Media Unit. “She wants to inspire people by her example and that’s exactly what she does.”
For now, Richardson said her future is a bit unclear. Upon graduating from high school, Richardson said she would like to continue performing, but is unsure if she will pursue that as a career, given the challenging nature of the field. But there is no question that Richardson is a talented performer. She recently received a recruitment letter from New York University’s performance department. Shepperd said he hopes to help Richardson evaluate different colleges and universities, and find the one that will offer her the best scholarship, and hopefully set her up for success in the professional world.
And although Richardson’s resume is long and full, she still describes acting as her true passion, even after years of doing it.
“I just love the whole experience. I love being in front of an audience,” Richardson said. “I like the engagement of speaking to a large crowd. It’s like you’re reaching all of the people at once.”