Amaia Arana: The Work Just Sets Me On Fire
Amaia Arana is a 22 year-old actress, who is currently based in Madison, NJ. This Washington DC native describes herself as “a chocoholic, food, goal, and exercise lovin’ lady who loves connecting and talking big goals/intentions over a cup of tea or glass of wine.” She is involved in Film, Stage Acting, and has a huge crush on Shakespeare.
Oh my goodness I’m so happy to be interviewing you! Can you share a bit with me about why you decided to become an actor?
I don’t know that I decided to be an actor, I think it found me- as cliché as that may sound. I grew up an athlete and went into high school playing Varsity tennis. My best friend, Anna, was always the performer. Winter of my Freshman year, a shoulder injury kept me from being able to train and play tennis. I went to see Anna in her “high school debut” (she was in the ensemble for 42nd Street). The next day auditions were being held for the winter play, Little Women (side note: Little Women had always been my jam. I had the movie with Winona Ryder as Jo on VHS and watched it all. The. Time.) I decided while I was watching the production of 42nd street that I should audition for the play the next day. I ended up getting cast as my heroine, Jo March. From then on I was hooked.
Storytelling, digging into characters, text, and “the work” just sets me on fire.
I’ve always been obsessed with Little Women as well. Jo is such an incredible character, especially for her time. Can you share a bit about other films or plays that have inspired you along the way?
YES! One of the plays that stands out very clearly in my mind is a production of As You Like It at the RSC where an actor named Katy Stephens played Rosalind. I was still in high school and I remember being positively blown away and captivated by her. I fell in love even more so with acting, with Shakespeare, and with being a woman in theatre. I also co-directed a production of Columbinus while I was still in school. Aside from it being an astounding play, it was singularly one of the greatest learning experiences for me in collaboration and storytelling.
I had a similar experience at Texas Shakespeare Festival with an actress named Meaghan Simpson (that’s her married name) who played the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. And now you are that person that is inspiring tons of younger students to consider acting. What a beautiful circle! Can you tell me a bit about what you are doing currently? I’m currently with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Shakespeare LIVE! Touring company performing as Hippolyta/Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Lady Montague/Page/Swing/Fight Captain in Romeo and Juliet. I’m also working on my podcast ‘Grounded Gypsy’ and there are always other fun things going on to be worked on. That sounds like a blast! I can't wait to check out your podcast! Did you get that job through an agent or manager? No agent/manager (yet!), but I absolutely recommend a Backstage and actors access account. It’s a great way to be on top of what auditions are out there and gives you the opportunity to ‘be your own agent’ in a way.
Yes, I’m a big Backstage fan and completely agree! I know you are involved with film as well as theatre. Do you have any film actors you particularly look up to or get inspiration from?
Benedict Cumberbatch, Saiorse Ronan, Viola Davis, Tom Hiddleston, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eddie Redmayne, Lena Headey, Uzo Aduba, Cate Blanchett-each of them has worked so flippin’ hard but you never see the work. They are authentic, present, honest, and effortless and man can they ‘tell that story’. Let’s back up a little bit. After your experience in high school, you decided to pursue theatre in college. Can you tell me what your experience was like there?
I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and it was absolutely incredible. I had applied and auditioned for several BFA programs and my audition with SCAD made it clear that it was meant to be. I loved SCAD.
I was so lucky to have professors who took your strengths and made them stronger and took the not so strong points and made them strengths.
Most of the professors are working professionals and were truly invested in their students. I had professional credits on my resume long before graduating and gained exposure and training in areas of the business I didn’t know existed. I am immensely grateful for the training I received at SCAD. My training at SCAD opened me up, grounded me, and gave me the wings to fly.
It sounds like you had a really positive experience! Do you have any thoughts about what colleges could do to improve the way they prepare students in acting programs?
I believe colleges could do a better job on the whole preparing students for the business side of acting. There are fantastic conservatories out there that produce brilliant actors but they leave their programs (this is a gross generalization) not knowing how to market, network, and be there own advocate. SCAD did a wonderful job of preparing us on both sides and I’m truly grateful for that because if I’ve learned anything since graduation it’s this:
I am my own best advocate and it’s up to me to put myself out there.
Talking about being your own best advocate, you are very interested in goal-setting and health, can you share about that? AH! YES! Personal wholeness and wellness is a HUGE passion for me. This comes mainly in the form of goal coaching for me. It’s a new venture but I am loving it thus far! To get more specific, what are some of your personal goals for this year? Move to a new city and establish a ‘home base’ with my man (complete with twinkle lights).
Be cast in at least one more professional acting job with a major regional theatre
Sign with an agent to represent me for film and television and modeling
Run the lululemon Seawheeze half marathon in 2:30
Begin building my own goal coaching program for performers
My ‘Grounded Gypsy’ podcast goes live in Feb! I love that you have such specific goals! I’m also very excited for your podcast. I read recently that a very small percentage of people ever write their goals down, and that it’s the few people who do that are basically running the world. So, what does a typical day look like for you?
It really depends! Right now, I’m in rehearsals for two shows, which takes up most of the day. In a couple of weeks we’ll start touring with the shows, which is going to be cray! (5am call times and traveling all over in a van) Across the board though, no matter where I am, I start my day early (between 7 and 8am) with a cup of hot water and lemon with a big breakfast. If there’s time I’ll exercise in the morning (I prefer to exercise right when I wake up) and then off to the rest of my day, whether it be working at lululemon or rehearsal, I’m usually kept pretty busy, which I love! Sometimes I’ll do yoga before bed and I always end the day talking to my amazing boyfriend on the phone. That 5am call time is going to be a doozy, but I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun touring. This career isn’t for the faint of heart. What would you tell someone who is considering acting as a career?
First of all, YAY! I would say, learn to love the work. Any job comes with the hard stuff but if you can find the joy in making the ‘work’ play then you’re so set.
ALWAYS do your work, and most importantly,
take care of and ground yourself.
Live in inquiry and possibility. Follow your curiosities (you’ll find everything can be related back to acting) and be OPEN to everything around you.
I think I’ll take some of that advice for myself, haha. A lot of actors struggle with constant rejection, self doubt, and loneliness. How do you combat that? Collaboration! It’s my favorite thing about being an artist. I love connecting with others whether it be through rehearsal, talking big visions and goals, having a ‘sweat date’ with someone, creating pieces, working audition monologues, films, events, it goes on and on. Overall it sounds like you’ve found a really healthy balance of creating, working, and learning. You are really excellent at taking care of yourself and making wellness a priority. That’s so wise! Ok, I just have a couple of questions left. I know you have always been an avid reader, could you share about your favorite books?
O man…I LOVE ALL THE BOOKS! I love reading and I love books. My dream house includes a library equivalent to the one in Beauty and the Beast. That being said, some books that have been game changers for me include:
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Rising Strong by Brene Brown (only just recently read this book and holy crap…READ IT)
The Actor And The Target by Declan Donnellan
Speaking Shakespeare by Patsy Rodenburg I'll have to check out Rising Strong, for sure. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and congratulations! You are an incredible woman and a powerful force. It will be exciting to continue following your career.
For more information about Amaia, check out her website here. Headshot credit to David Goddard Photography.
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