Curtain Call: Baltimore Actress Arielle Lever
Arielle Lever combines theater and philanthropy
By Rochelle Eisenberg
Arielle Lever is a young woman you just know is going places. A junior at Syracuse University, she recently starred in her first professional role as Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank” held at Syracuse Stage. Lever compares that theater, which bills itself as The Professional Theatre of Central New York, as similar to Center Stage in Baltimore and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. In a nod to her acting abilities, the Post-Standard, the daily Syracuse newspaper, called her “most impressive in the title role” in its review.
It’s not just her acting abilities that make this former Carver Center for Arts and Technology student someone worth watching. It’s also her passion for philanthropy. With a grant, she’s traveling to South Africa this fall to teach theater in a small village. In addition, she will be riding 545 miles in the Aids Life Cycle this summer to raise money for AIDS.
iNSIDER recently caught up with Lever by phone while she was riding her bike.
iNSIDER: How did you first become interested in the theater?
Lever: I have always done summer camps or workshops. I went to my first summer camp was when I was six or seven. I played “Annie” in Hebrew for the eighth grade play at Schechter and performed in Pumpkin Theater. Then I applied to get into Carver because I knew I wanted to continue on. I am now working towards a BSA in acting.
What is the hardest part about playing Anne Frank?
I am performing 39 shows in one month. When I was rehearsing, we rehearsed six hours a day for a little over a month. I spent more time in that reality and it was emotionally draining to leave rehearsal and continue on with whatever I was doing. It’s such an emotional show and you have to balance your life when you leave.
Any funny experiences over the years?
All the injuries that I have ever had, have been from shows. You know when they say “break a leg?” In high school, I sprained my ankle an hour before the show opened. When I was in “West Side Story,” there was supposed to be stage combat, which is fake combat, but they punched me (by accident) and pushed me hard. I flew backwards, fell on my face. My nose was bleeding and I got a fractured wrist.
Tell me about your volunteer theater work.
We work with members of the community who are between 12 and their mid 40s. They mostly have Down syndrome, autism or Asperger syndrome. I spend two hours every month playing theater games with them and we are doing “The Wizard of Oz” with them. It’s great to seem them grow and develop.
I heard you also bike for AIDS.
In fact, I’m on a bike now. I try to bike in between shows and rehearsals.
(In the summer) I bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles down the coast of California for the Aids Life Cycle. I discovered it through Syracuse Drama Department. When I told my family they cracked up. I had never been to a gym and I hadn’t been on a bike in years. I bought my bike two weeks before the event. I rode 545 miles in one week. It’s an empowering event.
What about traveling to Africa?
The honors program culminates with a senior project. You create any program in your major. For example, a lot of science majors do research.
Because I’m doing something in the arts, at first, I had written a one-woman show and was offered a nice grant to do the show. Then my computer crashed. I lost the script and realized I don’t need a grant to do this. For that, all I need is myself and a script.
I wanted to use (the money) for something more useful. What would I do if someone handed me money to help other people?
I decided to go to South Africa to teach drama to students (from mid-October to mid-November). I am developing a curriculum and will go into the schools and teach.
What do you think you will get out of the experience?
I think its going to be an unbelievable cultural experience to really live in a tiny village in South Africa. I will be teaching, but I will be learning through them. While I was developing the curriculum, I did research on the community. I’m prepared to learn that my preconceived notions are wrong.
What’s in your future?
I’m hoping to go to New York and I’m planning on staying there until it isn’t fulfilling anymore.
Do you have a favorite show?
If you asked when I was in high school and younger, I was obsessed with “Rent.” I had multiple copies of the CD for every CD player in our house. Now if you asked me, I wouldn’t have one.