For someone so confident on stage, Felicia Ricci ’08 is surprisingly ill at ease when she has to talk about herself. She speaks a bit too quickly, with pauses and self-conscious laughs that are nevertheless accompanied by an infectious energy and her characteristic charm.
It seems implausible that Ricci gets nervous. Surely she’s used to having an audience by now — Ricci has performed countless times, most recently starring as The Witch in the Dramat’s “Into the Woods.” She has also played the lead in recent productions of “Urinetown,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Last Five Years” and “Parade,” among others. Someone known for being Yale’s musical-theater titan couldn’t get nervous, could she?
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“I get more nervous when I’m doing recitals or monologues, or when the form is ambiguous — more nervous than when I have a character to hold on to,” she says.
She smiles again, somehow managing to give off the impression of being in constant motion, even though she is sitting still.
It’s most likely a spillover from the frenetic pace of her life. An English major, Ricci manages to fit in studying between her busy schedule of rehearsals, performances and character development. She is currently preparing roles in two Oscar Wilde “straight” plays, ones without dance or music: She will play Gwendolen in “The Importance of Being Earnest” in February and, in April, Herodias in “Salome.”
“I can’t imagine if I had gone to Yale without doing theater,” she says. “Who knows how I would’ve done? I think theater is just as valuable a learning experience [as academic pursuits].”
Most of her theatrical talent is organic. She has had little formal training, but her upbringing introduced her early to the performing arts. Although her parents are both doctors, she was exposed to a lot of live theater — both of the professionally and sibling-produced variety — from a young age.
“Things around the Ricci household always tended toward the dramatic,” her brother, Marcus Ricci, said.
The two performed constantly, making call-in radio shows and “shoot-’em-up detective stories, in which [they] were quite liberal with [their] use of ketchup as spattered blood.”
When she was eight years old, Ricci was in her first musical, a summer production of Rodger and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” She continued acting in summer programs, performed in high-school productions and took voice lessons for a short time in high school.
It wasn’t until sophomore year that she really “took the plunge” into musical theater. Until that point, she was an extracurricular actor — someone who really enjoyed performing but had no further ambitions. Surrounded by the plethora of theatrical offerings at Yale, however, Ricci changed her mind. She realized that what had started as a hobby was something much more — something that she now plans to pursue as a career after graduation.
“It’s been great to use college as my testing grounds to see if I can keep doing theater and really stick to it,” Ricci says. “It’s nice sticking it to the establishment, when all my friends are interviewing for high-paying jobs,” she adds, laughing a little too quickly.
But her peers confidently predict that Broadway lies in her future. Brian Earp ’09, who has acted professionally as well as alongside Ricci at Yale, says that of all the actors, singers and performers with whom he has worked, she “ranks easily among the most talented, competent, professional, hard-working and dedicated of the very best.”
Yet although most Broadway hopefuls move to New York to try their luck, Ricci eschews the traditional path. She is afraid of getting “lost in the shuffle” of New York and would rather move somewhere smaller, where she would be motivated to continue taking on new work and challenges. But she is still undecided.
Even so, others are certain that her name will end up in lights.
“Many say that making it to the top is a crapshoot, but there are a blessed few who are destined for it,” says her former director (and current boyfriend) Matthew Strother ’09. “Felicia is among them.”