by Lorie Lewis Ham
Since theatre on stage is still on hold right now with the exception of some virtual shows, we are continuing to feature some local actors who have also been acting on our podcast, Mysteryrat’s Maze. This week we chatted with local actor Ariel Linn Hicks (credited as Ariel Linn on the podcasts) who has been the voice of several of our episodes. Ariel is a freelance voice-over artist as well as stage and house manager for a monthly comedy night at The Post in Modesto, CA. Mysteryrat’s Maze features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why? Would you tell us about your first part?
Ariel: Ooooh! I first got into acting as a kiddo in the second grade where I played the Mouse in T’was The Night Before Christmas. That was a while ago and I remember I pinched “Santa’s” cheek too hard! As I sat in my place by the refrigerator box-chimney I remember telling my teacher, Mrs. Weavel, my stomach didn’t feel well. She told me, as she sat poised to play the piano, “That it was just nerves.” Since I knew now what it was, I went on with the show. A fellow student and I grew at different rates and as he was taller than me that year, he said I should be the mouse. Mrs. Weavel called me “Mousey” every time I saw her. It probably tickled her brain as it does mine that I would be called Mousey.
KRL: What is it about acting that you enjoy most? What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played and with what companies?
Ariel: I love treading the boards, feeling the crowd absorb what is happening in front of them, and hearing their reactions! I was double cast as Mayella Ewell in To Kill A Mockingbird with what is now the Gallo Center Rep, I so thought the audience would vocally react to what I said. They didn’t! It put me more on edge as I felt under a microscope–totally appropriate for Mayella. Another role I enjoyed was Suzy in Playhouse Merced’s Wait Until Dark. Once Suzy is on, the only break is intermission! The audience was SO close and some were seated stage level. As Suzy Hendrix is blind it was a perk to me to see people automatically move their feet. In the climatic scene I made sure my breath was heard, as it is a fight scene the audience barely sees!
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show to perform in?
Ariel: Oh gosh, you’re asking me to pick a favorite! I love performing! For me if the story is compelling, and the cast and crew are ready to make a great show that does it for me. Since I do both singing and acting it really does go back to reactions. I think maybe playing Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was 21 rubbed off as I treasure moments where I can spark joy and get a true reaction from cast and crew. Mary from A Christmas Carol (of which I have played twice with MPA) has a great line in the game scene “A bear?” I got to ask to the enjoyment of cast and crew. Those who heard it always waited for that line. Having worked tech, those moments in the show are what pulls us in time and time again!
KRL: What is the hardest?
Ariel: The most difficult actually comes in The Zoom shows. Those have been so fun, but the way I have it set up I can’t see everything. I can quickly adjust during a live performance as I have the feed on my tablet while Zoom runs on my Mac–my cheekiness leads me to looking around and really aiming my reactions but with rehearsals on Zoom I don’t have full vision.
KRL: Future goals and dreams?
Ariel: I love what I do; it is a passion for me. I love to collab and talk shop with those who love acting too! My goals are to keep at it, have fun, and bring joy and or awareness to topics the shows I am involved in touch on. Performing is letting people see the vulnerable/openness we humans have and when I can change a life for the better, positive changes can happen. Praise Jesus!
KRL: Where do you think your creativity has come from?
Ariel: I get my creativity from my mom! She used to read me stories doing different voices, and accents from my dad–he enjoys Monty Python and The Beverly Hillbillies so right there I had an ear for accents! I also remember recording stuff when I was younger, and I know one time my brother and I recorded stuff.
KRL: Do you have any hobbies?
Ariel: I am an avid animal person, much like Betty White! Currently Elroy, a sweet Australian Heeler Queensland hound who is chock full of jump skill energy and never tires of playing ball, A box turtle we call TJ, and a ragdoll kitty, Gigi Marie, lights up the house with their presence!
KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?
Ariel: Taking the time to slow down, and to know what works for you as a performer. I’ve jumped off the deep end and have done a few 24 hour plays where you meet everyone as crazy as you the night before. After the intros (including bringing a costume piece and a prop) are discussed, writers write, directors and actors leave and return the next morning where the show is THAT evening!
My strategy changed when there was a mix up and I was in TWO 24 hour plays at that event and back-to-back they were. IT WAS A BLAST and having done a few before this particular one I was ready. I helped other actors out. The best advice I have come from Paul Tisher (Modesto Performing Arts) “Say the lines out loud!”
Saying words out loud comes in handy! I was a theatre/ radio major in college, so I honed my craft being behind the mic. That transitioned to getting a local commercial gig with Kit Lloyd and another contact got me playing in a web-series Moons of Altimore by Josh Vierela.
KRL: How has voice acting been different from acting on stage?
Ariel: I’d say acting is acting no matter the medium. With voiceover use your body- who cares if you move oddly to get the sound right! Put your whole body in your voice if you have to! No one’s gonna know! Also take risks, but also do a normal take too. As an actor we gotta stay playful!
KRL: How did you first become involved with Mysteryrat’s Maze?
Ariel: Facebook can be a great thing and that’s how I found Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast. I remember trying to find the quietest place to record with a phone app back in 2018. When I set down the first audition read, a new voice popped up. I’ve been hooked ever since! I enjoy hearing others and love delving into the characters I get to play. Accents and consistency take rehearsals, but oh so worth it in the end. In fact, rehearsals are never wasted. What you do now helps you later. For this time of year (the interview took place around Christmas time), I am revisiting Christmas Trifle and A Legacy of Murder. Both are treasured favorites of mine from Mysteryrat’s!
KRL: I understand you have been performing in some virtual shows during the pandemic can you tell us a little about those and what that was like?
Ariel: Yes! A college friend of mine invited me to see her in a virtual show and I thought “How cool!” I watched, and heard The Majestic Theatre had open auditions. Since then, I have networked and kept my skills sharp! I’ve met so many talented, caring, gifted folks who enjoy what they do. Plus, I can share them any time I wish! HUGE bonus!! I recently I played Mary in It’s A Wonderful Life with Umpqua Community College in November, getting to reprise the role this month for another online community.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Ariel: I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with Mysteryrat’s Maze podcast- our crew, the authors, each performer, and our audience who gets to enjoy the stories in a way no one, besides us, have ever heard before!
You can find all of the episodes that Ariel has voiced here on Podbean, or wherever you listen to podcasts, by searching for Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast. For those reading this on the website here are the players for a few of them.