Nothing motivates me more to keep pursuing my dreams than listening to others talk about their path to success, and I was particularly inspired during my recent chat with Francesca Choy-Kee, part of the ensemble “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time”, the 2015 Tony Award-winning play on its national tour and playing in Providence Feb. 07-12.
(That’s next week so go get your tix STAT).
How lucky are we Rhode Islanders to live so close to the Providence Performing Arts Center, such a gorgeous theater with such a gilded history? Decked in 1920s opulence and on the National Register of Historic Places, PPAC is a favorite for Broadway show tours, pre-Broadway runs and national tour openings.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time” is the story of a 15-year-old boy and mathematical genius and his investigation into the death of a neighbor’s dog, which proves to reveal the answers to more mysteries than the one he first set out to solve.
“The best way to see this play is with a complete open mind. It defies expectations in a lot of ways and I think you’ll find it pretty fantastic,” Choy-Kee told me. “This boy goes on an extraordinary journey and through that you get a lens into how he sees the world and the set is devised to give the audience a very three-dimensional view of what it is to walk in the shoes of this character.”
Choy-Kee was talking specifically about the use of lights and sounds—and constant movement of the cast that makes it a very physically grueling show—that she says takes the audience’s “Physical senses for a ride.”
“And the choreography is pretty transformative as well,” she said. “Everyone is moving. In a musical, if a character is going through something emotional, they sing. Here, there is movement. And I think that’s another way in which the audience is going to resonate with the play.”
Choy-Kee, who had her Broadway premiere in “Disgraced”—the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner that ran on Broadway in late 2014—alongside Gretchen Mohl and Josh Radnor, holds an MFA in acting from NYU’s Graduate Acting Program and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama from NYU and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She’s also appeared Off-Broadway in “Out of the Mouths of Babes” (world premiere) and regionally in “Agnes Under the Big.” If you’re a fan of the CBS show “Elementary,” you likely recognized her in the season-two episode “To Whom It May Concern.”
Her PPAC sting will be her first visit to Providence and to Rhode Island. Choy-Kee told me she’s looking forward to visiting the Newport mansions, checking out the Dean Hotel, re-energizing with a great cup of coffee and browsing our local book shops. She’s also hoping to take a stroll through the city just to check out the scene.
100ThingsPVD: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Choy-Kee: From a young age, I had an excitement about Broadway and musicals and that aspect of storytelling. The very first music I was listening to was Broadway musicals and my first tape was My Fair Lady. Then I was doing school plays—that’s when many people start, through school programs—and I was taking piano and violin. And, I lived very close to New York City, about 45 minutes outside, and I had incredible access to the theatre arts in New York. The bug sort of got its hooks into me and never let go. When I was at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (in London), I really fell in love again.
100ThingsPVD: What was your first “I’ve made it” moment?
Choy-Kee: Like most freelance professions, acting is nonlinear. So, there have been moments where I’ve said, I can’t believe it—I am a professional actor and this how I’m making my daily bread and what an exciting and extraordinary thing. But, there are times when you’re not working at the thing you’ve studied so hard to do and auditioning or when you’re waiting tables or babysitting. When I did Disgraced—that was one of those (oh my God) moments.
100ThingsPVD: What is your dream role?
Choy-Kee: I find with every role I end up playing here is a connection. I love Shakespeare, so I would love to work at the Royal Shakespeare Company doing Hermione or Cleopatra. That to me would be the pinnacle of a really charged and exciting project. I would love to originate a role that moves on to success. And, then there’s film and TV. Who doesn’t want an HBO series, right?
100ThingsPVD: Who, living or deceased, would you most like to have dinner with?
Choy-Kee: I’m always so tempted to say one of so many incredible writers, world leaders and celebrities but I would love to sit down with my dad. He passed away in 2007 and I was right in the middle of my graduate school program and he’s missed a lot (since then) and there are a lot of things I would like to share with him. I’d love to have him come to one of my plays and then go out and have a talk about we’ve both been up to in the last 10 years.
100ThingsPVD: What’s one item you must have with you while you’re on the road?
Choy-Kee: Because this show is so physical, my go-to has definitely been Epsom salt. It’s nice to know if the muscles are hurting and I need to decompress, I can throw those babies in some hot water and have a spa vacation for 45 minutes in my hotel room.