Building Character

Performing on stage isn’t something that comes naturally for most 15-year-olds. But Gretna High School sophomore Nivi Varanasi is a triple threat with a talent for dancing, singing, and acting. With five performances on her resume and an upcoming role in Corduroy at The Rose Theater in November, Varanasi has set her sights on a career in theater and eventually film. 

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Edge: When did you start performing?

Varanasi: I started dancing when I was seven years old. I do Bharatanatyam, which is Indian classical dance that has to do with acting and sharing folk tales. I did my first acting performance in 8th grade.

Edge: Why did you decide to try acting?

In middle school we did the musical Frozen. I never thought I could sing well, but my sister pushed me a little, and I felt like I should try auditioning for the lead roles. So I practiced—a lot—before and after the audition. I ended up getting the part of Anna and loved it. Then when Covid happened, I was home doing remote learning and focused on searching for opportunities to audition. I was able to get the part of Vita in How to Build an Ark at The Rose last February.

Edge: What did you like best about playing that role?

Varanasi: I like that I was able to have many performances—about 12—and perform it over and over again. This gave me a chance to become more of a ‘professional’ actor as I understood you have to bring your VERY BEST to every performance. It also helped me cherish the experience longer! I was also challenged with building the character. Should I make her shy? Outgoing? I had her be the lone kid at school and then she becomes freer and more playful. It was a fun challenge.

Edge: Describe a typical audition.

Varanasi: A typical audition for me has usually been sending in self tapes. This is when you film yourself either doing a monologue, or you read a script with an off-camera partner—I drag my sister into this, and she’s super helpful. For The Rose, the first step has been reading monologues. Then, as for any audition, you might get a callback. Usually, this means the directors are looking at you for the role, but not always! Finally, the results come in.

Edge: Are any of your family members actors?

Varanasi: No, but my dad gives a lot of speeches, so I think I learned from him. He’s a very animated guy! This year I won 1st place in the Nebraska State Optimist Oratorical contest. Bharatanatyam also helps me improve my facial expressions and hand gestures to be able to tell a story.

Edge: What is your next step with acting?

Varanasi: I really want to find an agent. I search online for roles, but it takes a lot of time and money to do it that way. I’m not sure how to go about finding an agent, but it’s my main focus right now.

Edge: Do you want to have a full-time acting career as an adult?

Varanasi: I really hope so. I also have interests in being a reporter, a psychologist/ therapist, a teacher, or maybe a bureaucrat.

Edge: What other activities do you enjoy?

Varanasi: I’m in show choir, on the speech team, and a class officer. I spend time recording my submissions for auditions and hope to be in the drama club musical and one act this year.

Edge: What advice do you have for other aspiring actors?

Varanasi: I never thought I’d be acting, but sometimes you have a random moment in your life and it becomes something you want to keep doing and experience that accomplishment. It’s a challenge to get roles, and rejection is hard, but you keep working. I’m always open when people point out my mistakes so I can make them better. I want to be given the chance to show what I’m capable of. However, if you are in this field for the fame, trust me, there are better ways to get there such as through social media. Acting is really fun when you get to, but the process of becoming a good actor and getting bigger projects, is a grueling one full of nos. It’s a path that tests if you’re truly passionate about the art. But if you really want something, go for it!

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