Raye Levine is an Actor/Set Designer based in NY. She is a graduate of The William Esper Studio. She is co-founder of Where Are They Going Theatre company (wherearetheygoing.org), and ensemble member of Neo-Political Cowgirls, Ice Theatre of New York, and Barefoot Theatre Company. Theatre (selected): Extinction by Gabe McKinley at Guild Hall (dir. Josh Gladstone), Leviticus by Mandi Riggi (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Vote in Orange (French Embassy), Parkslope (Cherry Lane Theatre), On The 5:31 by Mando Alverado (dir. Jerry Ruiz), Restlessness of Desire (dir. Shira-Lee Shalit), Victory Girls (SVA main stage/dir. Michael LoPorto), Finally (Boston Calderwood Pavilion), Wetiko (The Actor's Studio), Freeway by Jen Rudin (Theatre 54/dir. Terry Milner). TV/film (selected): The Great Pretender (dir. Nathan Silver), No Hookups (dir. Adam leon), Follow the Roses (dir. Jen Steele). Set Design (selected): Extinction at Guild Hall, Anne Frank in the Gaza Strip at the Clemente Center (Dir. Shaun Peknic), and Resistance by Regina Taylor (Dir. Tony Pinkins), Mean Girls by Lyle Kessler, and The Fall of a Sparrow by José Rivera at Alvin Ailey. www.rayelevine.com
WATG: So, you’re a Brooklyn girl, born and raised. That’s pretty bad-ass. What was it like growing up in the City That Never Sleeps? Do you ever have to whip out that tough Brooklyn accent?
Raye: Oh yeah! Represent! I am a very proud Bklyn raised girl, it is true. Brooklyn was always a nice respite from NYC proper (though the sleep deprived city is quickly encroaching onto Bklyn!). I always felt invincible, independent, and at home growing up in Brooklyn. Not so much the accent, but my hardcore Brooklyn behavior comes out when it needs to. I do LOVE working with accents and delving into other cultures, as you will learn from my Magdala (where I work with a Greek accent). The Brooklyn accent is so very fun for me, and easy to turn on! Though my classic go to thick Brooklyn accent probably has its roots in Bay Ridge (think Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny).
WATG: You come from a family of architects and even obtained a Bachelor’s in Architecture from Cooper Union. That’s pretty impressive. In fact, you’re designing and building the set for “Leviticus.” Can you tell us a little more about your love for set design?
Raye: Set Design is where Acting and Architecture meet, so it was a natural fit for me. My first project was our Extinction set (which we / WATG did at Guild Hall, East Hampton). The set was almost a character of its own!! And was a huge success. A lot of other set design/build projects came to me after that. I prefer though, to have a role in the piece for which I am designing/building. When I design for a play, the play is my boss. I want to create an environment that the actors can play in and with. Function follows form. I love to work with wood and find beautiful objects and furniture; each has it’s on history and significance. I want it to feel real, and be as specific as possible, all while leaving a lot up to the imagination of the audience. I want to tell them just enough to really get them going and allow them the opportunity to meet me half way.
WATG: We see that you’re also a competitive-level figure skater. How freakin’ cool! How did you get started in that? Do you find that your background in skating helps with your movement on the stage?
Raye: My mom took my sister and I skating when we were 6 and 8 and couldn’t peel us away after that. We skated in Prospect Park and Chelsea Piers, and competed for many years. My ways of maneuvering on the ice (during a public session or a crowded private one), has forced me to develop the gift of anticipating the moves of others around me, and has given me a huge awareness of my body in space. It’s why I love to drive a car in the city, roller blade / skate, and definitely choreograph my way in a play, based on the private moments I want to share with the audience.
WATG: You recently traveled to Utrecht, Netherlands where you stayed in an old abandoned prison. Oooo how spooky! We’ve got chills. What was is like to stay the night there? Did you pull out the Ouija board and try to talk to the prisons of the past?
Raye: It was a bit spooky at first! There was a heavy energy there, but as we kept coming back each day, the ghosts seemed to welcome us in more and more. It has turned into a creative hub, with artists in each cell doing different creative things!
WATG: Speaking of Ouija and witchcraft, your character Jess is little bit of a gypsy, isn’t she? She’s a free spirit and an instigator like her partner Austin. Are you a trouble maker like Jess or are you more of a rule follower?
Raye: Jess is absolutely the trouble maker / instigator (catalyst!), and proud of it. I’d say she has a bit of a psychic ability, too. In my opinion, she’s the most honest character in the play. Her partner in crime is Austin! But everyone has their limits. I find there to be a lot of myself in Jess, actually. Under certain circumstances, I too, have a fun time calling “BS”. She is manipulative to a certain degree, but really enjoys holding a mirror up to the other characters faces, in a savvy way. Sometimes I wish I could be more like her! Similar to Jess, I too find joy in playing with where the rules can and should be bent, because it’s just more fun, dynamic or interesting!
WATG: Jess plays pretend a lot in this play. She wears many different masks to hide her true feelings, but also as a way to manipulate others into getting what she wants. That’s a tough emotional tight rope to walk. Do you find it challenging as an actor to balance this? How do you navigate this internal struggle?
Raye: I feel for Jess. She is so strong, and clear about where her heart is and what she wants, and she fights like hell for it. She knows the way to Austin’s heart is through her wit and how well she can play the game, so that’s what she does. As an actor, it is a lot to juggle, but this is life. One moment we are crying, the next we are elated. Jess feels things very powerfully and has her own triggers. I try to play one thing at a time and allow myself to be affected and triggered.
WATG: Jess has a line in the play “Jealousy and kiwi martinis. Not a good mix.” We’ve all had our fair share of alcohol and bad decisions. Do you have any confessions you want to share of what happened when you had a few too many?
Raye: Ha! The first thing that came to mind was when I was about 16, and my friend got a nice new car, and I was so drunk, riding in the back seat of his car, that I threw up All over it.
WATG: What’s next on the horizon for you after you get back from Scotland? Do you have any other fun side projects or sideline careers you can tell us about?
Raye: I’m getting married in October!!!!!!! That’s the next project. To my real-life partner in crime, and co-actor, Sawyer.
WATG: Where can people keep up with your latest news online?
Facebook: Raye Levine
Website: www.rayelevine.com and www.wherearetheygoing.org
Cheers!!!!!!!! In vino veritas!!!!
Raye/Magdala/Jess/Hooker with a Heart of Gold
“Leviticus” just finished an amazing run in New York City at 59E59's East to Edinburgh Festival last week. Now we head across the pond to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Come see us Aug 3-27 at 12pm (except for Tuesdays). Buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/leviticus
Keep up with Where Are They Going Theatre Company on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @watgnyc