When Conrad Ricamora '01 took the stage last spring as Ninoy Aquino, the real-life opposition leader of the Philippines who puts his life on the line to fight for his country, the response to the Off-Broadway show was overwhelming. Theater critic Ben Brantley of The New York Times urged readers to "boogie on down" to the electrifying musical that mixed disco scenes with audience participation. Vogue magazine raved. Two months later Conrad stood on another New York stage, this time to accept a coveted Theatre World Award for his debut performance.
Theater was not on Conrad's mind when he came to Queens on a tennis scholarship from Niceville, Florida, in the fall of 1997 to major in psychology. However, one day in a theater class, something big happened as he read the first scene in the play Lemon Sky. "The scene had to do with a teenager who was being reunited with an estranged parent. It was similar to a moment in my own life, and I felt this electricity going through me when I read the scene. It was amazing to me how I could share universal human truths through stories written by someone else," he recalls. "It's that connection that fuels me in my work still."
After graduation he received training through the Film Actors Studio in Charlotte, putting his Queens degree to work.
"My psychology degree helped me understand human behavior, which in turn helps me understand the characters I portray."
- Conrad Ricamora '01
The Dorothy Haas Acting Fellowship landed him in Philadelphia at The Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest theater in America and the most subscribed in the world. Inspired to pursue a master of fine arts degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Conrad completed the program and was identified by a New York agent at a showcase. His first audition placed him on the San Diego stage in the play, Allegiance, about a Japanese American family's internment during World War II.
Back in New York, Conrad is waiting to hear if Here Lies Love will be traveling to other theaters. In reflecting on the hard work it's taken to get to this point, he offers advice to aspiring actors. "Don't wait for an opportunity to come to you. Go out and create it for yourself."
Read more about Conrad and his role in Here Lies Love in an interview with Broadway.com.