Tuesday, 26 March 2019

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: First-time Actor Boy nominee Aisha Ritchie is a high achiever hiding in plain sight

BEAUTY & BRAINS: “Empower, inspire, motivate. I live by that personally,” says the 30-year-old.

WEARING the kind of power-red work suit that’s more than enough to brighten our day, Aisha Ritchie comes across as the kind of young woman who takes her work seriously but knows how to cut loose and have some fun. And in conversation, you discover that that’s precisely who she is. “I set very high standards for myself,” she explains. “I know what I want and I go after it.”

That kind of drive and passion spurred the former St. Hugh’s High head girl to not only complete a Bachelor’s (with distinction) in Economics at the University of the West Indies, but also a Master’s in Business Administration from the Mona School of Business.

The theatre is where she’s been having her fun. This season, the rising actress is causing all kinds of ruckus in Dredz Productions’ latest offering, Special Cuts, playing Lisa, a nail technician who goes into business with two former high-school friends. But Lisa’s happy-go-lucky approach to the world of work is not the best fit and soon sparks fly.

“The process of becoming Lisa was very challenging because Lisa is nothing like Aisha, so I had to do my research and find all the nuances that would make the character believable,” the actress confesses. “Honestly, I didn’t like Lisa, but I grew to understand her struggles. Playing this character was a good stretch for me.”

Ritchie, who works as an insurance underwriter with the Guardian Group, says the play’s core business-and-friendship theme is one that strikes a multi-octave chord. “A lot of issues can arise when you try to mix friendship and business, so I don’t recommend it,” she offers. “It can work if you mesh well. If you think you can work well together, fine. But if you realize that there’s going to be a problem, it’s best to try and prevent any situation from developing.”

Ritchie, who started acting at her church in Franklin Town, Kingston, prides herself on avoiding, as much as possible, all conflicts of interest in her professional life. She’s a managing partner (with her ‘brother’ Rashiem Shepherd) in Dredz Productions, which they started in 2014, but she strives to keep her artistic pursuits separate from the business side of things.

“It’s been good. I’ve been working with persons who bring different styles to theatre,” shares Ritchie, whose credits include last season’s One Blood, Undercover Craziness and Keith Ellis’ Friends Forever (2014). “I didn’t study drama, so I can relate to the whole learning process that comes with it.”

Now, buoyed by a lead-actress Actor Boy nomination for her work in One Blood, Ritchie is ready for more. “My ultimate dream is to be more recognized in theatre. I think there’s room for more young talents to make it in the industry and become as big as the Olivers and the Voliers. We need the continuity because that is important,” says the actress, who sports neat sister locks. 

What else is she looking forward to? The 30-year-old, a former member of the Mona-based University Chorale who is also big on volunteerism, is clearly a woman of many talents. “Another passion of mine is motivational speaking,” she says. “Empower, inspire, motivate. I live by that personally, and anything I do must be aligned with those three words.” 

>> Keeping it ‘Reel’: Aisha picks the 3 best Jamaican films 
* The Harder They Come (“Jimmy Cliff is just an amazing talent.”) 
* Better Mus’ Come (“Sheldon [Shepherd] is great, and I think [director] Storm [Saulter] did a good job.”) 
* Ghett’a Life (“It reflects real Jamaican life today.”)

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