Actor Sathya Sridharan has come a long way since he first stepped into the spotlight as Ebenezer Litterbug in an elementary-school production of An Earth Day Carol. On October 30, the third-year student in Tisch’s Graduate Acting Program will rub elbows with royalty at Cipriani 42nd Street as one of 24 students from across the country to receive a Princess Grace Award for artists who “while still considered emerging talent, already show exceptional promise in their areas of expertise.” Sridharan will officially accept the award at the 31st annual Princess Grace Awards Gala—to be held in the presence of HSH The Princess of Monaco.
You may have seen the St. Louis native on stage at the Williamstown, Chautauqua, and NYC International Fringe Festivals, but these days he’s most likely to be found rehearsing for his butler role in the upcoming Tisch production of Ring Round the Moon, Christopher Fry’s adaptation of a work by French playwright Jean Anouilh.
We stopped Sridharan on his way into 721 Broadway one afternoon to talk about Shakespeare, dream roles, and how he’s preparing for that big night in October.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I’ve been acting and performing since I was a kid—being the class clown, or writing my own raps at lunchtime and being silly. But I really made the conscious choice to become an actor in college, after a summer trip with Washington University to London to study at the Globe. We went to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a show by the Royal Shakespeare Company—Hamlet with Patrick Stewart as Claudius. That was the big summer of, “Oh, I could do this and love this…and it means something.”
What’s a favorite production you’ve worked on?
In my second year at Tisch I was in a Clifford Odets play called Waiting for Lefty. It’s about cab drivers going on strike back in the Depression, and it just felt so relevant and vital and important when we were doing it: It was smack up against Occupy [Wall Street] stuff, and smack up against our own economic crises. Our director had us learn all these old union songs and then we went to Union Square and sang them, which was very nerve-racking but a lot of fun.
Who inspires you?
Shakespeare is my dude. He will always be my touchstone as a playwright and someone who crafted theater so beautifully. Somebody who performs Shakespeare incredibly is Mark Rylance. Young actors look to him to learn how to do Shakespeare, because it just comes out of his mouth as if it was meant to come out of his mouth. That’s the holy grail—to be able to perform Shakespeare without any sort of barrier between you and the audience, where it just makes sense.
Is there a part you’re just dying to play?
I did Hamlet when I was in college, and it was terrible—I mean I was terrible, I think, and I’d love to do it again. I’m actually getting to do a part this year that I’ve always wanted to do—I’m playing Richard III, which is very scary and super-intense. I’m really looking forward to getting into that role. But I’d like to try Hamlet again.
What’s your post-NYU goal?
My dream is to be a working stage actor in New York and to be able to do film and TV as needed—to be able to pick projects and have a bit of autonomy. I don’t see myself in LA right now, but that could change. I love New York—career-wise, that’s sort of my dream, to be vaguely bicoastal but mostly in New York. It’s such a great city. Why would you want to leave?
Are you nervous to meet The Princess of Monaco this fall?
This is crazy. I was online looking at promo videos for this gala, and I hadn’t realized how much of a big deal it is. Denzel Washington was there two years ago! And Marisa Tomei, Mandy Patinkin, and Liza Minnelli. So I’m a little scared. I have to get a tux! But I am excited, too.