You may have see him as the Skin Horse in Serenbe Playhouse’s production of The Velveteen Rabbit or in the ensemble of the theater’s production of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. For college student Tyrell B Ruffin, these shows, along with his internship at the theater, have provided him with a valuable learning experience. In this Feature Q & A, he gives insight into the role of an intern, discusses performing outside and explains how he prepared for the role of the Skin Horse.
When did you realize you wanted to work in theater?
I realized I wanted to work in theater my freshman year in high school. I’ve always loved to sing, dance, and act, but didn’t know theater was where I wanted to be. While attending a magnet performing arts high school (Mount Zion Magnet), I was put right in my element – my first show being “Once on This Island” as Agwe God of Water.
How did you become an intern with Serenbe Playhouse?
There is a story that goes along with hearing about Serenbe Playhouse. My spring semester at Valdosta State University I was doing Pippin, and I was getting ready to go on stage. The head director of our theater department came up to me and asked what I was doing for the summer, and I replied, “Probably just working my old summer job.” She told me about Serenbe Playhouse and Brian Clowdus and put me in contact with him. I emailed Brian, and from then on I sent in audition videos and recorded sides for him. The rest is history!
What sort of things does an intern do?
An intern for Serenbe Playhouse is a great privilege to have. As an intern I am directed to do the many things that our production manager assigns me to do. Things such as clearing the space that we perform on, helping build the set, helping to design the set, moving things place to place – basically creating the shows from the ground up. It’s a lot of hard work, but it has made me stronger. As an intern, not only do you do all of those things, but I also perform in the intern show The Velveteen Rabbit and also in Hair. And, then, we get to make great connections with the wonderful people of Serenbe, network at meet and greets, and be the face of Serenbe Playhouse.
What has the dynamic been like among the intern group?
We were all really excited to meet each other and became close the moment we met. There is a great dynamic amongst the group. There are ups and downs, but that’s life. We all enjoy each other and love working with each other. Every intern is very talented and brings something special to the table.
What is the most significant thing you have learned?
Being a part of Serenbe Playhouse has taught me to be more professional, how to handle long days and long hours, and how to stay positive. The most significant thing I have learned is how to juggle being in two shows, meeting new people, creating the set – all at the same time. I think it has really prepared me to be in the real world; well, this is the real world.
Is this your first experience performing in professional productions?
This is my first experience performing in professional productions, and I am so honored. It has been a great experience. I love being in character and being on stage performing. I love the look in audience members faces as the show goes on. And, to just hear all of their comments after a show makes me feel so good inside. I’m glad that I had this opportunity and that I took advantage of it.
How did you prepare for your roles in The Velveteen Rabbit and Hair?
Preparing for the role of the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit was a little bit harder than I expected. Since we were the first to play the characters of the show, we had to create them from the ground up. There were a lot of choices to be made. I had to research a southern Savannah accent since it takes place in Savannah. I had to get use to the body posture of a horse, which means being bent over. Also he’s and old horse, so I had to find where the aches and pains were. I had to practice my voice itself since it’s slightly higher than my normal voice. Skin Horse was very vocally demanding. Preparing for the roles in Hair was also a lot of fun. As a tribe member, I had to practice how to be a hippie basically. Very chill and relax, but also has moments. The role of the old tourist woman named Claire is so fun to play. This is my first role in drag, and I love it. I had to practice the feminine traits of woman – a petite, well-kept together old woman with little outburst here and there. I had to practice to be not southern unlike the Skin Horse, but very proper. I also had to test out walking in a pair of heels, which I’ve never done in a show before.
Do you enjoy preforming outdoors?
I do enjoy performing outside. Once again this is my first time ever doing outdoor theater, and yes it is an adjustment. It’s very different from performing indoors. It’s very demanding. You can’t adjust the temperature outside. You can’t control the weather outside. You also can’t get rid of all of the bugs. So, it’s been a great adjustment for me, especially since I was never an outdoor person. I’ve enjoyed performing outdoors though. Nature is beautiful.
Do you like comedic roles?
I love comedic roles. I enjoy the reactions and just being able to have fun.
What are your plans after your internship with Serenbe Playhouse?
After my internship with Serenbe Playhouse, I will start my third year in college as a musical theater major. I hope to be a part of the shows that my school is doing and hopefully when the summer of 2014 comes around I would have landed another job doing what I love to do!
See Tyrell B Ruffin in Hair at Serenbe Playhouse! For tickets and more information, please click here.