Arielle Goldman knew she was made for the stage at an early age. She made her lead actress debut in elementary school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville. “The first show that I ever did was in third grade at the Jewish Day School. I was Esther in the Purim play,” the 25-year-old Potomac native said. “I’ve basically been acting since then.”
Graduating from JDS in 2007, Goldman received a bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of Michigan and has gone on to act in multiple plays as a MFA graduate
student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The actress and playwright spoke to WJW via phone from New York City about her decision to pursue acting full time, her admiration for Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov and her one-woman play about a local Holocaust survivor.
So you actually just got out of an audition. What was it for?
It was for a feature film. I’m not at liberty to say what feature film. And it went well!
Tell us a little about your theater background. Why did you first become interested in stage acting and when did you start pursuing it as a career?
I started doing community theater in high school. I did The Diary of Anne Frank at Silver Spring Stage. I was also coming up to New York on the weekends to a weekend acting class at a studio called Stella Adler. I always knew that that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s how I saw my future in acting and theater performance. When I was applying to colleges, between my parents and me, it was the deal that I would apply to all sorts of local arts schools, but as part of a double major, I would study acting. So I went to the University of Michigan and studied acting. In my senior year, I wrote my parents a very long email explaining why I was dropping my dual degree in creative writing. Basically I wanted to make an investment in acting, I wanted that to be my life. I didn’t want anything to even appear like there was another option for me. They were very kind and said OK.
Do you have any regrets sending that long email?
I don’t! You know what, I think it was a very adult move on my end. I was very scared to write it but I was very honest, and I’m glad I did. So far, no regrets. I don’t know that an English degree would have gotten me any projects. But yeah, and then the summer of my junior year in college, I did a program at RADA [The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art], a very well-known acting school in London, where very famous British actors train. That summer changed my life because I thought they were doing really important work. And the work they were doing was the kind of theater that transcended into the audience and was able to affect change and speak to people. I just thought, OK. This is what I want to be doing, I need to continue my training. And so I applied to grad school, and ended up at NYU.
Your acting credits at Tisch include roles in The Seagull, As You Like It and Ring Round the Moon. What has been the most meaningful acting experience you’ve had during grad school?
The Seagull [by Anton Chekhov] was our three-year project, so we had been working on it in varying degrees since our first year, with the same director, Richard Feldman, the head of acting at Juilliard. Being able to work on a character in an ensemble piece like that for three years consistently, without the pressure of performance, by the time the show went up this past year, it was really a world we had been living in for so long and felt so comfortable sharing with the audience. Chekhov’s work requires a lot of patience to watch and particularly to work on. For people and audiences who are willing to pay attention and pick up on small details, I think you learn so much about human nature and relationships. It taught me not just about acting, but also about the nuances of every relationship and all the family dynamics. It was pretty wonderful to be working with Richard for three years. Nina, the character that I played, was a total blast. She’s so open and available and ready to fly and go after what she wants. I’m always petrified before I go on stage, but it was really the only time that I just thought, “I have no idea what’s about to happen.”
I also was part of a week of free plays, Freeplay at NYU. I wrote, directed and performed in a one-woman show called To Life, L’Chaim! It was about Edith Lowy, who was a teacher at JDS when I was there. I always thought of her story, of how she survived the Holocaust. She used to tell us in elementary school. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do for Freeplay, it kept coming back. I messaged a bunch of my classmates from JDS saying, “This is what I remember from her story. I’m trying to write something, do you remember anything?” And it was amazing because everyone responded remembering different things, and that was the moment when I thought this was a really important story that had to be told. So many of us remembered so many different details. I started writing it, I called Edith and we talked. I interviewed her and continued writing. I didn’t know how it was going to be received, and it was really quite an empowering feeling to know that other people were hearing her story and being affected by it. And to be reminded that the Holocaust happened, and that people are still experiencing inequality, racism and genocides around the world. Really, what I wanted to say is how important human life is. I think that I got that through, ultimately. For one of the last shows, Edith’s daughter came and it was really a rewarding experience to feel firsthand that scenery, entertainment and performance really can be a means of effecting change, speaking to people and creating relationships within a community. I really hope to keep working on it.
Putting on this one-woman show had to be a very emotional experience for you.
It was. Actually I haven’t really been able to look over the script again, because working with that for about three months, let alone hearing Edith’s story and talking with her and carrying that responsibility, is a lot. When doing a project like that, the type of research you have to do and the pictures you end up looking at, it’s sort of a rabbit hole when you start researching concentration camps, different survivors. It’s a lot to take on and a lot of imagery in your head for a very long time. It was a lot.
Whether it be a theater, TV or film character, what is your dream role?
You know, it really was Nina in The Seagull. I think the way that we approached working on that play in our third year was so enjoyable and so freeing. We only got about five performances, so I pray that that’s not the last time I get to work on that play and live in that character, because there’s so much to mine with her. For anyone who knows that play, there are just so many possibilities. Chekhov leaves the interpretation open to the actor and to the ensemble. I would just love to keep working on her. It’s such a gift to learn from her.
What’s next? Aside from auditions, are you working on any upcoming projects?
I’ve been auditioning and I’m work-shopping To Life, L’Chaim! to see if I can keep working on it, remount it. I’ve been writing some sketches with a friend of mine that hopefully we’re going to film in the next month. And I’m looking into an organization called the 52nd Street Project, which is an organization that works with high school students in Hell’s Kitchen. They write their own plays and then older actors and volunteers come in and act in them, help them direct, tutor them or coach them. Basically it’s a way to inspire a younger generation to express themselves creatively, and use their lives and their own knowledge of the world to empower themselves and be able to write it down, perform it and share it. I’m really excited to start working with that organization because when you come out of grad school and master’s programs, I want to be able to use that experience to some benefit other than just for the joy of acting.
Check out Goldman’s performance of To Life, L’Chaim! below.